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Your Ultimate Tucson Roadrunners’ Guide to the Calder Cup Playoffs!

photo credit: Tucson Roadrunners

Mid-April has arrived, and the whiteout returns to Arizona! That’s right, playoff hockey is back. Today, the Tucson Roadrunners begin their journey to win the AHL’s coveted Calder Cup Championship. They are set to start this postseason campaign against the Calgary Wranglers.

To get you Arizona hockey fans up to date here is everything you need to know about this year’s AHL Playoffs.

Guaranteed Whiteout

The Tucson Roadrunners finished second in the Pacific Division this year, just behind the Coachella Valley Firebirds. The Seeding guaranteed Tucson would see home-ice advantage through the first rounds of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

In these first rounds, due to travel constraints, all games of the best of three will be played at the Tucson Arena — with just one game there Calgary will be officially designated as “home”. That won’t stop Tucson hockey fans from filling the arena in all white as per Arizona Coyotes tradition.

This is the first time since the Roadrunners’ 2017-18 campaign the team will see home ice advantage. In that first round series, Tucson swept the visiting San Jose Barracuda before falling to the Texas Stars in the Pacific Division Finals.

How Does This Playoff Format Even Work?

At first glance, fans unfamiliar with the Calder Cup Playoff format will look at this bracket above and think to themselves, “What in God’s name is this monstrosity of a playoff bracket?” Well, those fans might reach some reassurance to know, they are not going crazy nor are they alone in their thinking.

See, each of the four divisions of the American Hockey League have their own playoff system. This is due in part to the wide discrepancy of number of each division — Ten for the Pacific, for example — and part due to the lingering effects from the two-year playoff hiatus from the COVID-19 Pandemic. The expanded playoff format has been in place since the Pacific Division ran their own bubble postseason during that time to mitigate revenue losses and it would seem the American Hockey League intends to keep it around for the foreseeable future.

Players to Watch For

If you were wondering which young players will be returning to the Tucson Roadrunners in time for the Calder Cup Playoffs, look no further because Dylan Guenther, Josh Doan, Vlad Kolyachonok, Aku Räty and Michael Kesselring make their returns from finishing the seasons with the Coyotes.

Sam Lipkin joined the Roadrunners a few weeks ago after the completion of his NCAA campaign with Quinnipiac. Conor Geekie, is another name among the most notable additions, who joins Tucson after his junior team, Swift Current Broncos, were eliminated from the WHL Playoffs. Both these recent additions hope make an immediate impact on a seemingly already stacked Roadrunners offensive front.

Expect veteran goaltender Matt Villalta to sit between the pipes through this postseason run. Vilalta finished the 2023-24 season with a 0.911 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average.

Know Your Opponent

The Roadrunners opponent, Calgary Wranglers, despite finishing seventh in the Pacific Division, will be no small opponent for the Tucson Roadrunners. They too received an injection of young NHL talent to their roster with the return of Dustin Wolf, Illya Solovyov, Matt Coronato, and Adam Klapka.

In 36 games with the Wranglers, Wolf posted a 20-12-3 record with a .922 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average. Klapka and Coronato, on the other hand, should be anchors for the Wranglers offensive front, leading the team in regular season points with 46 and 42 respectively (compared to Tucson’s top two, Doan [46] and Räty [44]).

How To Watch

All three games of the first round will be played at the Tucson Convention Center Arena. If you are unable to attend fans are able to watch with an AHL.TV subscription or listen on Tucson’s Fox Sports 1450 AM.


The Roadrunners are favored to win this series. Just about every sportsbook that tracks AHL games has them favored, but not by a whole lot. It’s a short series, only a best-of-three for this first round. But Tucson’s reinjection of talent sure should give fans a lot of hope. Add in the emotions from recent news about the team? Tucson takes this series 2-1.

Want more analysis? Tune into Locked on Coyotes for an in-depth discussion on the Calder Cup.

Talking Points