TUCSON, ARIZ– The Tucson Roadrunners and San Jose Barracuda did battle in a critical game three Wednesday night, knowing the victor take could control of their best-of-five series.
The two sides entered the match up with the series even at a game apiece, after the squads had split games one and two in San Jose. With the last three games in Tucson, the Roadrunners wanted to grab momentum early in game three.
Mission accomplished. The Roadrunners fired the first nine shots of the evening, and had already built a 3-0 advantage by the time the visitors finally got a shot on target. Tucson rolled to a 6-0 win, and grabbed a two games to one series lead in this best-of-five Pacific Division Semifinal.
The action got underway early, as just 2:27 into the game Tucson used a strong forecheck to take a 1-0 lead. Dylan Strome stole the puck behind the San Jose net, then spied Michael Bunting alone in the slot. Strome slipped the puck to Bunting, who immediately slapped a one-timer through the legs of Antoine Bibeau and into the net. It was the first of three assists on the night for Strome, who now has six points (3G, 3A) in the series so far.
The Roadrunners would keep their foot on the accelerator and doubled their advantage on the power play 10:20 later. It was a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play as Strome whipped a quick pass from the point down low to Carter Camper. Camper immediately touched the puck through the slot to Lawson Crouse, who was in positition for a backdoor tap-in. The time of the goal was 12:47 into the first, and it gave Tucson a 2-0 lead.
The Roadrunners would add a third before the first intermission, as Lane Pederson found twine. With 3:44 left on the clock, Pederson stepped into the San Jose zone and wired the puck into the upper corner. The goal was Pederson’s second of the series, and would send the game to the first intermission with Tucson ahead 3-0.
San Jose came out strong in the middle frame as they fought to get back in the game, outshooting Tucson 12-5 in the frame, but Roadrunner netminder Adin Hill stood tall. Hill would go on to make 21 saves in the game to shut out San Jose.
Hill frustrated the Barracuda with his play in net, then his teammates crushed San Jose’s spirit by adding to the lead against the flow of play. 6:43 into the middle stanza, and shortly after a big save from Hill, Dakota Mermis saw Mike Sislo in front of goal and fired a deflectable shot towards the net. Sislo got his stick on it to direct it by Bibeau, and like that, Tucson had a 4-0 lead.
Tucson was not done in the second, as it would strike again with 5:41 left on the clock to make it 5-0 Roadrunners. Bibeau had made a save on a Conor Garland shot, but Andrew Campbell blast the rebound over his shoulder and into the back of the net. It would signal the end of the night in net for Bibeau, as Stephon Williams replaced him between the San Jose pipes for the remainder of the game.
Williams would stop the bleeding over the final 25:41 of the contest, stopping seven of eight Roadrunner shots he faced. The only blemish on his record came just 0:53 into the third when Mario Kempe tickled the twine to provide the final score of 6-0 Tucson.
With the result, Tucson has taken a firm grip on the controls of this series through three games. The Roadrunners lead the series two games to one, and will now have two chances to end the series at home. Their first chance will come in game four Friday at 7:05 MST/9:05 CDT. Should San Jose win that game to even the series, game five would be Saturday at the same time, also in Tucson.
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