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Tucson shuts down San Jose, gains ground in Pacific Division

Adam Helewka’s two-goal night lifts Roadrunners over the Barracuda, now just two points from first place.

Photo courtesy of Tucson Roadrunners

The Tucson Roadrunners played host to the San Jose Barracuda (AHL Affiliate of the San Jose Sharks) for the first time this season, defeating their rivals 5-0 in a tight pacific division match on Friday.

Merrick Madsen made just his second start for the Roadrunners, with his first being earlier this week against San Diego. Tonight he had his first complete game shutout, putting aside all of San Jose’s 19 shots.

“I thought he (Madsen) made some good saves tonight,” Roadrunners coach Jay Varady after the game. “In key times, especially in the second period he made a couple of big saves for us.

“And I thought the guys in front of him played hard tonight. We had some good shot blocks from various guys throughout our group.”

The Roadrunners were provided with numerous opportunities in the opening minutes of the first period. Former Barracuda forward, Adam Helewka opened up the scoring for Tucson, scoring his sixth goal of the season just 7:48 into the period.

Micheal Bunting then added to the tally with another shot that deflected off goaltender Josef Korenar’s pads and into the net, making it 2-0, Tucson.

Tucson’s defense also played an integral part in the first period, only allowing the Barracuda to get two shots on goal all period long. San Jose’s first shot did not register until the 11th minute of the period.

Tucson had a pretty clean penalty record throughout the first 30 minutes or so, not committing a single penalty during that time span. The same can’t be said for San Jose, however, who racked up 11 penalty minutes through two periods, including a five minute major and game misconduct against Nick DeSimone for a check to the head.

The penalty against DeSimone ultimately gave Helewka the opportunity to net another goal against his former team on Korenar’s shortside to give Tucson the 3-0 lead 6:08 into the second.

When asked about his mentality whilst playing against his former team, Helkewka said he has a bit extra motivation to play.

San Jose did gain some ground on the shot category, but Tucson’s defense continued to play lights out hockey, only allowing eight shots in the period. Merrick Madsen appeared to remain focused throughout a some key opportunities for San Jose, disallowing two to three shots in just a matter of seconds.

Tucson began the third period on their third penalty kill of the night, giving San Jose an opportunity to get on the board. But solid defensive work from the Roadrunners, particularly in the neutral zone kept the Barracuda from getting much of a scoring chance in those opening minutes.

Tucson slowed its shot production slightly in the third period, but it didn’t seem to make all the difference, as they were just able to protect their lead. But at about 14:39 into the third. David Ullstrom found the back of the net on an odd-man offensive rush for Tucson to give them the 4-0 lead.

Lane Pederson then found another odd-man rush opportunity that ultimately gave Tucson their final 5-0 lead within the final minutes of the game.

Tucson and San Jose will go at it on the ice again tomorrow night with a chance at the Pacific Division lead; and the Roadrunners say they are prepared for a big push back from the Barracuda.

“Yeah, I know their team pretty well,” Helewka said after the game. “They’re going to come out a lot harder and make plays. They always find a way to bounce back and they’re going to come out strong tomorrow, but we’ll be ready.

The puck drop for the second game of the series leg with San Jose is set for 7:05 pm.