The Tucson Roadrunners gave fans their money’s worth last weekend, taking the Cleveland Monsters into overtime both Friday and Saturday night.
Tucson bounced back Saturday after Friday night’s loss. Nick Merkley scored a game-winning goal to move the Roadrunners to 6-1-2, the best record in the American Hockey League.
The Roadrunners have the work week off before another Friday-Saturday series at Tucson Arena against Bakersfield. Tucson defeated the Condors 4-0 earlier this season.
Tucson’s success can largely be tied to one stat: The Roadrunners are outscoring opponents 11-3 in the third period.
For a group that is among the youngest in the AHL, Tucson’s late-period success suggests the team is showing few signs of let up in the game’s critical moments.
The Roadrunners have a favorable schedule the rest of November, with five of the next seven games at home.
Sandwiched between the long homestand is a trip to San Diego next weekend. The Gulls are traditionally one of the AHL’s western powers, but are just 5-4-1 to start the season.
Miska striving as a pro
Roadrunners goalkeeper Hunter Miska is used to success on the ice.
He reached the NCAA Frozen Four in his one season with University of Minnesota-Duluth. His Bulldogs lost to Denver in the national championship game.
Miska took hockey’s equivalent of the one-and-done, signing with the NHL’s Coyotes no more than a week after the conclusion of the 2017 NCAA season.
Miska has shown no trouble of adjusting to the professional level. He has won four of his first five starts with the Roadrunners; opponents are averaging 3.55 goals per game.
“Guys are obviously a bit more patient and a lot more experienced up here,” Miska said. “It’s a little bit quicker so I’ve got to be a little more patient on my feet and take my time a little bit more.”
Miska, a Minnesota native, played two years with the US National Development Team, then joined the British Canadian Hockey League.
From there, he enrolled at nearby Minnesota-Duluth, where he recorded a 27-5 record.
“Minnesota is a pretty big hockey state, so when I played at home we usually had a sellout rink of 6,700 fans a night,” Miska said. “It’s a little different, but obviously we have a good fan base here, too, so it’s fun to play in.”
Miska was called up briefly to the Coyotes this season, although he did not see playing time in the NHL.
Given the Coyotes’ unstable goalie situation, Miska could possibly work his way to a more consistent role with Arizona later in the year.
“I just want to keep playing my game, playing as much as I can, and gaining the experience,” Miska said. “I’m a first year pro. I don’t expect anything crazy, but I keep wanting to win hockey games as much as I can.”