Penalties doomed the Tucson Roadrunners on Saturday night, as they fell to the San Diego Gulls 7-6 at the Tucson Convention Center in the team’s first game of the season.
Tucson opened up with a solid performance in the first period. Right winger, Emerson Etem, was able to start the scoring for the Roadrunners at 3:40 in the first period. Then, a high sticking penalty by San Diego’s Kalle Kossila helped Tucson’s Connor Garland make it 2-0 from the power play at 4:50.
The Gulls would not get their first goal of the night until the 9:25 mark, where Kevin Roy made it 2-1. Tucson and San Diego would trade a couple more goals before the end of the first period. And then, to make things interesting, with less than five minutes to go in the first, San Diego’s Steve Olesky tied the game at 3-3. That goal would set the tone for nearly the remainder of the game.
The second period was all San Diego. The Roadrunners were caught headed to the penalty box on four different occasions in the second period alone. The Gulls were able to take advantage of that, scoring on two of the power play opportunities.
Roardunners coach Mike van Ryn made some comments after the game about the teams penalty kill. He noted the team had not focused enough on practicing the PK, but did a lot on the power play.
After the Gulls scored back-to-back goals that were nearly a minute apart, making it 6-3, Tucson was forced to make a goaltender substitution. Hunter Miska was pulled in favor of Adin Hill.
Tucson found some bit of magic back in the latter half of period, Scott Allen and Mario Kempe were able to find the back of the net to pull the game within a 7-5 reach headed into the final period.
The third period was the most defensive period for both teams. Only Tucson’s Jens Looke scored in the period. But the despite the lack of scoring, as in the prior periods, there were still a significant amount of action for these teams. Penalties were handed out to both teams quite heavily as both teams got a little aggressive.
Tucson was unable to find enough juice however, to capitalize on a heavy offensive shift in the final three minutes of the game. The Roadrunners would take shot after shot, but most of them landed wide of the net.
“We put some pressure on them,” Kempe said of the team’s last period effort, “we had some nice scoring opportunities, but their goalie played well. It was close.”
With the loss, van Ryn also says the chances he saw from the Roadrunners on Saturday is a good look moving forward.
“It’s there, but it’s just not enough yet,” he said. “We’ll keep working... and we’ll just look for improvements next week.”
The Roadrunners look to carry over the improvements to next week when they travel to Bakersfield, California for a match against the Bakersfield Condors.