Roadrunners Wrap Up Third Season in Tucson
By: Tucson Roadrunners
April 18, 2019 10:07 AM
Photo: Chris Hook
TUCSON, AZ – The Tucson Roadrunners, proud American Hockey League affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes, concluded their third season of hockey in the Old Pueblo last week, putting a bow on another 68-game schedule.
Finishing with another winning season and a record of 34-26-5-3, the Roadrunners have compiled a two-year total of 66-46-10-4, the best record of a Pacific Division Club since Opening Night 2017.
Tucson earned 76 points over the course of their seven-month season, finishing just one goal and one point shy of a Calder Cup playoff berth. Despite coming up short, the club’s 9-4-0-1 record was the best in their division over the final month of the regular season.
Forward Lane Pederson led the team with 23 goals and 47 points, while defenseman Robbie Russo paved the way by adding 33 assists.
Goaltender Adin Hill concluded the season with 36 games played, 16 wins and a save percentage of .906%.
The Roadrunners head into the off-season optimistic about things to come in Tucson because they came so close to clinching a playoff berth despite the parent Arizona Coyotes missing 380 man games to injuries, playing a large factor in a total of 116 transactions over the course of the season.
While Pederson’s 23 goals matched a franchise record, tying a mark set by Michael Bunting and Mike Sislo during the 2017-18 campaign, the club also had seven different players reach double digits in the goal scoring category, including rookie forward Brayden Burke.
Part of the Roadrunners special post-trade deadline stretch was the addition of forward Michael Chaput, who was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens. The 27-year-old became an immediate powerhouse in the lineup, providing 16 points in 16 games over the final five weeks of the regular season. Chaput remains under contract with the Coyotes next season as well.
The I-10 Transit
In the third season of being the developmental club for the Arizona Coyotes, the Roadrunners continued to be an exemplary model of sending players to the National Hockey League. Ten members of the Roadrunners roster earned recalls from Tucson to Glendale between October and April while the team also provided a home for three members of the Coyotes roster on conditioning loans.
In terms of games played, forward Mario Kempe enjoyed the most time at the next level, dressing in 52 games played with the Coyotes following a start to the season in which he contributed 11 points in the Roadrunners first ten games of the season.
Statistically, Conor Garland became the talk of the NHL for several weeks while with the Glendale-based Coyotes, becoming one of the hottest rookies in the whole league. The three-year Roadrunners rose as quickly to at point being tied for the Coyotes team-lead in goal scoring, en route to providing 13 goals over 47 games played.
While unfortunately having his season cut short due to an injury in just his second game with the Coyotes following his recall, defenseman Kyle Capobianco continued to show his promise by earning time in the NHL for a second straight season at only 21-years-old.
While Antti Raanta missed a large amount of the season in Arizona due to injury, the opening allowed both Adin Hill and Hunter Miska to show their skill at the next level. The 22-year-old’s previously mentioned NHL Star of the Week honors encompassed a stretch of when he turned aside 59 of 60 shots faced while picking up three wins, including his first career shutout. Hill went on to go 7-5 during his time with the parent club. For Miska, it was his NHL Debut on November 13 when he entered a game in relief of Darcy Kuemper in Detroit.
In total, over three seasons the Roadrunners have had 26 players play a game in both the Coyotes and Roadrunners while 20 of them have been graduates of the Tucson program, going on to play their first NHL game following time in the Old Pueblo.
The Coaching Staff
The Roadrunners successful 2018-19 season comes on the hinges of one of the biggest changes an organization can make at the AHL level and that’s with a coaching change.
In his first season of being an AHL Head Coach, Jay Varady guided the Roadrunners to 34 wins while also becoming engrained in the fabric of the Tucson community. During an interview with the Arizona Daily Star’s Brett Fera in the midst of a playoff push, the Illinois-born bench boss took the time to denote how much he has enjoyed the start of his journey in the desert:
“You always hear about the southwest being an excellent place to live. And when you’re in hockey, you tend to find yourself in cold-weather regions where there’s still snow on the ground from a month ago. But being here through the course of the winter, you find a lot of energy with the sun and the weather that you can build on coming to the rink. My family loves the area. … I love to get on my bike.
“There are unbelievable trails. The weather, I thought would turn at some point in the winter and I wouldn’t be able to get on my bike, but I find my way to that bike in the afternoon most days we don’t play. The trail is basically right outside my condo. Usually every place I’ve ever been you’re kind of locked in where outside is not an option, but not here.”
While it was Varady’s inaugural season with the organization, the guiding man was assisted by the second season in Tucson for both John Slaney and Steve Potvin. The AHL Hall-of-Famer Slaney reached his 600th career game as an Assistant Coach to culminate this campaign and in just his second season as an assistant himself, Steve Potvin to 54 power play goals, including 15 over the team’s final 13 games and five games in a row to wrap up the season.
The Tucson Love
Over 150,000 fans came through the doors of Tucson Arena this season, becoming the most of any of the three seasons played here in the Old Pueblo.
The Roadrunners also became just the second American Hockey League team since 2001 to increase attendance each year in the first three seasons in a market that did not have professional hockey the previous season.
The club’s average attendance of 4,294 fans-per-game is the highest attendance for a professional sports team in Tucson since at least 2002.
Fans continue to flock to a full-season commitment to the Roadrunners, allowing the team to finish the season #1 of all 31 AHL teams in renewed season tickets from the previous season. Additionally, the club ranks second of all member teams in new full season ticket sales.
Corporate sponsorship remains an area of strength for Tucson, rising to second in the AHL with a 43% increase in total corporate sponsorship, which includes corporate revenue, corporate tickets, and corporate trade.
Roadrunners Season Ticket Memberships
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