Tuesday night, the Tucson Roadrunners defeated the Iowa Wild 5-2 on home ice. The game was a truly dominant performance by a Tucson Roadrunners team that desperately needed a win, and was one of the best games they’ve played all season.
Tucson played well on both sides of the puck, holding Iowa to only 22 shots while registering 33 of their own. Iowa’s Dmitry Sokolov opened the scoring tonight but was only able to do so because of a strange bounce that left him all alone with the puck in the right face-off circle.
The Roadrunners made quality plays throughout the night, had much more offensive zone possession than Iowa did, and never gave the Wild a chance to get back into the game after Michael Chaput’s two-goal first period put the Roadrunners up 2-1 after 20.
Holding Iowa to only four shots, and scoring two power play goals, the second period was Tucson’s best of the night. A beautiful net-front defection by Michael Bunting put Tucson up 3-1 just under five minutes into the period. After the Bunting goal, Tucson did not take their foot off of the gas and forced Iowa to take four additional undisciplined penalties.
The Roadrunners’ hard work paid off when Hudson Fasching’s 13th of the year gave his team a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the third.
Up by three with only 20 minutes remaining, the Roadrunners did not get complacent and continued playing a solid defensive game. Tucson’s Brayden Burke added to the Roadrunners’ lead, burying Hudson Fasching’s pass during a Tucson 2-on-1 odd-man rush. After the Burke goal, Iowa managed to score in the game’s last ten seconds, leaving the final score at 5-2.
After the game, Tucson head coach Jay Varady shared his thoughts on his team’s all-around great performance saying “I liked our discipline, I think we were really good on the powerplay. We got some chances, some goals early in the game and I liked our energy all night.”
Michael Chaput, the first star of the game, said that “making simple plays around our breakouts, trying to get the puck out, and not trying to be too cute with the puck, helped [the Roadrunners] create races. [Bunting] and [Merkley] were working hard, so I was fortunate to get some bounces” when asked about what led to his two-goal first period.
When asked about what contributed to the excellent Roadrunners’ defensive play, Tucson captain, Dakota Mermis said that “Being consistently on top of the puck on the defensive side, and the forwards keeping the puck in the [offensive zone], limited [Iowa’s] time in the [offensive zone], which helped [Tucson] limit the goals.”
With the win, Tucson broke an eight-game home losing streak and earned a valuable two points in the Roadrunners’ push for the playoffs. The Roadrunners now sit seven points out of the Pacific Division’s final playoff spot with three games in hand on the team currently ahead of them, the Colorado Eagles. If Tucson can win their next three home games, tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday nights, the Roadrunners will have only one fewer point than Colorado in the same number of games played.