It may be a holiday, but there’s no break in sight for the Tucson Roadrunners.
Tucson’s professional hockey team plays the first of three home games this week on Wednesday, when it takes on the San Diego Gulls at Tucson Arena.
Tucson is looking to get back in the win column after being swept in San Diego last weekend. The Roadrunners were thumped 8-3 by the Gulls in the first game of the series, then fell 3-2 in a shootout loss.
“We just played the team twice in a row, so it’s almost like playoffs,” Roadrunners head coach Mike Van Ryn said. “You know what to expect and you just hope your team adjusts where they have to and tighten up.”
Van Ryn critiqued the team’s attention to detail in the back-to-back defeat, but was pleased by the goaltending of Marek Langhamer in the second loss.
San Diego has been Tucson’s biggest source of trouble since the franchise moved to town. The Gulls won nine of 11 matchups last year, then topped the Roadrunners 7-6 in the opening game of the 2017-18 season.
Even though the teams have played just three times this season, San Diego is responsible for 18 of Tucson’s 37 goals allowed.
Nonetheless, Tucson’s shootout loss to the Gulls marked an uptick in confidence for the Roadrunners.
“I think we were the better team for most of the night,” forward Dylan Strome said. “We had a couple unlucky breaks in the third (period) and I know we had a good push to tie it up. I think we can bring that momentum in to Wednesday.”
The Roadrunners’ dynamic offense wasn’t the problem in either of the losses.
Lawson Crouse scored in both games and Strome remains tied for the American Hockey League in scoring by rookies with 18 points.
Kyle Capobianco is the AHL’s leader in assists among rookie defensemen.
The Roadrunners should receive a boost this week. Defenseman Dakota Mermis was assigned to Tucson earlier in the week. Tuesday, the team recalled forward Artur Tyanulin from Fort Wayne of the ECHL.
Tucson has had a good week of practice, Strome said, with attention given to film of the past weekend.
“I think we have to make some small adjustments and I think we should be fine,” Strome said. “Our guys are working hard so we should have a good game.”
The Roadrunners will be back on the ice this weekend as they host the Stockton Heat, giving the team a short Thanksgiving rest.
The Roadrunners will have a morning skate on Thursday and then take the rest of the day off.
“I’m going to hang out with the guys and we’re going to have a turkey dinner,” Strome said.