TUCSON, ARIZ– The Tucson Roadrunners hosted the San Jose Barracuda in game four Friday, needing just one win to advance to the Pacific Division Final.
Tucson came into play with a two games to one lead over San Jose, thanks to a 6-0 shellacking of the Barracuda on Wednesday night. San Jose had been the better team the majority of the time in games one and two, but for the second-straight outing Adin Hill and company completely shut down the Barracuda Friday night. Hill made 25 saves on the night, posting a shutout for a second consecutive start.
Offensively the Roadrunners were paced by a trio of two-point games, led by a pair of goals from Mario Kempe. Andrew Campbell put up two assists on the night, as did the ever-dangerous Dylan Srome. Strome (3G, 5A) has been lethal in his first professional postseason, averaging two points a game and leading Tucson with a total of eight in four contests. Kempe (4G, 2A) and Campbell (1G, 3A) were also point-per-game guys in the first round, with Kempe’s four goals leading the team.
With their backs against the wall, you would be forgiven assuming the Barracuda would take the action to Tucson from the beginning. It was the Roadrunners, however, who dictated the pace of play in the first period, outshooting the Barracuda by a 10-4 margin in the frame. San Jose goaltender Antoine Bibeau would stand tall, though, and the game reached the first intermission the same way it started, scoreless.
The middle frame would be much more even in terms of shots on goal, with Tucson holding just a 13-11 edge, but this time Bibeau was unable to stop every shot. The breakthrough goal came 4:24 into the frame, and was the third of the postseason for Kempe. The Roadrunners forced a turnover with a good forechecking effort, and Campbell found Carter Camper, who then spied Kempe. Camper slid a quick pass tape-to-tape, and Kempe fired a one-timer from the slot which just slipped through the legs of Bibeau to open the scoring. Nobody else would find the back of the net in the period, and the teams went to the third with Tucson holding a 1-0 lead.
With 20 minutes left to save their season, the Barracuda were swarming early in the third searching for an equalizer. They would fail to find it, though, with Hill continuously slamming the door.
Tucson would add an insurance marker just under five minutes into the third, capitalizing on a juicy rebound. While cycling the puck around the Barracuda zone, Strome saw Campbell at the point and slid him the puck. Campbell quickly took a low hard slap shot that Bibeau was able to stop, but not without leaving the rebound at the feet of a waiting Conor Garland. Garland easily directed the puck into the yawning cage to double to Roadrunner lead and make it 2-0 with 15:07 left in the third.
San Jose would threaten throughout the final frame, but as the horn approached, the Barracuda were forced to pull Bibeau for the extra skater in a last ditch effort to save their season. It would not work this time, however, as Kempe found the empty net for his second goal of the night to make it 3-0 with an even 1:00 left, and end any remaining drama.
Hill, who had struggled in game two allowing five goals on 26 shots, responded with a perfect 46 saves on 46 shots over the final two games to eliminate San Jose. They are the first two career playoff shutouts for Hill, who finished the series 3-1 with a 1.76 goals against average and .939 save percentage.
With the victory, Tucson wins the best-of-five series three games to one and advances to face the Texas Stars in the Pacific Division Final. The Roadrunners will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series with the Stars, with the series following a 2-3-2 format (two at Tucson, three at Texas, two at Tucson). Game one of that series will be Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. MT (9:05 p.m. CT) in Tucson.
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