Tucson Arena has been decked in white for playoff hockey in the desert for the last couple of weeks. The Arizona Coyotes AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners, are in the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in team history.
After a thrilling OT win on Wednesday to start off round two of the Pacific Division Finals against the Texas Stars, the Roadrunners dropped game two, 4-1.
A slow start in the first period, along with two goals by the Stars, had the Roadrunners playing from behind early in the game.
“We dug ourselves into a hole early and kind of let it get out of hand,” Roadrunners’ forward Lane Pederson said. “We’ve got to be ready to start out of the gates and play from the get go.”
The first period’s off start gave way to more life in the second, where the Roadrunners were able to kill four minor penalties to keep them in the game.
“I don’t think we had as much life as we did after the kills in the second,” head coach Mike Van Ryn said of the first period. “After those kills I felt like we were playing with a lot more intensity. We were driven.
“In a weird way, the positive was that we got through all of those kills,” Van Ryn said. “Normally teams die after you’re given that many kills, and our guys stuck with it. I thought we played real well after the penalties were over, we generated some good chances, and I thought we were skating a lot more at that point. We’ve got to try and start the game that way to give ourselves a chance.”
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The third period had some more spark for the Roadrunners. They had 19 shots on goal, and cut the deficit to one with a goal from Pederson.
Two empty net goals by the Stars with under two minutes to go, however would put the game just out of reach.
“The score obviously wasn’t indicative of how the game was played,” Van Ryn said. “We were pushing, we were playing the right way. We were playing quick and guys were determined, they were running their routes. That was the first time I think I really saw our power play really put some passes together and get some good quality chances towards the net…I thought that there was lots of good stuff there in the third that we can build off of.”
Game three, four and five will all be in Texas. On the road, the Roadrunners are 24-7, they’ll look to continue that success in the next three games.
“We’re a good road team,” Van Ryn said. “We’ll go out and do what we do.”