With a pair of road wins this weekend over the Texas Stars, the Tucson Roadrunners gained valuable ground in the highly-competitive Pacific Division. As of today, the Roadrunners are the only team in the division above 0.600, and all seven of the teams behind them are above 0.500
Friday night’s 5-2 win and last night’s 2-1 overtime win were crucial to Tucson’s bid to secure its first division title and playoff berth since moving to Tucson one season ago because they were two of just four head-to-head matches against the third-place team in the Pacific.
Current Pacific Division Standings
Since Arizona and California-based teams play 68 games in an AHL season, instead of the 76 games that all 24 other AHL teams play, the standings in the AHL are a bit confusing. Instead of determining the standings by the absolute number of points a team earns as they do in the NHL, the AHL uses a team’s points percentage.
Points percentage is the percent of points that a team has earned in its regular season schedule, where a win is worth 2 points, an overtime or shootout loss is worth 1 point, and a regulation loss is worth zero. For example, the Roadrunners have played 44 games this season and have a points percentage of 0.648. This means that of the 88 points available, Tucson has secured 57 or about 64.8% of them, making them the top team in the division.
Why the Texas series was important
Friday night’s 5-2 win and last night’s 2-1 overtime win over the Stars were especially crucial to Tucson’s bid for a Division Championship because Texas is a top team in the Pacific that doesn’t play the Roadrunners much.
Texas and Tucson will play each other only four times this entire season. Four games mean that there are 8 points up for grabs in head-to-head matchups between the Roadrunners and Stars this year. Although they gave up one point to Texas in Saturday night’s overtime win, Tucson was able to earn 4 out of 4 available points this weekend.
With only two games between the Stars and Roadrunners left this season, both of which will be on home ice in Tucson next month, the Roadrunners only have to win one of the two home games against Texas to earn 6 of the 8 points available in the season series. As a result, by letting Tucson come into their building and take 4 points, Texas gave Tucson much more control in the race for the Pacific Division title as Texas now has to mostly rely on other teams beating the Roadrunners, if they want to challenge for that top spot.
Home-Ice in the Calder Cup Playoffs
Awarded continuously since 1936, the Calder Cup is the American Hockey League’s championship trophy and is the third-oldest continuously-awarded championship trophy in North American Hockey behind the Stanley Cup and the Memorial Cup.
Like the Stanley Cup, 16 teams qualify for the postseason, the same trophy is awarded each year, and the player’s names from each winner are engraved on the trophy itself. In the AHL, the top four teams in each of the AHL’s four divisions are given playoff spots and the team with the better points percentage is given home-ice advantage.
The first two rounds are played entirely within the division, with the division champion being guaranteed home-ice advantage. As for the length of each series, the first round is a best-of-five series, and the succeeding three rounds are all best-of-seven.
Not only would a Pacific Division title be a huge morale-booster for both the fans and the Roadrunners, it would also give them a considerable advantage in the playoffs. By winning the division, they would be guaranteed home-ice advantage for the first two rounds, and could potentially have home ice for all four rounds of the playoffs if they have a better points percentage than the team that advances from the Central Division and Eastern Conference.
After sweeping a big series against a division rival and with just under two-thirds of the season over, the Roadrunners’ chances of winning their first Pacific Division Title are looking better every day. At this point, a playoff berth is theirs to lose, and with the NHL trade deadline fast-approaching, the Roadrunners are only going to get better. For more on what to expect in the final third of the AHL’s regular season and the Roadrunners’ Calder Cup chances CLICK HERE.