The Tucson Roadrunners concluded their weekend dance with the Ontario Reign with a 5-0 shutout victory on Saturday’s Teddy Bear Toss Night.
Roadrunners coach Jay Varady gave much praise to the team Saturday, drawing the differences from a completely different game just the night before.
“I thought last night (Friday) we got behind, we started chasing the game, and we were in a mess for a while, and we were able to straighten it out that’s why we were resilient,” Varady said. “Tonight I thought we played a really solid game right from the start, playing the way we want to play fast and pressure all over the ice.”
Fans who might have got the the arena and were hopping to toss some teddy bears would be relieved to find out no goals were scored in the first period. What they did miss, however, was Travis Howe’s debut game fist fight with Ontario’s Bokondji Imama in the first five minutes of play. Both players were handed a total seven minutes of penalty time: five for fighting, and two additional for “removing the helmet.”
The remainder of the first period was a quiet one for both teams. Shots on goal were only 10-5 in favor of Ontario through the first 20 minutes.
Much like on Friday night, the second period told a completely different story. Just 1:45 into the period Tyler Steenbergen pulled the goal trigger that prompted Roadrunners fans to throw the teddy bears onto the ice.
Let it rain Teddy Bears! Tyler Steenbergen gets a shot on off a pass from Hudson Fasching and Dakota Mermis for the Teddy Bear goal just 1:45 into the second period! 1-0 Tucson. This #ONTvsTUC pic.twitter.com/3n9BDsyy2a— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) December 9, 2018
“It’s pretty exciting,” Steenbergen said about scoring the goal. “I was fortunate to get (the Teddy Bear toss goal) last year in Swift Current too, so seeing those teddy bears come down when you put the puck in the net is a pretty awesome feeling.”
After all the fans ran out of their over 5,000 teddy’s and the teams resumed play, neither team found the back of the net again for a good eight minutes. That changed when Lane Pederson slot a goal past Peter Budaj for the second straight night at 10:26 into the period to make it 2-0 Tucson.
Penalties would then plague the Reign through the next few minutes, thus granting the Roadrunners with plentiful scoring opportunities. One of the powerplay opportunities even resulted in an instant goal from Laurent Dauphin at 12:22 in the second period. The goal once again continued Dauphin’s point streak to seven games. He scored a single goal in Friday’s come-from-behind shootout victory.
“It’s fun to get going finally,” Dauphin said on his point streak. “I think our team is playing really good. We’re on a good streak. We’re a good team, and it’s easier to make points when you got good teammates.”
Tucson didn’t end the scoring there, however. While the lamp lighter had a bit of a break for a good 20-plus minutes, he had to light it again twice more late in the third period. Tucson’s fourth goal came from the “teddy bear goal scoring man” himself, Tyler Steenbergen for his second goal of the night with 6:33 left to play.
To make ice it all off, Trevor Cheek found an opportunity from the high slot and smashed it pass Peter Budaj just 59 seconds later to make it 5-0 Roadrunners.
Roadrunners goaltender, Merrick Madsen was credited with his third career AHL shutout in just his fifth game started with the Roadrunners.
“I wanted to come here and leave an impression when I got called up,” Madsen said after the game. “Thankfully, I’ve had the guys in front of me and supporting me really well. I’ve just been able to find a groove a little bit, and it’s great to be doing it at home too.”
The Roadrunners have two more home games to play before going on the road again. Tucson hosts their new divisional rivals, the Colorado Eagles, next Tuesday and Wednesday at the Tucson Convention Center.