Roadrunners don’t fly, but they can certainly skate.
After starting their season off with a win against Bakersfield and a loss to San Diego, the Roadrunners hitched a ride into the Midwest for a back to back series against the Chicago Wolves before boarding a bus to Michigan for a Wednesday nightcap with the Griffins. In the Saturday night game, Tucson started off with two goals in the first. Dakota Mermis netted his first of the season on an assist from Jens Looke. It was both a shorthanded goal and a rebound from Looke’s breakaway.
Close to the end of the period, Kyle Wood put home his first of the season from Tyler Gaudet.
The Wolves also nabbed one in the first, as Tomas Hyka got his third from former NHLer Beau Bennett.
In the second, Tucson started out with a powerplay and capitalized, as Mike Sislo lit the lamp, with help from Kyle Capobianco and Dylan Strome. Chicago responded with two to tie the game before the end of the period, however, as Shea Theodore and Paul Thompson got the puck behind Hunter Miska.
The Roadrunners came back out for the 3rd firing and Emerson Etem nabbed himself a game-winning goal. Andrew Campbell had the lone assist.
Hunter Miska earned his first career win in an excellent effort while both teams took turns having meetings with the penalty box timekeepers, totaling 26 minutes in penalties between the two clubs. Chicago totaled 8 minors to Tucson’s 5.
The next night in the Sunday rubber match, the two teams produced far less scoring but a good amount of penalties.
It took until the 2nd period for a team to break through, as former Coyote Teemu Pulkkinen sniped one past Marek Langhamer. Pulkkinen also turned on some formerly unseen physicality, bodying up and eventually hitting some Roadrunners along the boards.
Tucson seemed to be ready to pull their goalie when Emerson Etem took a faceoff violation penalty within the final 4 minutes of the affair.
Tucson had to switch gears to the penalty kill but still managed to tie the game short-handed with merely two minutes to go, as Nick Merkley broke up a Wolves pass and bore down on Wolves goaltender Max Legace, burying a shot five-hole.
The game went to overtime, where the only possible player on the Wolves who could possibly score on a Coyotes’ affiliate potted the game-winner- Teemu Pulkkinen. After a series of icings in favor of Tucson, Chicago eventually found their wits, getting Pulkkinen a shot from the right circle to seal the deal.
Marek Langhamer made 28 saves on 30 shots, essentially keeping Tucson in the game at every turn up until Merkley knotted it late in the 3rd. Both by glove saves without a clear line of sight or sprawling dives, Langhamer stood fast while the team in front of him ground the game out.
In total, Tucson grabbed 3 of the 4 possible points for the weekend, with great goaltending to boot. Dylan Strome took 4 shots and earned 1 assist, Nick Merkley scored 1 goal and Kyle Wood had three shots in total.
Etem and Mermis earned 1st and 2nd Stars respectively for their effort on Saturday and Nick Merkley was awarded the 2nd Star on Sunday.
Temesy’s Quotes and Notes
After Tucson’s 4-3 Saturday win:
- Emerson Etem on scoring the game-winning goal, “It was just a great play by Campbell gaining the line. It was a delayed penalty, so I was able to just follow him. I think we kind of anticipated each other, we had a lot of time and space.”
- Etem on Hunter Miska’s first win, “He kept us in it, a lot of big saves, especially late... we need a goalie that comes up with big saves and he definitely did it for us.”
- Etem on what he thinks the team could learn from the win, “It’s [Chicago] a really good team. They got a lot of firepower on the front end and back end. You see guys like [Shea] Theodore and [Teemu] Pulkkinen who are at the top of the league standings, we need to make sure we keep an eye out for those guys and make sure we are staying above.”
- Etem on the leadership he brings to the Roadrunners, “We got a lot of young guys, especially on the Coyotes roster and down here...I’m not a big talker, I like to lead by example and as long as long as I keep doing that and some of the older guys, we’ll be alright.”
- Head Coach Mike van Ryn what went well, poorly and what to improve on, “Taking too many penalties in the second was definitely a downfall...I liked our game, I mean obviously it could be a little better puck management-wise...we are not an overly pretty team, we just try to keep advancing the puck...early on I liked our breakouts. I think we did a good job working back. We gotta be smarter. We took penalties that allowed for a big momentum shift for them so we were lucky we were able to gather ourselves after the second...the guys worked hard and that’s all I can ask.”
- Coach van Ryn on Jens Looke’s transition into North American hockey, “Good! Good, good good! Real good! I think he’s still getting used to the pace...we actually talked about it before the game as a staff and we’ve been really impressed with him just because he has figured it out very quick.”
