The Tucson Roadrunners conclude the regular season this weekend with a pair of home games against the rival San Diego Gulls.
Tucson clinched a division title Wednesday night by beating San Diego 4-0, then flew back home Thursday.
The Roadrunners are one point away from clinching the Western Conference title over Chicago of the Central Division.
Wednesday’s convincing win bodes well for the Roadrunners’ chances against San Diego this weekend. However, the Gulls may be heading into the series with an extra dose of motivation, as they still need one point to clinch a playoff berth.
Adin Hill starred at goalie for Tucson in the shutout victory Wednesday, stopping all 36 shots that came his way.
“I think our team is doing a great job in front of me by keeping chances down to a minimum,” Hill said. “They’re boxing guys out and clearing pucks and rebounds. It’s nice to start off a three-game series with a big win like that and hopefully we can ride the momentum into Friday.”
Hill credited the return of defensemen Joel Hanley, Dakota Mermis and Trevor Murphy in providing a staunch protection of the net. The trio, along with forward Dylan Strome, were assigned from the Arizona Coyotes to Tucson this week.
Murphy also got involved on the offensive side by scoring a goal midway through the third period.
“Getting guys from the NHL is big, especially in the defensive zone, making that first pass, or a play in the offensive zone like Murphy’s goal,” Hill said. “It makes a huge difference.”
Lawson Crouse is Tucson’s hottest scorer, having secured points in each of his last six games, including two points Wednesday.
The final series will also have implications as to who Tucson will play in the opening round of the playoffs.
As the top seed in their division, the Roadrunners will open the postseason against the division’s fourth-place team, which is presently San Diego.
The Gulls would likely need to sweep Tucson and have third-place Texas drop at least one of its last two games to move up a spot in the standings.
Otherwise, Tucson will likely face the same San Diego squad in the best-of-five first-round series. The first two games would be played at San Diego, while Games 3 and 4 and an if-necessary Game 5 would be held in Tucson.
Tucson and San Diego have already played each other 10 times this season, with the Roadrunners posting a 5-3-2 record.