Roadrunners Rally to Reclaim Playoff Spot with Overtime Win in Iowa
The Roadrunners rallied to overcome a two-goal third period deficit Wednesday night, beating the Iowa Wild in overtime by a 4-3 count at Wells Fargo Arena courtesy Nick Merkley's clincher 3:18 into the extra frame.
Tucson needed one point to reclaim a Pacific Division playoff spot; they got two. Back in the playoff picture they are, and then some.
"That was a huge win for us tonight," said Jens Looke. "I think we showed really good character as a team when we were down by two goals, no one was stressed, we stayed calm and we came back."
Hunter Miska made his first start since March 3 as he stepped in for the recently recalled Adin Hill and put forth a gutsy performance, stopping 21 of the 24 shots he faced, including a pair of game-savers in overtime, to earn his 10th win of the season.
The game's start was probably one the Roadrunners will be fine leaving behind; the Wild took a 2-0 lead in the first period as they fired away for 13 shots in the opening frame.
"We've kind of stressed it, to play calm and to just play our game.," said Jordan Gross of the team's demeanor. "We've got a lot of good players and a lot of resiliency in this room, we weren't really panicking at all, we just kept playing our game and found a way."
The Roadrunners began to claw back just over a minute into the second when Dakota Mermis stepped into an Iowa clearing attempt as he held the left point, getting his one-time shot through traffic to beat Andrew Hammond high.
Mermis' goal, his second of the season, cut the Roadrunners' deficit in half, making the score 2-1.
With just over six minutes to play in the middle frame, the Wild reclaimed a two-goal lead to go up 3-1, which they would carry into the third period.
Granted a healthy dose of power play time to open the third, Lane Pederson made sure to capitalize, receiving a back door feed from Gross, who froze Iowa coverage with a wind-up.
Pederson buried his shot, scoring his 20th goal of the season, to get the Roadrunners to within a goal with 16:09 to play, making the score 3-2.
With just over eight minutes remaining in regulation, Trevor Cheek scrapped away to net his second goal in as many games, playing a ricochet off the back boards from a Cam Dineen point shot, stuffing the loose puck into the net to tie the game 3-3.
Cheek's goal was his seventh of the season, a new AHL career-high for the depth centerman.
The Roadrunners extended to overtime for the 14th time this season.
Following a couple of bail-out saves from Miska, Merkley transitioned onto the attack with Gross to his left, the pair speeding in on a two-on-one. Merkley elected to shot, firing a low wrist shot home to the far side, securing a 4-3 win for the Roadrunners.
A massive two points for Tucson.
"At this time of the year and with the situation that we're in, the points are all huge," Gross added. "We need as many points as we can get moving forward to make the playoffs here."
The Roadrunners will continue their four-game road trip Sunday afternoon when they take on the Ontario Reign at Citizens Business Bank Arena, where the puck is scheduled to drop just after 3:00 PM PST.
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