An overtime goal by Quinton Byfield sent the Ontario Reign (13-7-0-1) past the Tucson Roadrunners (10-7-3-0) by a final score of 4-3 on Friday night at the Tucson Convention Center.
Cal Petersen earned the victory for Ontario by stopping a total of 44 shots, while Andre Lee netted his first professional goal, Lias Andersson posted a goal and an assist and TJ Tynan had a pair of helpers.
More from head coach Marco Sturm as well as Lee, below.
The Roadrunners struck first and took the initial lead on a goal by Michael Carcone at 7:02 of the first that glanced off Cal Petersen and found its way into the net.
Ontario tied things at 1-1 four minutes later on a power play goal by Lias Andersson during the team’s second man-advantage of the game. Andersson netted his sixth tally of the season when he found an angle at the top of the left circle and wristed the puck through traffic and just inside the right post to even the game. Assists on the man-advantage strike went to both Jordan Spence and TJ Tynan.
But just over two minutes after Andersson’s tally, the Roadrunners reclaimed the lead when Adam Cracknell came down the right wing and wristed a shot from the faceoff dot that beat Petersen over his right shoulder to make it 2-1.
As the buzzer sounded to end the opening period, Taylor Ward dropped the gloves for a fight against Tucson’s Ben McCartney. It was Ward’s first fight of the season.
2:23 into the second, Ontario got even again when Andre Lee scored his first professional goal to tie the game at 2-2. The big forward rushed into the offensive end and spun around in the right circle to generate space before sweeping the puck underneath goaltender Jon Gillies. Lee’s equalizer was assisted by Nate Thompson and Tobie Bisson.
The remainder of the middle period was tilted heavily in the Roadrunners’ favor, with the home club piling up a total of 23 shots on goal in the frame. Petersen stopped 22 of them, including a few highlight-reel denials like a breakaway save on Carcone with just over eight minutes remaining on the clock.
About a minute after Carcone’s bid, however, A left-point shot by Cam Crotty found its way into the top right corner of the net due to a deflection in front by Cracknell, who picked up his second goal of the game while camped out at the net and screening Petersen.
The Reign responded four minutes into the third period to tie the game for the third time with a goal by Helge Grans on a rebound that was loose at the side of the net. Grans’ second goal of the season knotted things back up at 3-3 and came with assists by Byfield and Tyler Madden.
The intensity of the contest picked up from there, but neither team was able to put anything more on the scoreboard during regulation time. Tucson had a power play opportunity in the second half of the period when Byfield was called for tripping, but the Reign penalty kill rose to the occasion and discarded the advantage while allowing just one shot on net.
At 2:24 of overtime, Tucson’s Jan Jenik was hit with a tripping minor for taking down Lias Andersson and the Reign cashed in quickly. On the ensuing faceoff in the offensive zone, Byfield won the draw to the wall where Tynan retrieved the puck and slid it across to Andersson. While his initial shot on goal was stopped, the rebound sat free in front of the net for Byfield, who banged home his team-leading eighth goal of the year.
With the overtime goal included, Ontario finished 2-for-4 on the power play in the game. The Reign also killed each of the Roadrunners’ advantages to finish 3-for-3 on the penalty kill in the win. Tucson controlled the shots on goal in the game by a 47-23 margin.
His thoughts on how the team’s overall game
I think we had a really good start. Our first period was exactly how we wanted to play, and then we totally got away in the second period. Then the message was, go back to the first period and just the way we played, how we supported each other and how simple we played and, that’s what we did. When we do that, I think we’re going to be fine, but if not, then we’re in trouble.
On what Nate Thompson has meant to the team this season
He’s been excellent. With [Brett] Sutter, we lost a big, big piece. A big leader in our room and I think Thommer is exactly what this group needs. He settled things down, I think he is having fun too and he’s okay being the dad for the team. And even for us coaches, it’s nice to have a guy like him around every day because those kids need to learn a lot and I think just watching him on a daily basis and even asking questions, I think it’s just going to help us.
On if scoring an OT goal gives Byfield a confidence boost
Yeah, definitely. I think any goal is a is a confidence booster, if you want to call it that, and especially with him sometimes, he feels like he works and he does a lot of good things and nothing happens. So that’s nice, hard work and doing the right thing gets rewarded. I think in the long run it always will, but those young guys don’t know it yet. That’s something you have to have to learn down the stretch, but he did it today.
The Reign and Roadrunners meet for the second straight day on Saturday evening at the Tucson Convention Center at 6 p.m.