The Tucson Roadrunners have made a living of late out of just sort of hanging around.
They’ve done it in the standings, sticking within a win or two of first place in the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division race for virtually the entire 2018-19 season
On Monday night at Tucson Arena, they did it in-game, too. Despite trailing 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, the Roadrunners refused to go away, pouncing in the third period with a trio of goals to turn a tit-for-tat affair into a convincing 6-3 win over the visiting Texas Stars.
With the game tied at 3-3, a breakaway goal from forward Hudson Fasching less than two minutes into the third period changed the pattern, only for defenseman Kyle Capobianco to break the Stars’ back with his second point-blank blast of the night.
“I think we just outskated them, and took the game to them in the third,” Capobianco said of giving one back this season to the team that knocked Tucson out of last year’s AHL postseason. “It sets the tone for later on in the season.”
The Roadrunners (22-11-3-1) and Stars (21-15-3-2) return to the Tucson Arena ice again Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
After Texas’ Gavin Bayreuther punched a rebound past Tucson goaltender Hunter Miska barely three minutes into the game to give the Stars the 1-0 lead, Capobianco, Tucson’s leading scorer, tied it at 1-1 almost a full period later on a power-play one-timer to the left of Stars goaltender Landon Bow 2:53 into the second frame.
Texas went back up 2-1 a few minutes later, thanks to Denis Gurianov, with Tucson’s Michael Bunting tying it up at 2-2 on his 10th goal of the season and fourth in the last three games at the midway point of the middle period.
Michael Mersch’s power-play goal gave the Stars the 3-2 lead 2ƒ minutes later, before Tucson’s Lane Pederson tied it up yet again with his 11th goal of the season at 16:38 — tying him with Adam Helewka for the Roadrunners’ team lead.
In the third, Fasching beat Bow on a breakaway — the puck clanging from the crossbar like a pinball — to give Tucson its first lead.
“Maybe you don’t see him on the scoresheet as much as some other guys who have been in that room, but he’s always out in key situations doing important things for us,” coach Jay Varady said of Fasching, who hit double digits with his 10th goal of the season.
“We trust him.”
Bunting and Fasching notched a goal and two assists each, while Nick Merkley tallied three assists. Capobianco’s two goals marked the first multi-goal game of his AHL career, and increased his team-high point total to 31 on the season. Pederson added an assist to his goal. David Ullstrom scored the empty-net goal late, while Helewka added two assists, and Robbie Russo and Dysin Mayo one each.
In goal, Miska stopped 21 of 24 shots for Tucson. Bow stopped 14 of 19 for the Stars.
The victory comes smack in the middle of the Roadrunners’ most jam-packed stretch of the season, with six games in nine days. It’s also the kickoff of a season-long six-game homestand, which serves as the precursor to almost three full weeks on the road while the Tucson Convention Center transforms itself for annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.
Varady said he doesn’t get caught up in the way the schedule shakes out.
“We don’t think about it. We just get ready for what’s coming next,” Varady said.
“We don’t look at a whole week. … We just talk about what’s right in front of us. We try and live in the moment, so for us that’s practice (Tuesday). That’s where our focus is.
“But, just in general, I think if you go into our locker room and talk to the players, they probably want to play (a lot of) games.”