Coming off of a 5-4 win that featured a 4-point performance from star center, Dylan Strome, the Tucson Roadrunners lost to the Bakersfield Condors 3-2. It was Tucson’s first loss of the season to Bakersfield, who were the last-place team in the Pacific Division heading into the game. Essentially, three factors combined last night and led to Tucson’s defeat in this game.
Shaky performance from Hunter Miska
Both of Tucson’s goaltenders, our starter, Adin Hill and our backup, Hunter Miska have been great all year, but last night’s performance is undoubtedly one Miska would like to have back. Generally, in hockey a save percentage above 0.900 is good, and one below 0.900 is bad. Last night Miska’s save percentage was 0.824, having 3 goals against on just 17 shots. But stats don’t always tell the whole story, sometimes goalies let in shots that aren’t their fault.
That was true for only one of the goals, the third one which was a one-timer off of a pass behind the net. In the third goal’s case, the defense should have done a better job closing up the passing lanes and not allowed that to happen. But the first two goals were entirely preventable by Miska.
The first goal was the result of bad rebound control. What often separates elite goalies from good goalies is not the ability to make the first save, it’s the ability to make the second and third saves, which is where rebound control comes in. In the case of Bakersfield’s first goal, Miska made the initial save on a Bakersfield 2-on-1 rush but redirected the puck straight into the slot, right on to Ethan Bear’s stick, who fired home the first goal of the game. Had Miska redirected the first shot into a less dangerous area of the ice, Bakersfield would not have scored on that play.
With the second goal, Miska just didn’t have his legs closed when he went to the butterfly, allowing Grayson Downing to go five-hole and score an easy goal. Miska is a great young goalie with tons of potential, and consistency is often the biggest part of the game that a young goalie needs to improve on if he wants to make it to the NHL. In short, cutting performances like last night out is what a talented, young goaltender like Miska needs if he wants to take his game to the next level.
Too many penalties at bad times
The entire loss can’t be put on goaltending, and much of the blame should be placed on Tucson drawing untimely penalties. Bakersfield only went one-for-six on the powerplay last night, so Tucson’s penalty killers certainly did their jobs. But the negative impact of a penalty is not only being down a man for several minutes; it also takes away a team’s ability to create offense.
At several moments during the second and third periods, Tucson seemed like they were starting to create momentum and play the type of game that has won them many games this year. But every time that started happening, they drew a penalty, lost momentum, and lost their ability to create offense. The three penalties in the second period and the two in the third period really hurt because of this.
The refs didn’t call anything particularly bad, they just officiated a game very strictly and didn’t let much go. What Tucson needed to do was recognize the type of game they were playing in and type of officials they were dealing with. The Roadrunners didn’t do that, and it cost them in the end.
Tucson didn’t show up until the last 10 minutes.
One bright spot in the game was that Tucson woke up in the last ten minutes and played the type of game we are used to seeing them play. But that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that they were outplayed by Bakersfield for the first 50 minutes.
The ability to score two, quick third period goals when you are down 3-0 says a lot about a team’s resiliency and their ability to play themselves out of a bad situation. Tucson was right in this game until the end, cutting the lead to one in the third. Also, Mike Sislo nearly tied the game twice, hitting the post twice in the last 30 seconds of the game. But Tucson can’t expect to show up in the last ten minutes and expect to win hockey games.
The Roadrunners are too good of a team to throw away and lose a game like they did last night. Something to note is that Dylan Strome scored his 20th goal of the season last night, tying Christian Fischer’s tally from last year for the most goals in a single season by a Tucson Roadrunner.
Up next is a two-game series against the San Antonio Rampage this weekend on Friday and Saturday night. Hopefully, Tucson can take lessons away from this game and get back in the win column.