Sept. 30, 2017

In the first-ever preseason game at Valley View Casino Center, the Tucson Roadrunners (1-1-0-0 preseason) rode a hot penalty-killing performance and 26 saves from rookie goaltender Hunter Miska to a 2-0 victory over the San Diego Gulls (0-1-0-1). American Hockey League (AHL) All-Star Kyle Wood and former Gulls winger Zac Larraza scored for Tucson, while the Gulls were held off the scoreboard despite eight power plays.

The penalty doors were put to the toughest workout in this second of three preseason contests for the Gulls, with 21 infractions accounting for 61 combined penalty minutes, including 41 for San Diego. The Roadrunners took 10 minors, but each team contributed an 0-for-8 power play performance to their special teams ledger.

“It was a hard game, with so many penalties,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins, “It seemed for the first half of the game we killed penalties, and in the second half of the game we worked on our power play. It was quite evident we haven’t had those power play units together at all yet. That will be something we start focusing on moving forward.”

After killing a pair of penalties against, the Gulls surrendered Tucson’s first tally just moments later. Defenseman Kyle Wood accepted a pass from Jens Looke at the blue line, wiring a low shot through traffic and past starting goalie Kevin Boyle for a 1-0 lead at the 7:12 mark. Boyle made 13-of-14 saves in 34:49 of game action.

Veteran Gulls winger Mike Liambas made a quick but memorable appearance with a pair of powerful neutral ice hits in the first period. After serving a minor for kneeing, Liambas exited the penalty box with 3:31 remaining in the period and, on his way to the bench, lined up Tucson’s Lane Pederson for a hard hit to the shoulder that sent Pederson sprawling into the bench boards. The hit resulted in a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct all but ended a brief but impactful preseason debut for Liambas.

San Diego had three power play opportunities to tie the game in first 12 minutes of the third period, but Miska and some diligent defense kept the Gulls from converting. A pair of penalties on San Diego’s Keaton Thompson and Jordan Samuels-Thomas put the Gulls down two men late in the action, diffusing another comeback push.

With 49 seconds on the clock and the Gulls pressing, a loose puck came out to Larraza at center ice, who skated in on Angus Redmond for a breakaway and finished a no-look shot through the five hole to conclude the scoring.

The Gulls will also host the Ontario Reign on Monday, Oct. 2 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. (7 p.m.). The game and parking will be free of charge to all fans. Fans can register for free tickets at SanDiegoGulls.com/hondacenter.

Three Stars:
1. Hunter Miska (TUC)
2. Kyle Wood (TUC)
3. Zac Larraza (TUC)