Merkley Capitalizes, Roadrunners Top Cleveland
By: Alex Kinkopf
November 04, 2017 9:39 PM
Extra time was needed for the second consecutive night, but the results were reversed thanks to Nick Merkley’s goal 1:34 into overtime, securing a 3-2 victory for the Roadrunners over the Cleveland Monsters Saturday night at Tucson Arena.
The club earned three of a possible four points during their weekend set, and have now pocketed points in their last eight games, posting a 6-0-2-0 mark during that span.
“I thought our game was better, I thought our energy was a lot better tonight,” Mike Van Ryn said following the win. “I thought it was a good game, I thought everybody played well for us; everybody was skating, we were pretty hard on pucks, and we generated quite a bit of offense. Overall I was pretty happy with everything tonight, I thought the effort and the attention to detail was a lot better.”
Mike Sislo got the Roadrunners on the board, opening the scoring when he beat Cleveland’s Brad Thiessen from the right circle after receiving a feed from Tyler Gaudet just over six minutes into the opening frame.
Sislo’s goal was his fourth of the season.
Cleveland’s Miles Koules tied the game 1-1 at the 7:36 mark of the second period.
Less than two minutes after Cleveland’s response, Nick Merkley snuck behind Monsters coverage on a power play and batted home a back-door pass from Lane Pederson to give the Roadrunners a 2-1 lead.
“I’m getting some puck luck playing the right way and the guys around me are playing really well and setting me up,” Merkley said. “It’s nice to see that and hopefully it continues.”
The Monsters, like the Roadrunners, would be quick to tie the game again, this time 2-2, when Sam Vigneault beat Hunter Miska at the 10:30 mark of the second.
Hunter Miska stopped all nine shots faced in the third period to help extend the game to overtime; it was the second time the teams played past regulation in as many nights.
Just over a minute into the extra frame, and after a wide Cleveland shot rimmed around the boards and cleared the Roadrunners’ zone, Nick Merkley’s forecheck caused Cleveland’s Brad Thiessen to hesitate upon playing the puck. Merkley skated into the botched pass attempt and walked in alone on an empty net to bury the game-winning goal.
“I was just trying to forecheck him and make the best play possible,” Merkley said of the game-winning sequence. “I got lucky, he put it right on my tape, and I put it in. A good bounce and a good win for the team.”
Merkley, with two goals on the evening, now has six on the season, leading all Roadrunners players in that department.
Hunter Miska made a total of 21 saves on the night, and is now a perfect 4-0-0 in his last four starts, posting a .920 SV% and a 2.50 GAA during that span.
With the win, the Roadrunners have reclaimed sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with a 6-1-2-0 record and a .778 win percentage. The club is now 2-2 in overtime this season.
The team will continue its six-game home stand Friday night when they host the Bakersfield Condors at Tucson Arena, where the puck is scheduled to drop just after 7:05 PM.
Photos Courtesy: Kate Dibildox and Chris Hook