The Tucson Roadrunners (2-1) fans left Tucson Convention Center happy on Saturday night after their home opener against the Texas Stars (1-2), winning 4-0 and improving to 2-1.
Tucson split the opening two games of the season against the Stockton Heat.
The victory came in three parts: Ben McCartney’s hat-trick and Tucson’s exceptional power play and penalty-killing efforts.
Tucson goaltender Ivan Prosvetov stopped all 20 shots on the night. He has not given up a goal yet this season.
Early in the first period, Texas had several chances to score, but could not convert.
With 23 seconds left in the first period, seventh-round pick Liam Kirk, who is the first fully English-born-and-trained player to be drafted by an NHL team, tapped in a shot in front of the net to make it 1-0. The Coyotes selected Kirk with the 189th overall pick in the 7th round of the 2018 NHL Draft. It was all the Roadrunners would need, but they scored more for good measure.
That’s when McCartney stepped up. He scored a goal just over four minutes into the second period, and then another at the 12:01 mark of the period, the latter coming on the power-play thanks to a Jordan Kawaguchi high-sticking penalty that put the Stars down a man.
McCartney was pleased with the team’s all-around effort.
“It was a good performance, starting from our goalie up to our forwards and defense, everyone played a solid game,” McCartney said. “I think our 200-foot game was good, and so was our discipline when it came to the structure of the game. If we keep playing that way good things will happen.”
The Roadrunner power play units were spectacular on both sides, but especially on the penalty-killing side. They were a perfect 7-for-7 in penalty-killing opportunities, consistently getting the puck back out of their zone and applying pressure to the Stars’ defense.
McCartney’s final goal was probably the most dramatic of the night. Texas pulled their goalie with over four minutes left in the third period, and Tucson missed on a few chances to put the finishing touches on the game with an empty-net goal.
McCartney checked in for probably his last shift of the night with around two minutes left, and was able to score his third goal. It was off of a rebound of his first shot that went right of the goal. On the miss, the forward hustled and was able to make a diving tap for the goal.
The Roadrunners and Stars will finish their two-game series on Sunday afternoon at the TCC. Game starts at 4 pm. The game can be viewed on The CW Tucson (KWBA-TV).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.