After dropping four games in a row, the Tucson Roadrunners returned to the Old Pueblo on Tuesday to begin a five-game homestand, and had a bunch of familiar faces back in the lineup for the first time in a long time.
Several players had been sent down by the Arizona Coyotes (Brendan Perlini, Anthony DeAngelo, and Laurent Dauphin), while Henrik Samuelsson returned from an injury.
This gave the team a ton of offensive firepower that it had been missing.
“I liked the way the lines were setup tonight,” head coach Mark Lamb said on Tuesday. “They made sense, and it shows when you can have your matchups, go out there, and everyone can play the right way.”
“Sammy’s a real smart player,” Lamb said about Samuelsson returning. “He can play with the puck and he knows where to go on the ice. For his first game back, I thought it was a real good test for him.”
Samuelsson started alongside Dauphin, DeAngelo, Tyler Gaudet, and Jarred Tinordi, but the team quickly fell behind 2-0.
Lamb called a timeout, and from there, the rout was on.
The Roadrunners won 5-2 over Manitoba, thanks in large part to a hat trick from newly-named All-Star Brendan Perlini, the first of his professional career.
“Obviously a great performance by Perlini coming in here and scoring three goals,” Christian Fischer said afterwards. “(Chris) Mueller made a lot of nice passes there. It was great.”
“Being up there, the guys are always in the right spots and stuff, so coming back here, guys make a few mistakes down here as far as the other team,” Perlini explained. “I think the main thing is just being a pro every day and coming to the rink.”
This was the first time Perlini had played a game for Tucson in just over a month.
“I’d just like to kidnap him,” Lamb joked. “You look at the confidence, he’s just oozing with it right now. I think he really enjoys playing the game, and it looks like he’s having fun out there.”
“He’s getting better all the time,” continued Lamb. “He’s a guy that wants to play. He looks like he’s having fun with it, and good for him. He’s doing all the right things to be a long-time NHLer.”
“I think I’ve been confident all year,” Perlini added. “I tried to keep that going in Phoenix, and I had some goals there (four to be exact), and coming back and being able to get a couple tonight is obviously great.”
Two Stars of Tucson
The AHL announced its All-Star teams last week, and the Roadrunners will have Perlini and Kyle Wood representing them at the festivities later this month. Perlini has 14 goals and five assists this year, while Wood has eight goals and 22 assists.
“They deserve it,” Lamb said. “It’s an honor to make an All-Star team. They’ve both had excellent years so far, and I’m not sure if Perlini will be in the All-Star Game because he could be up top which is fine.”
“It’s definitely a huge accomplishment for myself and Perls, but we still have a bunch of games left before that, so we’re just trying to focus on that,” Wood explained. “But it’s definitely cool being selected and I’m just looking forward to that.”
Perlini had only played in 16 games at the AHL level before returning to Tucson on Tuesday, and has now played 15 games at the NHL level, so him being named one of the representatives was kind of surprising, even though he is still tied for 10th in goals scored in the AHL this year.
“I didn’t really know what to think at first just because I was up with the Coyotes,” he explained. “Obviously a huge honor, especially in my rookie year to be named. It’s pretty cool.”
Wood found out he was going in a slightly different way.
“Doug (Soetaert) told me when we were in the airport when we were taking off,” explained the defenseman. “Pretty cool to get told by your GM, so I was pretty happy.”
Both Perlini and Wood are rookies in the AHL, which likely bodes well for the Coyotes franchise moving forward.
“There’s a lot of good guys coming up,” said Perlini. “And we’ll all be pushing for jobs.”
“There’s a lot of good young guys on our team: Perls, Fisch, G (Conor Garland), Bunts (Michael Bunting), Macker (Ryan MacInnis),” Wood added. “That’s definitely what we’re focusing on, is the future right now. It’s definitely cool being with all these young guys, hanging out with all of them around your age, so it’s definitely cool going through it with them.”
All of those guys he listed are 21 years old or younger.
One really curious thing that the organization has been doing is sending goaltenders back and forth between Tucson and Rapid City.
Adin Hill and Marek Langhamer have taken the brunt of this, but Hill isn’t going to make any excuses for his play despite all the air miles he’s logging.
“It’s just you go from stopping the puck in South Dakota to stopping it in Arizona,” Hill explained. “It’s not much of a difference. The team atmospheres are different, but I love being with both teams, and it’s great. Wherever I am I’m just going to try and play my best and stop the puck.”
- On Friday and Saturday, the Roadrunners are hosting Wildcat Weekend, and are wearing special jerseys to commemorate their relationship with the Wildcats. Both games start at 7:05 PM MT. Friday is $2 beer night, and Saturday is Dollar Dogs
- Christian Fischer was sporting two black eyes on Tuesday. His right one came from a stick to the eye in San Diego, and his left one — much darker — happened in San Jose this past weekend. He’s looking to be more of the “meat and potatoes” on his line with Perlini and Mueller
- Sarah McLellan wrote about how this team is starting to gain traction in the community as well as operate the way the Coyotes envisioned