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Game #34 Preview: Tucson vs. Chicago

By: Alexander Kinkopf
Game #34 – Tucson (19-10-3-1) vs. Chicago (22-12-3-1)
7:05 PM PST, Tucson Arena, Tucson, Arizona
Referees: #9 Anthony Tapper, #41 Conor O’Donnell
Linesmen: #59 Rob Fay, #20 Brent Hooks
The Roadrunners and Chicago Wolves will meet tonight for the fourth and final time this regular season.
The goal, for Tucson, will be to not leave empty-handed; the Roadrunners are 0-3-0-0 in the teams’ three previous meetings, and will vie to earn at least one win against a Wolves team that, entering the night, has the most standings points (48) in the Western Conference.
Despite last night’s defeat, the Roadrunners still maintain second-place in the Pacific Division, though the San Diego Gulls, the hottest team in the American Hockey League right now, have suddenly arrived on the back doorstep, their 40 points not far behind Tucson’s 42.
The aforementioned Gulls are on an absolute tear, having earned points in 12-straight games with a 10-0-0-2 record over that stretch.
Tonight serves as the final game goaltender Calvin Pickard is eligible to play in on his conditioning assignment from the Arizona Coyotes, which expires on Tuesday. Pulled 9:40 into last night’s game after allowing three goals on seven shots, he is 2-0-0 with a .870 SV% and a 4.14 GAA in three games with Tucson.
Forward Michael Bunting was re-assigned to the Roadrunners from the Coyotes on Saturday morning and it is presumed he returns to Tucson’s lineup. The 23-year-old forward has 18 points (6G, 12A) in 22 AHL games this season.
The Roadrunners will meet the halfway point of their 68-game season at the conclusion of tonight’s contest.


ON PAPER: Forward Nick Merkley continues to produce at a notable pace since returning from injury on December 12. With a goal and an assist last night, he registered his third multi-point performance in his last five games, and is averaging more than a point per game since live game clearance, amassing 11 (4G, 7A) in 10 games played.
NOTHING MAJOR: Dakota Mermis’ fight against Chicago’s Curtis McKenzie in the late stages of the first period last night served as the Roadrunners’ fourth major penalty of the season, the lowest total in the league. It was only the team’s third fighting major of the season. Only three teams in the AHL have logged fewer penalty minutes than the Roadrunners (406) this season: the Texas Stars (402), Bakersfield Condors (384), and San Jose Barracuda (368).
YOUTH MOVEMENT: As it currently stands with the Roadrunners’ 22-man group heading into tonight’s contest, Tucson has the youngest, by average, roster in the AHL with a median age of 23.75 years old. The names total for 2,331 games of AHL playing experience, the second-lowest total in the league to the San Jose Barracuda’s 2,139.


ONE-HUNDRED: Second on the Roadrunners in the assists category with 17 this season, Robbie Russo is one helper shy of 100 in his American Hockey League career. Russo, with 122 career AHL points (23G, 99A) entering the evening, will be playing in his 237th league game tonight.




Catch tonight’s action LIVE on AHLTV or join Roadrunners play-by-play broadcaster Adrian Denny on AM 1450 Fox Sports Tucson as he calls the game from the Roadrunners’ flagship radio station, where coverage begins at 6:50 PM.