Gameday Preview: Texas Stars at Tucson Roadrunners, Game 1

           Texas Stars                        Tucson Roadrunners
    38-24-8-6, 90 pts, .592      at      42-20-5-1, 90 pts, .662
  #2 Pacific Division                       #1 Pacific Division

May 2nd at 9:05 PM
Tucson Convention Center, Tucson, AZ

For the first time in four years, welcome to the second round. Texas faces Tucson in a best of seven series that kicks off tonight in Arizona.

(Credit: Tucson Roadrunners)
Season series
The season series was unkind to Texas but there are many reasons for hope on that front. The season series was also unkind against Ontario and look how that turned out. The two clubs played four times in the course of a month and that was it.

February 9th - Tucson 5 at Texas 2
This mess of a game is probably best typified by this line from the recap: “The one thing they did was compete, and we didn’t compete.”

February 10th - Tucson 2 at Texas 1 (OT)

Texas managed a tight 1-0 game for most of the contest but got bested on a late deflection goal and went to overtime. Mike Sislo scored the OT winner. The game was called a playoff atmosphere at the time by Coach Laxdal.

March 9th - Texas 1 at Tucson 2 (OT)

Nearly a month later, Mike Sislo was the OT hero again. Texas got in a ton of penalty trouble and it cost them in this one as Carter Camper scored the regulation goal on the power play.

March 10th - Texas 4 at Tucson 3
Texas's lone win against Tucson was a bizarre one indeed. The Stars scored four goals on just ten shots in the game.

Goalie battle
The Stars are riding a hot goalie into the second round but so are the Roadrunners. Mike McKenna's 91 saves to end the first round series, including the Game 4 shutout, were matched by Adin Hill's back-to-back shutouts to end round one for Tucson. Hill allowed just seven goals in four games for a 1.76 GAA and .939 SV%. McKenna did him one better thanks to the OT periods at 1.68 and .957. This is the story of the series, in my mind. These are two of the best goalies in the playoffs so far going head to head in a seven game series. It would be a lot of fun to see this series go the way of Turco/Luongo in 2007.

Powerful forwards
The Roadrunners are ridiculously strong up front, which will present a challenge to the aforementioned point on goaltending. Rookie Dylan Strome had 3-5=8 in four games in the first round. Mario Kempe wasn't far behind with 4-2=6. Lawson Crouse, Carter Camper and defenseman Andrew Campbell each had four points. Putting up six in game three had something to do with it, but this is still a talented group.

However, it also points to a concentrated group of talent. If Texas can shut down those forwards, they have a strong shot at shutting down the offense. For Texas, Sheldon Dries, Colin Markison and Sam Laberge all scored big goals in the first round. That could be a key difference.

New faces
Texas adds two new faces to the lineup but it's unlikely either of them will play in Games 1 or 2. First, Texas added John Nyberg last week on defense. The Stars are going with their same six from Ontario, but Nyberg could check in if a change is needed.

Second, Texas signed goalie Mitch Gillam on professional tryout in a move they only announced on Twitter. Gillam spent the season with ECHL Worcester.

Stars injury/call up report:
Fyten (questionable)

Roadrunners Web Resources
Twitter: @RoadrunnersAHL
Coverage: @CallahanOnAir (Tucson PBP)