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Tucson Roadrunners: On home ice in the playoffs and the race for the divisional crown

The Roadrunners split their series with Grand Rapids this weekend, and need just one more win to clinch the AHL Pacific Division

Photo Courtesy of Tucson Roadrunners

The Tucson Roadrunners split their weekend series with the Grand Rapids Griffins, defeating them 3-0 on Friday before a 4-1 loss on Saturday.

Unlike Friday’s shutout victory, Saturday did not go in the Roadrunners favor. Head coach Mike Van Ryn thought their effort the first five minutes was “good” and that the Roadrunners overall played well against the Griffins, but some elements kept them out of the game, particularly on the power play, where Tucson went 0-for-2 on the night.

But once Grand Rapids was able to open up the scoring, they were able to find holes all around goaltender Hunter Miska. After the Griffins fourth goal against Miska, coach Van Ryn pulled the goaltender in favor of Adin Hill.

The Roadrunners could not gather enough momentum at any point following the change and Grand Rapids was be able to walk away with the win.

Home for the Playoffs

Despite the loss on Saturday, Tucson’s Friday win officially secured home ice for the Roadrunners in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs — meaning they cannot finish lower than second place in the Pacific Division.

“I didn’t even know until after the game really,” Roadrunners head coach Mike Van Ryn said when asked about the importance of being home. “You know, it’s huge. To be honest, you know we’re trying to grow this game here, and you know what, you can hear our fans. It’s a loud building and once we get more people in here, it’s going to be even better. So it will be a real tough place to play.”

The Race for the (Regular Season) Crown

Following the Roadrunners loss on Saturday, the San Diego Gulls defeated the Ontario Reign 3-2. That win became a critical key to the Roadrunners’ chase for the Pacific Division crown headed into the final week of the AHL regular season.

As things stand right now, the Tucson Roadrunners have yet to give up their lead in the Pacific Division standings. They have had the lead for nearly the entire season, but have yet to clinch the champion title. Ontario’s loss to San Diego on Saturday helped Tucson get much closer to that title.

All Tucson needs now is a single win to clinch the regular season Pacific Division title.

Tucson has three games now remaining, all of which are against the divisional rival San , Diego Gulls. It is also the final three games of the inaugural I-8 Border Cup Series

Tucson will face off in San Diego on Wednesday before returning home to host the Gulls on Friday and Saturday.

Weekly Meeps:

  • Next week’s home games will be a fan appreciation weekend for Roadrunners fans
  • With the home split, Tucson has not won back-to-back home games since November 10 and 11 this season — against the Bakersfield Condors.
  • Forward Lawson Crouse had the only goal in Tucson’s losing effort on Saturday. His goal also extended his point streak to five games.
  • The Roadrunners also announced that all playoff home games will feature a “White-Out”, a hockey fan playoff tradition that dates back to the Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise history.
  • Roadrunners goaltender Adin Hill recorded his fourth shutout of the season in Tucson’s win over Grand Rapids on Friday.
  • The Arizona Coyotes recalled Roadrunners defenseman Joel Hanley on Saturday. He joins other Roadunners players Dylan Strome, Trevor Murphy (since 3/20), and Dakota Mermis (since 4/4). All four players were reassigned to the Roadrunners on Sunday morning, following the conclusion of the Coyotes final regular season game.