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Tucson Roadrunners: Team searching for leadership heading into final push

Tucson’s AHL team is struggling, but are hopeful the trade deadline will give them a renewed string of success

*Photos from Tuesday’s night’s 5-3 loss by the Roadrunners to San Diego by Rachel Huston

The Tucson Roadrunners fell short in the final game of their three game homestand, losing 5-3 to the San Diego Gulls. Defenseman Kyle Wood tallied two power play goals and center Ryan MacInnis got the lone, even-strength goal. After the loss, the struggling club’s record became 2-9 in the month of February.

Wood scored in ways that we’re not used to seeing from him. Usually, the offensive-minded defenseman blasts a shot in from the blue line, but on Tuesday, he was doing more than that to generate offense.

“The first one I just got the rim on the power play there, and I had some pressure on me and just threw it to the net,” he explained. “The five-on-three (Chris Mueller) made the nice pass to me and just went low and it went in.”

The game was tied at two at that point, but then San Diego went on to dominate the rest of the contest.

“I feel like we battled hard for the first couple periods there, and I felt like we let it get away from us there in the third a little bit,” Wood said after his performance. “We just gotta stick together as a team and try to work some things out here and get back in the win column.”

“We’re not competing hard enough,” head coach Mark Lamb added. “We’re competing just hard enough to lose. We need some leadership to take charge. Nobody’s really trying to take the ball and run with it and show that they really wanna play and compete.”

It also resulted in the team picking up just one point out of a possible six in their first three home games in nearly a month, dropping them to fifth in the Pacific Standings.

“It’s hard,” Wood stated of that reality. “We wanted to come back home and get a couple wins especially now that we’re going back on the road. But like I said, we just gotta stick together here as a unit and come away with some wins on the road.”

“It was tough being away from home, and the road lifestyle is a little different, but that’s what comes with being a professional hockey player,” added Wood. “It would have been nice to come back home and get a couple wins but we just gotta focus on the road games again and get some good momentum.”

“We’re working hard, but the results aren’t there,” he continued. “We just gotta throw some pucks on net like coach is talking about, but other than we just gotta stick together and sort some things out in practice.”

“It’s not what we wanted on the homestand,” Christian Fischer tacked on. “It’s obviously tough losing these games at a critical time, but we know what we gotta do.”

“We need to start putting up points.”

Wednesday was the trade deadline, so the Roadrunners will have some fresh faces and perspectives in the locker room when they begin this new three week road trip. One move they made was acquiring Joe Whitney from San Antonio. The Arizona Coyotes did not make any moves on Wednesday other than taking locker room cancer Anthony Duclair out of Tucson and putting him back on the NHL roster.

“We’ve got different players that are going to be coming in,” Coach Lamb said about how he fixes the competitiveness issue. “There’s going to be some things happening. We have some guys sitting out and we gotta make some roster changes. We’ve got some guys that have gotten a lot of minutes here that are doing absolutely nothing, so there’s going to be other guys around that can take their spots.”

“Hopefully they can get in there, get on a roll, and get some consistency going here.”

One of the new faces on Tuesday was Grayson Downing, who was part of the Coyotes’ trade that sent Martin Hanzal to the Minnesota Wild. Downing got into Tucson late Monday night.

“I think just being positive is the biggest thing,” Downing said about what he can bring to a team that’s struggling. “Just bringing positivity into the room can be a big thing. Obviously I could light the spark or whatever it may be, but just fitting into the group and doing whatever I can to help the team win.”

This is the first time Downing had set foot not only in Tucson, but in the state of Arizona.

“I’d never been to Arizona,” he continued. “It’s definitely a little bit different from Des Moines, Iowa. I’ve made a Cali trip and played the Texas teams, but never in Tucson, so it’s kind of new for me and just gotta get comfortable.”

Luckily for him, it was pretty overcast on Tuesday.

“It’s nice, so I think the weather’s always nice, so hopefully it stays this way a little bit.”

The Roadrunners’ next game is March 3rd against the Gulls in San Diego. Their next home game is March 17th when they take on the Bakersfield Condors. There will be green beer if that’s your thing on St. Patrick’s Day.