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Roadrunners falter; fall to Ontario 6-3 Saturday night

By: Alexander Kinkopf
The Roadrunners’ season-long win streak was snapped Saturday night in falling to the Ontario Reign by a 6-3 score at Tucson Arena.
“They were the better team,” Mike Van Ryn said of Ontario. “They’ve got pride over there, they’re well coached and they were ready for us, and it showed. They looked like they wanted it more from the opening faceoff.”
Ontario struck for the opening tally at the 4:57 mark of the first period via a goal from Michael Mersch.
Less than four minutes later, and while the Roadrunners worked on their first power play of the night, Dylan Strome buried his 13th goal of the season to tie the game 1-1.
The Reign tacked on two goals in the first half of the second to take a 3-1 lead, including one just 10 seconds into the middle frame.
Tyler Gaudet scored his eighth goal of the season, bringing the Roadrunners to within a goal, when he jammed home a puck past Ontario’s Jack Campbell after a Conor Garland shot attempt caromed off of a Reign defenseman at the 8:45 mark of the second.
Ontario reclaimed a two-goal lead midway through the third.
With 7:20 left to play in regulation, Nick Merkley pounded home his 17th goal of the season to cut the Roadrunners’ deficit to two, finishing off a nifty give-and-go sequence with Dylan Strome during a five-on-three power play.
Merkley’s goal was his 11th of the power play variety, tying Charlotte’s Valentin Zykov for the league lead in that department. His goal also secured his 13th multi-point game of the season.
The Reign iced the game when Sam Herr scored an empty net goal with 24 seconds left on the clock.
Adin Hill stopped 23 of the 28 shots he faced in the loss.
With the defeat, the Roadrunners’ record drops to 17-10-2-1, calculating in at a .617 win percentage, still good for first place in the Pacific Division.
The Roadrunners will begin a three-game road trip when they take on the Stockton Heat Wednesday night at Stockton Arena, where the puck is scheduled to drop just after 8:00 PM MST.