The Tucson Roadrunners faced — and beat — the top tam in the AHL’s Pacific Division on Friday night.
If they can do it again Saturday, they’ll be tied for first place.
Adam Helewka scored two goals, and goalie Merrick Madsen stopped 19 shots as the Roadrunners blanked the San Jose Barracuda 5-0 at Tucson Arena.
The Roadrunners (8-3-0-1) were solid defensively, holding the Barracuda shotless for the first 11 minutes, 30 seconds of the game. Helewka scored his sixth of the season during the Roadrunners’ first power play opportunity of the night, putting Tucson up 1-0.
Consistently dominating puck possession, Tucson surrendered few scoring chances to San Jose, while creating many of its own. Thoroughly outplaying San Jose, the Roadrunners took a 2-0 lead as Michael Bunting tipped in Jordan Gross’ point shot.
After a near-perfect first period that saw the Roadrunners outshoot the Barracuda 17-2 and go up 2-0, Tucson continued dictating the pace of play in the second. In trying to keep up with Tucson, San Jose (9-2-0-1) drew a pair of penalties early in the second, including a five-minute major.
The Roadrunners’ eventually capitalized on the man advantage with Helewka’s second of the night giving Tucson a 3-0 lead. The one-sided matchup continued through the game’s halfway point, with the Roadrunners outshooting San Jose 25-3 at the thirty-minute mark.
Showing exceptional discipline up until that point, Tucson gave San Jose their first power play of the night with late in the second period. The Barracuda nearly scored, but an outstanding diving shot block by the Roadrunners’ Mario Kempe kept the puck out of an empty net.
Up by 3-0 at the end of the second, play was rather routine in the third, as the Roadrunners looked to hold their lead taking few risks in the final period of the game.
Despite playing more defensively, Tucson widened its lead to 4-0 in the latter half of the period, when the Roadrunners’ David Ullstrom converted on a 3-on-1 odd-man rush. In the game’s last two minutes, Lane Pederson added the final goal in the dominant win.
Notably, Friday night’s game was former Roadrunners fan favorite Kyle Wood’s first game in Tucson since being traded to San Jose in the offseason. The trade looked like good for Roadrunners as the player he was traded for, Helewka, had a two-goal night.
Friday night marked Madsen’s first AHL shutout, and the newcomer stopped all 19 of the Barracuda’s shots. Roadrunners head coach Jay Varady credited special teams with the win.
“When you’re on the power play a lot, you get the shots and the momentum in your favor for a good portion of the game,” he said.
The Roadrunners and Barracuda will play again Saturday night at Tucson Arena.