The Tucson Roadrunners left the ice Friday night, celebrating a 4-3 overtime win over the San Diego Gulls, two points captured and a return to a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
But, San Diego wouldn’t leave the ice after Conor Garland shoved the game winning goal into the Gulls’ net. There appeared to be an argument that Garland’s goal shouldn’t have counted due to a game clock error.
When the puck crossed the goal line there was 3 seconds remaining in the OT period. Video replay, however reveals the game clock did not start until about 5 seconds after the prior face off. So, in the Gulls’ mind, the period should have been over and moved to a shootout. The goal stood, however, and the Roadrunners now find themselves in the fourth playoff spot in the AHL’s Pacific Division.
“I thought we were competitive tonight,” Roadrunners coach Jay Varady said after the game. “We wanted a team that was a close to our identity as possible, I thought we saw that tonight. I thought we saw a team that worked, played fast, played competitive.”
Friday’s night’s affair was a back and forth battle, with the two teams trading goal-for-goal at first. The first three goals of the game were all scored in the first six minutes of the game, including Conor Garland’s first goal in his first game back to Tucson in months at 5:57.
Garland, of course, spent significant time with the Arizona Coyotes this year, was made AHL Playoff eligible at the NHL trade deadline, and sent down from Arizona following the conclusion of their season last weekend.
“It was a cool experience for me,” Garland said of his time in Arizona, “I got to fulfill my dream and play in the NHL for a while, and hopefully I’ll be there for the remainder of my career.”
With the Roadrunners now in the thick of a late season playoff push, they’ll be full focus on the next game and a now playoff-hunt-experienced Garland says the team’s focus should be on themselves.
“Three periods left... If we come out on top, we’re in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s the best time of the year, everybody wants to be playing at this time, so there’s no better game than tomorrow.”
So with the win the Roadrunners playoff scenario is beginning to look quite bright. They are currently fourth place in the Pacific Division with 76 points. In the event of any ties in the standings, they hold both tiebreakers over San Diego and Colorado with the higher “Regulation-Overtime Wins.”
With that said, the Roadrunners will clinch a playoff spot on Saturday if:
- They get at least one point against San Diego.
- Colorado loses to the San Jose Barracuda in any fashion.
Should the Roadrunners defeat San Diego in regulation, they will also move up an additional spot in the standings to clinch the third seed in the Pacific Division. So a lot will be on the line on Saturday.
The regular season finale between Tucson and San Diego starts Saturday night at 7 p.m.
For more Roadrunners news and updates follow Rob Leano on Twitter @RobLeano1.