Everyone loves the start to hockey season. With the ice prepped, the jerseys cleaned, and the famous doughnut stand back up and running, 5,593 passionate fans packed the Tucson Convention Center Friday to welcome the Tucson Roadrunners back on home ice for the first time since April.
The Roadrunners put on a show to start the home season, taking down the visiting San Antonio Rampage 4-3 in overtime.
“We’re bummed we didn’t win in regulation,” foward Andy Miele said after the game. “We had a game plan going into tonight, and I think we executed it for the most part.”
Goaltender Adin Hill was a major factor in the game, blocking 39 of 42 shots from San Antonio.
“I thought Hill made great saves for us all night,” Roadrunners head coach Jay Varady said. “I thought he had a strong start and carried it right through the whole course of the game.”
Despite beginning with a scoreless first period. Both Tucson and San Antonio found their way to keep this home opener exciting.
San Antonio’s Niko Mikkola would be the the first one to score a little over five minutes into the second period. Just a few short minutes after, however, Lane Pederson and Michael Chaput scored twice in 14 seconds to give Tucson the lead.
It became a back-and-forth battle from there-on out as both teams would find a way to score once more — one from Nolan Stevens (SAN) and once from Jon Martin (TUC) — before the second period finished.
The game seemed like it was winding down, when the Rampage pulled goaltender Ville Husso with about two minutes remaining in regulation. Their extra skater in those two minutes proved crucial for San Antonio, who found a way to tie the game — courtesy of forward Nick Lappin — with just 47 seconds left to play, and force an overtime frame.
Tucson newcomer, Miele, became the hero of the night when he sneaked up right in front of Husso and scored the game winning goal 92 seconds into the OT period.
“We were talking in the locker room, that’s a situation that if that guy (San Antonio defender) pokes it off with his stick he’s on a breakaway the other way,” Miele said after the game. “I like to play a little risky and that time it worked in my favor. The team’s happy about it, I’m happy about it, and now we’re going to focus on Saturday.”
Despite the win, Varady says he believes Tucson has a lot to work on as the season progresses.
“I think we have to learn to play a better team game,” Varady said. “It’s great to get two points, we’re excited about that, but I think there’s a lot of things we can learn from in terms of the team as we’re going through this to get better for tomorrow.”
With the overtime win, Tucson improves to 3-1 on the season, and will meet San Antonio once more on Saturday night at 7:05 pm.
For Tucson Roadrunners coverage, follow Rob Leano on Twitter @RobLeano1.