Balanced act keeps winning streak intact
By: Alexander Kinkopf
January 05, 2018 9:48 PM
They’ve put something together here, and it's required everyone. That's what makes it pop.
The Roadrunners earned a fourth consecutive victory Friday night – notching their longest winning streak of the season – in beating the Ontario Reign by a 4-3 score at Tucson Arena.
If you factor in location, it made the two points earned rather relieving; the team snapped a four-game losing skid on home ice.
A case of balanced scoring carried Tucson’s offense, backing up a solid performance from Hunter Miska, who stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced to earn his ninth win of the season. Five players recorded multiple points.
“When we can get all four lines involved and everyone’s contributing and feeling good, the morale and the confidence in the room is so much greater,” Mike Van Ryn said. “Every coach likes to see balanced scoring.”
Nick Merkley, the team’s leading scorer, buried the first goal of the night, his 16th of the season, when he fled to the front of Ontario’s net, jamming a puck past Cal Petersen to give the Roadrunners a 1-0 lead 4:07 into the game.
Merkley’s goal was his 10th on the power play this season, which is the second-highest total in the American Hockey League behind only Charlotte’s Valentin Zykov, who’s totaled 11.
Ontario responded with two goals later in the opening frame to take a 2-1 lead.
The second period remained scoreless until the final second of play, when Dylan Strome tucked home his 12th goal of the season on a backhand wraparound, tying the game 2-2 with 0.1 left on the game clock.
Nick Merkley, with the secondary assist on Strome’s buzzer beat, upped his season point total to 32 – which is the highest among rookies in the league.
Ryan MacInnis gave the Roadrunners a 3-2 lead early in the third when he buried a behind-the-back feed from Tye McGinn, who registered his fifth assist in four games.
With just over three minutes left to play in regulation, McGinn pounded home a Jens Looke pass to give the Roadrunners a 4-2 lead. He has six points (1G, 5A) in the team’s last four games.
Ontario’s Paul LaDue scored with 44 seconds left to play to cut the Roadrunners’ lead back to one, but that’s as close as they would get.
Tye McGinn (1G, 1A), Mario Kempe (2A), Jens Looke (2A), Nick Merkley (1G, 1A), and Ryan MacInnis (1G, 1A) all finished the game with two points apiece.
With the win, the team’s record improves to 17-9-2-1, calculating in at a .638 win percentage, good for first place in the Pacific Division.
The teams will reconvene for a rematch Saturday night at Tucson Arena, where the puck is scheduled to drop just after 7:05 PM.
Photos courtesy: Kate Dibildox & Chris Hook