It wasn’t so much that neither team wanted to win Saturday night’s affair between the Tucson Roadrunners and Iowa Wild at Tucson Arena. It’s more like neither team’s goaltender was willing to lose.
In the end, it was rookie netminder Ivan Prosvetov of the Tucson Roadrunners who outlasted his Iowa counterpart, Mat Robson, as the Roadrunners (6-1-0-0) defeated the visiting Wild (5-1-1-1), 2-1, in overtime.
Prosvetov, making his second-career professional start, stopped 42 of 43 shots, while Robson turned away 45 of 47. But it was the last shot Robson faced — a snap off the stick of Tucson defenseman Jordan Gross from point blank with less than a minute to play in overtime — that proved the difference in a heated battle of the two of the American Hockey League’s top-producing teams so far this season.
“Overtime games, they’re always emotional,” said Prosvetov, who has now faced 74 shots and allowed only three total goals in two starts — good for a 2-0 record, 1.45 goals against average and .959 save percentage.
Prosvetov admitted that in a game featuring almost 90 shots — with only two combined goals in regulation — it’s hard not to think about which netminder will blink first.
“You are always thinking about that in the game — how the other goalie is playing, because you’re kind of playing against him, too,” he said.
Added Tucson coach Jay Varady, of Prosvetov: “He looked calm in there.”
Gross’ overtime winner Saturday over the Wild was a mirror image of sorts to how the Roadrunners capped an overtime win over the San Antonio Rampage eight days ago.
In that one, it was Gross who found forward Andy Miele in the center of the ice just inside the blueline, and Miele who deposited the deciding score. In this one, against Iowa, it was Miele who setup Gross in the slot, with Gross finishing it off with 47 seconds remaining.
“I guess we’ve got a little chemistry going right now. Hopefully we’ll keep it going,” Gross said his connection with Miele.
Varady that’s exactly what he’s looking for when the Roadrunners’ coaching staff builds situational linemates — including the overtime 3-on-3 setup.
“I think you’re looking for combinations with chemistry. Those guys have it,” Varady said.
After falling behind 1-0 two minutes into the second period on a goal by Iowa’s Brandon Duhaime, Tucson forward Lane Pederson matched with wraparound in the final few minutes of the second period. Pederson’s eighth goal of the season — that’s the second-best number in the AHL — also marked his sixth consecutive game with a goal.
Miele said Pederson’s mojo has been contagious to the rest of the team during its current five-game win streak
“It’s awesome. He’s a leader on this team and when he does that, everyone else responds to it. It’s huge for the momentum, especially under five minutes in a period,” Miele said, adding that this particular Roadrunners’ group has been determined to not let deficits wear on them.
“We made a conscious effort — I can’t remember what game it was off the top of my head – but to be better when we get down, to stay positive. To keep rolling. … Once we were down, we stayed positive and we kept to the gameplan, and as you can see the outcome, we tied the game.”
Prosvetov’s emergence comes at a time when it’s not exactly known when Tucson will again have the services of longtime No. 1 goaltender Adin Hill. According to a statement released by the Roadrunners’ front office Saturday, “Hill has been granted a leave of absence from the team for personal reasons to attend to a family matter. Out of respect to Adin and his family, the Roadrunners will have no further comment at this time.”
Goaltender Erik Kallgren was recalled from Rapid City of the ECHL Saturday, serving as Prosvetov’s backup.
Barring Hill’s return, the Roadrunners will likely go with Prosvetov or Kallgren in goal this week when they play host to the Chicago Wolves on short turnaround. The Wolves (4-3-1-0) are at Tucson Arena on Tuesday and Wednesday, with both games starting at 7:05 p.m. The matchups are the the final two games of a six-game Roadrunners’ homestand.