Tucson Arena is still like a new apartment. The paint is still a little fresh. Neighbors are still bringing over cookies.
The Tucson Roadrunners don’t have years’ worth of memories in the arena. They still miss it, though.
Saturday night’s game against the Texas Stars at the Cedar Park Center was the Roadrunners’ fourth of eight consecutive games away from their home ice.
The first two forays of their weekslong adventure saw the Roadrunners head north, however briefly, to play at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
Tucson split its two-game set with the Charlotte Checkers at the home of the NHL’s Coyotes.
“We get a little experience there in camp, but to go up there and play in the big rink, it’s always fun up there,” left winger Michael Bunting said. “We get to see a lot of new faces, a lot of fans who might not get to see us down here.”
Now it’s Tucson fans who are going to have to be the ones biding their time.
The Roadrunners will take on the San Jose Barracuda, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls and the Reign again before returning home — finally — for a Feb. 24 matchup with the Barracudas.
They’ll regain an advantage that’s lost on the road.
“Being at home in hockey, you get the last change, the matchups you want,” Bunting said. “You also get your home crowd cheering you on. It’s a big difference from playing on the road.”
Not all the Roadrunners are unhappy heading away from home, though. The team lost three in a row in Tucson before hitting the road; the Gulls outscored Tucson 13-2 during that span.
“To be honest, it’s maybe a nice change; we didn’t have a very good last homestand, so sometimes the distractions of the family, things you have to do at home, that gets in the way,” center Chris Mueller said. “Our focus might be a little better because we’re all together, on the road knowing we have a job to do.”
Mueller says he’ll enjoy his eventual return, though.
“It didn’t take too long for us; from Day 1, our first game, we had a sell-out crowd and we felt comfortable and people were cheering loud when we were doing good things,” Mueller said. “The more and more you practice there, you form a routine, you warm up in the same spot, you’re in your locker room, and you fall into a routine.”