The Tucson Roadrunners looked poised for another high-scoring showing when Michael Bunting netted a goal in the opening minutes against the Cleveland Monsters.
Instead, just the opposite played out at Tucson Arena on Friday night.
Cleveland held Tucson scoreless for the next 58 minutes of regulation, then scored a late overtime goal to top the Roadrunners 2-1.
Tucson, which entered the game with the best record in the American Hockey League, earned one point in the defeat, moving to 5-1-2-0.
“I didn’t think we had a shooting mentality at all,” head coach Mike Van Ryn said. “We passed up a lot of grade A (opportunities) by just making a cute play.”
The Roadrunners had opportunities to win the game in regulation, none better than a close-range shot by Ryan MacInnis with 3:40 remaining in the third period.
Cleveland limited Tucson’s usually effective offense to just 21 shots, 10 lower than the Roadrunners’ season average entering Friday night.
Tucson’s front line of Nick Merkley, Dylan Strome and Lawson Crowse, who each have provided the bulk of the team’s offense so far this season, couldn’t bury any scoring opportunities when they were on the ice.
“I think we had our chances but we didn’t bear down when we had them,” Merkley said. “I thought we created some good scoring chances. We just need to bring the same game tomorrow.”
Bunting’s opening period goal was his second score of the season. Cleveland tied the Roadrunners with a first period goal by Brady Austin.
The Monsters out-shot the Roadrunners 10-5 in the first period, while both teams were limited to eight shots in the second.
Tucson picked up its offensive attack in the third, spurred by a couple of power-play opportunities.
“In the third I thought we got a little more going there,” Van Ryn said. “In powerplays we’ve been cold lately so we have to figure out how to get more pucks in the net.”
The Roadrunners held their own defensively, led by a strong effort from goalkeeper Adin Hill. Hill, making his third appearance this season, saved 26 of 27 attempts.
Tucson nearly pushed through overtime scoreless, but a goal by Cleveland’s Carter Camper clinched the win with 1:04 to go.
The Roadrunners have been held to one goal in both of their overtime losses this season.
“We’re still striving to find 60 minutes of the way that we want to play,” Van Ryn said. “Some things we worked on you could see, other details aren’t quite where they need to be right now.”