Last weekend I attended both of the Tucson Roadrunners’ games against the San Jose Barracuda, a 5-0 win and a 1-0 win, and what transpired was unexpected and interesting to say the least.
Heading into the weekend, San Jose was the division leader, with Tucson right behind them in second place. On paper, San Jose was the better team by every indicator, having superior team stats in nearly every category, but what transpired was vastly different from what you’d expect.
On Friday, Tucson thoroughly dominated the Barracuda, shutting them out in a dominant 5-0 win. Friday was one of the best games I’ve ever seen the Roadrunners play in my three seasons covering and watching the team. At the game’s halfway point, midway through the second period, Tucson was outshooting San Jose 27-3 and was up 3-0 at that point.
Tucson was generating an incredible amount of scoring chances and had as many goals as San Jose had shots at that point in the game. After that, Tucson cruised to a 5-0 win and at points, it looked like the two teams belonged in different leagues.
On Saturday night, a vastly different story was told.
Despite winning the second game in their weekend series against the Barracuda, the near-perfect execution that saw Tucson dominate puck possession and the game as a whole on Friday was completely absent on Saturday. The game remained tied through the first two periods, not because of a lack of opportunity; a slew of missed passes, missed shots, regrettable penalties, and a general difficulty staying onside made it difficult for both teams to score.
Both teams, especially Tucson, looked completely different than they did the night before, not being able to get anything going, despite plenty of offensive zone time. Had Hudson Fasching’s shot not trickled past San Jose goaltender Antoine Bibeau, halfway through the third period, the game easily could have gone to overtime tied at 0.
Both shutout wins also happened with rookie goaltender, Merrick Madsen, between the pipes. He registered back-to-back shutouts on consecutive nights in only his third and fourth career AHL games. With the two wins, Madsen has a 123 minute, 5 second shutout streak and will likely continue challenging Tucson’s starter, Adin Hill, for ice time once Hill recovers from his injury. Tucson also moves back into a tie for first place in the AHL’s Pacific Division with the pair of wins.