For the second straight night, the Ontario Reign (14-7-0-1) used a goal in overtime to defeat the Tucson Roadrunners (10-7-4-0) on the road at the Tucson Convention Center. Saturday’s hero was Rasmus Kupari, who potted the winner at 1:36 of the extra session, while Quinton Byfield and Taylor Ward also found the back of the net in the victory.
Goaltender Matt Villalta earned the winning decision and improved to 4-2-0 on the season in a game that saw the Reign hold a 41-17 advantage in shots on goal. Captain TJ Tynan also recorded two assists for the fourth time in his last six games.
More from head coach Marco Sturm and Kupari below.
Ontario jumped out to a lead when Byfield scored his ninth of the year with the Reign just after a 4-on-3 power play had expired. Byfield found himself with room in the slot and used a turnaround shot to beat goaltender Ivan Prosvetov and put the Reign in front 1-0. Assists on the opening strike of the game went to both TJ Tynan and Jordan Spence.
The Roadrunners evened the score at 1-1 on a goal by Travis Barron at 6:01 of the second. Barron’s tally came on the first shot on goal registered by Tucson in the frame just after Ontario had successfully killed a minor tripping penalty to Austin Wagner and kicked off the team’s Teddy Bear Toss promotion.
After 40 minutes of play, the Reign had outshot Tucson 29-13, but the game was even on the scoreboard.
Ward put Ontario back in front, scoring his fifth tally of the season with less than five minutes remaining on a rebound off a shot by Jacob Moverare.
But the Roadrunners forced overtime with a goal during a late power play by Adam Cracknell, who deflected a shot underneath Villalta with 1:06 to play in the third.
The Reign had multiple chances in OT before Kupari’s winner, including a breakaway by Wagner that was stopped by Prosvetov. Kupari picked up the puck in his own zone and sped down the right wing into the offensive end and buried a wrist shot to the bottom right corner of the net.
Cracknell’s tying goal in the third period was the lone power play strike in the contest, as Tucson finished 1-for-5 on the man-advantage and Ontario ended at 0-for-5. Prosvetov turned aside 38 shots in a losing effort for the Roadrunners.
On the fact that it was the same result on Friday but a different process to get there
I think overall it was one of the better games we’ve played this season. We stuck to our system, to our plan. I think everyone was involved, we had good goaltending and I think we deserved to win tonight.
On the way the team’s defense played in the win
I think that was our best game with breakouts. We had so many breakouts coming out clean. We were communicating and we were just sharp and we wanted to finish this trip off good with a win here and that’s what we did.
On the play of Matt Villalta, coming back in after not playing for two weeks
He was outstanding. I think he was very calm like he’s been all year. All our goalies give us a chance to win every night and you can’t ask for anything more. Matty V not playing for a while, I don’t think he ever showed that he was rusty or anything like that so it was a very good game for him, very calm and he gave us confidence for sure.
On coming away with four points from the series in Tucson
They’re a good team. They work really hard, but we’re still not there yet. We still also learn how to manage a game, how to win games and especially on the road too. We never really had a chance to do it this year yet and I think more road games coming up, big ones too so I think it’s a good start and we said before the trip that we want to finish here until Christmas the right way. We had six games left, now we have four games left and so far so good.
The Reign will use the week to prepare for a home-and-home set with the Bakersfield Condors that begins Friday at Mechanics Bank Arena at 7 p.m. and continues Saturday evening for Teddy Bear Toss inside Toyota Arena at 6 p.m.