Tucson Roadrunners

Quick Hits: Roadrunners to retire Craig Cunningham’s number, AHL board of governors approves 31st franchise, Kempe recalled by the Coyotes, Strome sent down to Tucson

Here are the latest headlines for the American Hockey League and the Coyotes/Roadrunners Organization.

Cunningham Jersey Retirement 

Craig Cunningham skating with the Roadrunners last season.
Source: Chris Hook Photography

Craig Cunningham, the first captain in Roadrunners team history, will get his #14 jersey retired before a Roadrunners home game against the Iowa Wild on Friday, October 27th.

The Roadrunners franchise changed forever when Cunningham went into cardiac arrest before a game against the Manitoba Moose last November. Unfortunately, complications that arose from his life-saving emergency heart operation resulted in an infection that caused him to lose part of his leg, forcing Cunningham into early retirement.

As a result of the terrible and unfortunate circumstances that prematurely ended his career, Cunningham’s number will be the first to head to the rafters in Tucson, and Craig Cunningham bobbleheads will be distributed to all fans in attendance for the ceremony.

Colorado Eagles admitted as the American Hockey League’s 31st franchise

The Colorado Eagles’ logo
Source: Colorado Eagles

The AHL, the league the Roadrunners play in, will add a new franchise next season. Just announced today by the AHL’s board of governors, expansion was expected because the Vegas Golden Knights’ entry into the NHL created an imbalance between the number of AHL and NHL teams. This forced the Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues to share the Chicago Wolves as an AHL affiliate this season as there were not enough AHL teams to prevent NHL organizations from having to share an AHL affiliate.

With the Colorado Eagles’ admission, there will now be 31 teams in both the AHL and NHL. The Eagles will play in Loveland, Colorado and be affiliated with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Loveland is about an hour’s drive North of Denver, and the Eagles will play with the Roadrunners in the AHL’s Pacific Division next year. The Avalanche’s new affiliation will see them terminate their current agreement with the San Antonio Rampage at the end of this season. Now without an NHL affiliate, the Rampage have reportedly entered an affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Blues, starting next season.

Mario Kempe recalled by the Coyotes, Dylan Strome sent down to Tucson 

Mario Kempe (left) celebrating a goal with the Roadrunners last Saturday.
Source: Tucson Roadrunners

Last night the 0-1-1 Arizona Coyotes (NHL) swapped forwards with the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL) as the 29-year-old Mario Kempe was recalled by the Coyotes and 20-year-old Dylan Strome was assigned to the Roadrunners.

The Coyotes are looking to add a veteran presence upfront as the youthful and inexperienced Coyotes blew a 4-1 lead in their first game against the Anaheim Ducks and a 1-0 lead in the 2-1 overtime loss against the Vegas Golden Knights. Strome was held pointless and centered the third line in both contests.

Dylan Strome (right) skating in the Coyotes Tucson NHL preseason game at the TCC.
Source: Arizona Coyotes

Kempe is coming off a KHL season where he scored 34 points in 56 games and a Roadrunners home opener that saw him collect one goal and two assists. Those are very respectable numbers considering that the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia is the second best league in the world.

The Roadrunners home opener also proved that Kempe has adequately adjusted to the differences in style of play between North American and European Hockey. This combined with Strome’s failure to be an impact player at the NHL level and the youthful inexperience the Coyotes showed in their first two games ultimately caused the move.

Kempe will likely see either second or third line duty tonight when the Coyotes take on the Vegas Golden Knights in their first-ever home opener. In Tucson Strome, the Coyotes 3rd overall selection in the 2015 draft, will likely slot in as the Roadrunners’ first line center when the Roadrunners play the Bakersfield Condors on the road this Saturday.

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