Roadrunners punch postseason ticket with 4-3 victory over Iowa
By: Alexander Kinkopf
March 31, 2018 7:38 PM
Needing just one point on Saturday night to secure a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs, the Roadrunners fought for two, topping the Iowa Wild with a goal in the final seconds of regulation to earn a 4-3 victory at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Roadrunners, assuring playoff participation for the first time in franchise history, were the first team in the Western Conference to secure a postseason berth this year, and the sixth team in the American Hockey League to guarantee play past the regular season.
“Obviously it’s a big deal for us as a team, and especially to do it early so we can get a tune-up for the playoffs,” Conor Garland said. “It’s big for the city. We want the game to grow, we want the fans to really get involved and help us through this run, so hopefully this gets them excited as well.”
Carter Camper delivered Tucson’s only goal through the first two periods of play, his wrist-shot from the point sneaking through traffic and past Iowa’s Steve Michalek late in the opening frame.
Trailing 2-1 entering the third, the Roadrunners staved off a situation that had hampered them for most of the season. Coming into the night, they were a rough 3-14-2-0 in games when trailing after two periods of play.
They acted quickly to start the third, Michael Bunting netting a pair of goals 40 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the final frame to build a 3-2 lead.
Bunting’s goals, his 21st and 22nd of the season, saw him reach and surpass the 40-point mark. He is just the third player to register 40 or more points all in a Roadrunners uniform this year, Mike Sislo and Dylan Strome the two others.
Iowa responded to tie the game 3-3 less than a minute after Bunting’s scoring spree.
With under a minute to play in the third, Lane Pederson opened up for a pass from Lawson Crouse, one-timing Crouse's feed into the back of the net to give the Roadrunners a 4-3 lead with 36 seconds left on the clock.
Pederson’s goal would prove to be the game-winner. The Roadrunners finished with a perfect 4-0-0-0 record against the Wild this season.
Hunter Miska stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced to earn his fifth-straight win, and his 21st of the year.
“I think we’re happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish to this point,” Andrew Campbell said. “We’re not satisfied with just clinching, we still have our sights on the division and the conference, and obviously the end goal is the Calder Cup, so this is just the beginning for us.”
The team will begin a two-game home stand Friday night when they host the Grand Rapids Griffins at Tucson Arena, where the puck is scheduled to drop just after 7:05 PM.
"We still have first-place in our division to strive for, we still have first-place in our conference to strive for," Campbell added. "These remaining games are still very meaningful, and there's a lot to play for, so we've got to keep the pedal down and continue to improve and get better, and just know that there's still a lot for us to achieve."