Stunner in San Diego sees Roadrunners secure a 5-4 victory
By: Alex Kinkopf
December 26, 2016 11:37 PM
Time is on their side. Extra time, that is.
For the sixth time in seven games, the Roadrunners extended past regulation, once again coming out victorious in their 5-4 shootout win over the San Diego Gulls on Monday night at the Valley View Casino Center.
Tucson’s win put the team back in first-place atop the Pacific Division. Of the club’s 31 points earned so far this season, 17 of those have been pocketed after the 60-minute mark of contests.
“I don’t really know how that is playing out,” Head Coach Mark Lamb said of the team’s affinity to win after regulation. “It’s nice to get those extra points because they sure add up. This team finds a way to do it, they find a way to win, and that’s a great trait to have.”
The Gulls came out with a very, very slow pace in the first period; it was, after all, San Diego’s first game in over eight calendar days. The Roadrunners were close to failing to execute on a sluggish Gulls roster, but Michael Bunting got Tucson on the board with 11 seconds left to play in the opening frame when he redirected a Kyle Wood shot past Dustin Tokarski.
Bunting’s goal, his seventh of the season, gave Tucson a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.
San Diego snapped out of their lull in the middle frame, connecting for two goals in a 1:15 minute span to take a 2-1 lead.
The Roadrunners answered with two of their own before the final period to regain the lead.
Zbynek Michalek struck for his second goal of the season, tying the game 2-2 when his wrist shot from the point weaseled its way through traffic and into the back of the net.
Chris Mueller buried the first of his two power play goals of the evening with 4:46 to play in the second, pouncing on a loose, wide-open rebound to give Tucson a 3-2 advantage.
The Gulls struck to tie the score 3-3 in the opening minutes of the third, then took a 4-3 lead with 8:35 to play.
In doing what they’ve come accustomed to on so many occasions this season, the Roadrunners struck in the final moments of regulation when Chris Mueller corralled a failed Kyle Wood shot attempt, beating an out-of-position Dustin Tokarski to tie the score 4-4 with 2:26 to play.
The Roadrunners entered their 10th overtime game of the season; they came into the night 6-3 when tied after three periods, 5-3 in overtime, and 1-0 in shootouts.
Neither club registered the winning goal in overtime; the Gulls outshooting the Roadrunners 3-1, so Tucson transitioned into their second shootout of the season.
Chris Mueller netted the lone goal in the shot competition, doing so in the back-half of the fourth round, clinching a 5-4 win for the Roadrunners.
Goaltender Justin Peters, who turned away all four of San Diego’s attempts, has now stopped all six shootout shots he’s faced this season.
“I think we have a lot of skilled guys,” Christian Fischer said in regards to the club’s success after regulation. “Three-on-three is obviously a lot of puck management, a lot of skill. The shootout is obviously the same sort of thing, a lot of skill, knowing the goalie, and I think we have a lot of skilled guys, so when it comes to those terms it’s pretty easy for us to just play.”
Chris Mueller (2G, 1A) led all Roadrunners players in points scored (3), Kyle Wood in shots taken (5). Justin Peters made 23 saves in the win.
The Roadrunners are now off to Northern California to complete their two-game road trip, and are scheduled to take on the Stockton Heat Wednesday night at Stockton Arena, the game set for an 8:00 PM MST start.
The team will return home for a pair of games against the San Antonio Rampage Friday and Saturday night at Tucson Arena. Friday night is Star Wars night; all kids in attendance will receive a Roadrunners-themed lightsaber.