- Coach van Ryn on the expectations of Dylan Strome, “He’s got all the tools, right now he’s just playing, he’s playing in every situation and playing at the end of the games. It’s just confidence reps for young guys. He’s a wonderful hockey player, and he’ll play for our team for a long time. Right now, it’s just teaching how to be a pro. In Juniors, you can get away with a lot of things and right now it’s the attention to detail and staying in character, which means playing your game for sixty minutes. He’s getting better every day, and he’s working harder in practice. We’re happy with Dylan and the way he’s going.”
- Coach van Ryn on Nick Merkley’s development, “He’s doing everything right right now. Everything I ask him about playing with pace and trying to put pucks in the right areas- he’s got the ability when a play presents itself to make it. He’s learning the bumper position for us and he’s doing a great job. That’s a tough spot on a powerplay for a young guy and he’s a guy who’s never played it, but I think he’s grasping that role very well and he’s been reliable for us defensively. I just wish I could find more ice for him- every night I look, I’m not playing him enough! For a first year pro, he’s trying to do everything right.”
- Coach van Ryn on the goaltending prospects in the system, “We’re fortunate [to have Miska, Langhamer and Adin Hill] to have that many goalies. We’ve even got a guy down in the East Coast League [ECHL], Michael Houser, who’s a good goalie so we do have a lot. Our goalie coaches, John Elkin and Corey Schwab do a tremendous job for us and they do a ton of work with these guys... they [the prospects] got the right mentality, the scouting staff did a great job of identifying guys with an ‘it’ factor and they got swag, they’re confident in their ability- all of them, which is great for a coach because I don’t have to worry about them too much. They kind of coach themselves up between the ears and they work- every day they’re out there kicking pucks in practice, taking extra shots. They fight for the net and we’re fortunate to have good ones that want to compete and get better.”
Following Tucson’s 2-1 OT loss on Sunday evening:
- Head Coach Mike van Ryn on combating the momentum shifts over the two games, “You know what, our depth guys were really good for us tonight. It was our first back to back for a lot of guys who going pro for us tonight [referring to rookies]...I was proud of them that they found a way to get a point tonight. I don’t think that we played very well...and it was evident that we didn’t play with the pace we wanted to but the effort was there. The guys were trying, trying to execute. Our third [period], we found another gear finally...we saw the light was at the end, we went for broke.”
- Coach van Ryn on Marek Langhamer’s performance, “He found pucks. There were some pucks there that I didn’t think he could see and he fought through traffic and found them. He looked calm in the net. I’m sure he wanted the last one, but the only reason we were able to get a point was because of him. I was real happy with how he played.”
- Coach van Ryn on the penalty-kill’s offensive production, “Well my assistant coach John Slaney does a good job- he’s a very good penalty killing coach, he's a good defense coach. He does my penalty kill and he does a good job with our guys. This is a completely new system from last year...so it’s taken them the first game, we got shell-shocked but since then it’s been pretty good. We’re working our way, we’re becoming more confident in it. We’re starting to pressure more pucks and creating more aggressive situations...the main thing there is the goaltending. If you ever want to get penalty kills, you gotta get good goalies.”
- Coach van Ryn on Kyle Capobianco and the defense activating in the offensive zone, “We want all the D, thoughout the organization, to get up and be a part of it. He [Capobianco] just has exceptional feet, he can really skate. He’s turning into a real good pro...some of the things he does, there’s ‘wow’ factors, the composure, but the feet are elite and it allows him to do a lot out there.”
- Nick Merkley on the weekend series and his contributions, “Just play the right way. I thought our team played pretty fast. I think that was a big thing for our team.”
- Nick Merkley on Hunter Miska and Marek Langhamer’s performances, “Both of them stood on their heads. When we had break downs they were there to stop it so I think they both played very well and it’s good to see that out of both of our goaltenders.”
- Nick Merkley on sharing a line with Dylan Strome, “I think we both think the game really well and play pretty fast so it’s nice to have a guy like that on my line and I thought he set me up a bunch of times this weekend.”
- Nick Merkley on his growth since Development Camp, “I think after those preseason games and main camp, you kinda start to get a feel for pro hockey and kind of carry that into the season.”
- Dylan Strome on joining Tucson, “It’s been good. The team’s being doing pretty well so just keep working hard and hopefully the bounces will come.”
- Dylan Strome on sharing a line with Nick Merkley, “We’re good buddies, we lived together over the summer and I think we’ve been playing well together and finding each other. He’s a great player to play with and he works really hard.”
- Dylan Strome on how he’s improved since Development Camp, “I think it’s [his skating and overall play] getting better, but obviously it’s tough to play at this level of hockey so you gotta find ways to contribute and find ways to get chances and be a consistent contributor.”
- Dylan Strome on what he has done to help work toward getting back with the Coyotes, “Just my practice habits, working hard and trying to focus on the things they want me to work on. [I’m] trying to get better and have that translate into games.”
Tucson will finish off its first long road trip of the season on Wednesday in Grand Rapids against the Griffins before returning to Tucson for a series against the Iowa Wild.