GLENDALE, AZ- In the first of two games the Roadrunners will play this season at Gila River Arena, home of their NHL affiliate, the Arizona Coyotes, Tucson defeated the Charlotte Checkers 3-2. Adin Hill once again got the call in net for Tucson, and Michael Leighton was between the pipes for the Checkers. Also, Brendan Ranford and Brandon Trook, recently acquired from the Texas Stars both made their season debuts for the Roadrunners.
Things were a bit slow to start for the Roadrunners, with the Checkers dominating and carrying the play for much of the first period. On one power play, the Roadrunners managed only a single shot on goal. Thankfully for the Roadrunners, Adin Hill was as solid as he’s been all season long, turning away all 15 of Charlotte’s shots as the Checkers outshot Tucson 15-8.
The only goal of the period was scored by the Roadrunners on a late power play, as Kyle Wood one-timed Chris Mueller’s beautiful pass from behind the net.
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The Roadrunners did a much better job holding on to the puck in the second, which kept the shots much closer at 9-7 Charlotte. A particularly strong part of Tucson’s game that was especially apparent in the second was their forecheck. The Checkers still won the possession battle, but it didn’t seem to matter as aggressive play kept most of the action in Charlotte’s zone.
Once again Kyle Wood scored the only goal of the period, sniping Leighton from the top of the face-off circle.
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Up 2-0 heading in, Tucson definitely took a step back in the third. They registered only 9 shots on goal while conceding 15 to the Checkers, this combined with numerous neutral and defensive zone turnovers allowed Valentin Zykov and Patrick Brown to tie the game at 2.
Charlotte was hot on Tucson’s heels until Anthony Duclair skated the puck up the ice with just seconds left in the game, hitting Mark Olver with a pass low in the Checkers’ zone. Olver passed over to Laurent Dauphin, allowing Dauphin to hammer home the game-winning one-timer with only 21 seconds left.
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- Hill continues to dominate the crease. Adin Hill stopped 37 of 39 shots, earning his 12th win of the season. As in many games this season he was peppered with shots all night long, stood tall and was a difference-maker.
- Duclair regaining his form. After being sent down from Arizona a week ago, Anthony Duclair did not look like an NHL player who scored 20 goals and 44 points last season. He looked like he genuinely belonged in the AHL; not a good thing for a promising young player with elite potential in the NHL. With his late third period rush that resulted in the game-winning goal, Duclair showed everyone the special player that he is. Hopefully, this is a sign that he is turning a corner.
- Wood playing with confidence. Fresh off of his AHL all-star game appearance, Kyle Wood scored two goals, ran the powerplay, made smart passes and prominently displayed the high Hockey I.Q. seen from him all season long.
- Too many shots against. As with many of the other games they’ve played this season, the Roadrunners conceded a ridiculous number of shots but still won the game. With so many strong aspects to their game, Tucson will become a leading Calder Cup contender if they can shore up this part of their game.