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Roadrunners comeback comes up short, fall to Colorado 4-3 in shootout

Nick Merkley scored a hat trick in a comeback effort for the Tucson Roadrunners, but it wasn’t enough to take an important win.

Photo courtesy of Tucson Roadrunners

On a night of utmost importance for both the Arizona Coyotes and Tucson Roadrunners, neither club could walk away with two points as they both fall to the Colorado Avalanche and Eagles respectively.

With the shootout loss the Roadrunners capture one point in an important playoff race.

“I think the one point is important,” Roadrunners coach Jay Varady said. “Every point is critical mass at this time of year and I thought it was great push back by our guys.”

It was a story of “like parent club, like minor club” Friday night, as the Tucson Roadrunners near mirrored the Coyotes comeback effort of the same night against the same organization. Down by two late in the third, Nick Merkley pieces together a magnificent two-goal run that ties the game at three goals apiece.

Merkley’s game tying goal was also his third of the night — scoring once early in the first period as well — securing his first career hat trick. His hat trick was also the second hat trick recorded by the Roadrunners in six days.

“It was nice to get those three goals,” Merkley said. “But, obviously want to get the win and we’re going to have to bring more tomorrow.”

Merkley’s hat trick goal forced an eventual overtime. He found several good chances to put the game away, but neither he, his team nor Colorado could score in the overtime period, moving to the eventual shootout where Tucson would lose in the third round.

After the game, Varady says he was impressed by the Roadrunners opening frame, but thought they didn’t keep consistent enough throughout to get the win.

“I thought we came out of the gates pretty good tonight,” Varady said. “It’s a 60-minute game though. I thought out second period wasn’t as good as we wanted. I thought we had a resilient third period.”

Tucson will face Colorado again Saturday night with hopes to bring the playoff race within striking distance. The point, puts Tucson at just 5 points back from Colorado with still 2-games in hand to the Eagles.

“It’s back to work tomorrow,” Varady said. “One point point is better than none. We’d like two, we didn’t get it. Just a situation where I thought we battled back for that point, and now we got to turn all our attention to getting ready for tomorrow.”

Puck drop for Saturday’s 12-game series finale between Tucson and Colorado is set for 7:05 p.m.

For more Roadrunners updates, follow Rob Leano on Twitter at @RobLeano1