Game #1 Preview: Tucson vs. San Diego
Game #1 - Tucson (0-0-0-0) vs. San Diego (0-0-0-0)
7:05 PM PST, Tucson Arena, Tucson, Arizona
Referees: #34 Stephen Reneau, #57 Andrew Wilk
Linesmen: #30 Ken Bonham, #59 Rob Fay
QUICK FIX Seeking their first-ever opening night victory, the Roadrunners host the San Diego Gulls for the first of the clubs' eight scheduled meetings this season, the first of San Diego's four slated visits to Southern Arizona.
New Head Coach Jay Varady will be behind the bench for his first regular season game with the Roadrunners. "It'll be the same way I approach every game, it's the same approach for me," he said Friday. "I don't really change whether it's a preseason game, first game of the season, playoff game, whatever it is, we want to have our approach down and our preparation in place and go about our business."
Tucson finished the 2017-18 season with a 7-4-0-1 mark against San Diego, including a 4-2-0-0 record at home that was highlighted by consecutive wins to end the regular campaign, halting the Gulls from qualifying for the postseason.
Though tonight marks the season's official opening, the Roadrunners split their two-game preseason series against the Iowa Wild last weekend in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Michael Bunting notched a pair of goals, Kyle Capobianco registered two assists, while goaltenders Hunter Miska (29) and Adin Hill (34) combined to make 34 saves.
GOALS ON GULLS: The Roadrunners averaged just under four goals per game (3.83) against the Gulls last season, totaling 46 in the teams' 12 meetings. Just under a year ago today, the teams combined for 13 goals in the Roadrunners 7-6 opening night loss at Tucson Arena - the highest scoring game in franchise history.
FILLING IN: Last season, the Roadrunners benefited mightily from Dylan Strome's outstanding production against the Gulls. In 10 games against San Diego, Strome registered 15 points (6G, 9A). Michael Bunting, coming off of a year in which he shattered career highs in goals (23) and points (43), accumulated eight points (4G, 4A) in 12 games played against the Gulls in 2017-18. The Roadrunners will lean on Bunting, the franchise leader in goals (36), points (71), and games played (134), to shoulder more of the offensive load.
GET FAMILIAR: Of the 24 names on the Roadrunners' opening night roster, six have never played in a professional game: Kevin Klima, Kelly Klima, Brayden Burke, Tyler Steenbergen, Matteo Gennaro, and Cam Dineen. Burke appeared in two playoff games for the Roadrunners in their Pacific Division Finals series against the Texas Stars, but those appearances do not count toward his AHL stat-line. Multiple players are expected to make their pro debuts tonight against the Gulls.
NUMBER TO KNOW
THREE, SIXTEEN, EIGHTY-ONE: Of the players who dressed for the Roadrunners last season, three will be donning new numbers as the page turns to the 2017-18 campaign. Defenseman Jordan Gross will go from wearing #63 to #3, defenseman Trevor Murphy from #26 to #16, and forward Jens Looke from #24 to #81.
WE'RE DOING IT LIVE
You can catch tonight's action for free on AHLTV as part of opening weekend's 'FreeView'. Roadrunners play-by-play broadcaster Adrian Denny will have the radio call on AM 1450 Fox Sports Tucson, with coverage starting at 6:50 PM.
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