The Tucson Roadrunners won their first playoff series in franchise history, after blanking the San Jose Barracuda 9-0 in in two games. Here's what you missed from Friday night in the Tucson Convention Center as the Roadrunners advance in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
By Justin Spears / Arizona Daily Star
Ice, ice baby
It's been a while since Tucson has had a winner — and even longer since that team wore something other than red and blue.
The Tucson Roadrunners are still finding their footing in the Old Pueblo. Players and team officials are finding, however, that the city has a genuine love for hockey.
“It’s just different,” Roadrunners fan Trey Nicholson said before Friday's Calder Cup Playoff game. “Ice hockey in the desert, it’s just amazing for the city — especially with the team winning.”
Roadrunners superfan Jeff Anderson remembered the Tucson Gila Monsters, a West Coast Hockey League club that played at Tucson Arena from 1997 to 1999. Anderson created the Gila Monsters fan club, but lost interest in the sport once the club folded. It took a full decade for him to buy Arizona Coyotes season tickets. He was ecstatic when the Springfield, Massachusetts AHL team was sold and moved to Tucson two summers ago.
Anderson started the Dry Ice Nation, a Facebook group created for Roadrunners fans.
“This is pure hockey. Baseball is too slow, so it’s harder to stay focused on the game. It’s boring,” Anderson said. “This is fast-paced and has better action for fans that attend sporting events.”
The last time
The Roadrunners', well, run, has us thinking about the last non-UA team to make a playoff push.
The Tucson Sidewinders will always be a part of Tucson history, especially after their championship season in 2006. That team included players like Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Craig Counsell, Miguel Montero, Scott Hairston and Chris Young. The Sidewinders packed their bags for Reno shortly thereafter however, and the short-time Tucson Padres lasted just three years. The Padres were the last professional team to play in Tucson until 2016, when the AHL team moved here.
(OK, and the semipro Tucson Saguaros won the Pecos League two years ago. But that's a different conversation.)
‘We’re Arizona hockey fans’
It’s not just Tucsonans that are loving hockey in the Old Pueblo. Phoenix resident Sylvia Morales and her husband drove two hours south to watch Friday night's game. The Moraleses have been driving down for games since the regular season ended two weeks ago.
“We’re hockey fans, but we’re Arizona hockey fans,” Sylvia Morales said.
Sylvia Morales grew up in the Phoenix area; She remembers attending old Phoenix Coyotes games at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the 1970s.
“We gravitated towards it because it was different,” Morales said. “Win, lose, or draw, the Roadrunners are my team.”
As long as the Roadrunners are still in playoffs, the couple will continue to make weekend trips to Tucson for hockey. Now that’s dedication.
The Roadrunners' Calder Cup Playoffs series win is the first by a Coyotes affiliate since 2003. How long ago was that? Roadrunners star Dylan Strome was 6 years old.
Next, the Roadrunners will play the Texas Stars in a best-of-seven series. Tucson has the home-ice advantage, meaning it will host the first two games of the series — and the last two games of the series, too. Game 1 is Wednesday at 7 p.m.
He said it
Captain Andrew Campbell on the Roadrunners’ series win, and the team’s defense after shutting out the Barracuda at home: pic.twitter.com/UQX8fMTXHb— The Wildcaster (@TheWildcaster) April 28, 2018
“It feels great, we’re proud of what we’ve been to accomplish up until this point. It’s a big step for this group and this organization. We haven’t been in the second round in an awful long time.”
— Roadrunners captain Andrew Campbell, on winning Friday night.
The big number
-- The attendance for Game 4 at TCC. The game on Wednesday night had 4,799 spectators.