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Roadrunners' Matt Villalta called up for NHL debut

Posted at 4:36 PM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 18:36:14-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — After five years in the AHL, Matt Villalta has gotten the call.

“This is what you dream of, is playing in the National Hockey League," Tucson Roadrunner Matt Villalta said.

After Arizona Coyotes' goalie Connor Ingram suffered a lower body injury, Villalta has been called to the big leagues.

“You never like to see a fellow goalie go down like that, but you know hockey is a game of injury," Villalta said. "I’m very thankful and blessed to have an opportunity up there."

Villalta was drafted in 2017 to the Los Angeles Kings, but never made it to the NHL and was traded to the Roadrunners after last season.

“Biggest thing for me was just keeping my nose on the ground, still working hard and having fun," Villalta said. "I have the mindset of keep getting better every day, and we kind of came over that adversity there, and it led me to a great place here in Arizona.”

In his first year with the Roadrunners, Villalta competed in his first AHL All-Star game, tied the Roadrunners' all-time season high wins at 22, and now will compete in the NHL.

“He not only just respects the game, he respects every individual in the room," Tucson Roadrunners coach Steve Potvin said. "Everybody you ask will just speak volumes about his character and how light he takes it. He really enjoys the game, being at the rink, and it’s just fun for him.”

Villalta plays alongside his childhood friend Hunter Drew on the Roadrunners, who has watched him grow as a player since high school.

“To just look back at those memories and those moments and now see how much he’s developed and grown, and to see him at this level and now obviously I’ll watch him at the next level," Drew said. "I think it’s amazing just to see his career path.”

Villalta is not scheduled to start yet but will dress as a backup goalie. Due to back-to-back games, he will likely make his debut Monday against the Edmonton Oilers.


Erin Patterson is a reporter for KGUN 9. She's agraduate of the University of Alabama with a Bachelor’s in News Media with a Sports Concentration. Erin recently obtained her Master's Degree in Sports Journalism from Arizona State University at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, where she gained experience a sports reporter, anchor and producer. Share your story ideas and important issues with Erin by emailing