Welcome to the Barracuda Brief, your weekly one-stop shop for updates on the San Jose Barracuda. The Barracuda Brief will feature recaps, team news, quotes and other features to keep you up to date on the American Hockey League affiliate of the San Jose Sharks.
Barracuda Reverse Regular Season
After going winless in five attempts against San Diego Gulls in the regular season, the Barracuda headed south with concerns about three straight at Valley View Casino Center. But, as any player or coach will tell you, the regular season does not matter once you get into the playoffs.
“Coming into the series we knew that they’re pretty dominant on home ice, we saw that all season,” said Barclay Goodrow after Game 4. “We knew we had to play extra well in this building. I think it all comes down to getting good starts. If you want to take the lead early and take the crowd out of it, it’s a huge factor.”
May 10: Barracuda Stike in Overtime as Meier Stars
As expected the Gulls came out flying in the first game back at Valley View Casino Center. The Barracuda showed tenacity as they traded goals with San Diego in an excellent hockey game that showcased both clubs.
The Gulls got on the board first as Max Jones got his first of the postseason. Jones deflected the point shot from Jaycob Megna which was stopped, but Jones gathered the puck and cut to the far post to slide the puck around Troy Grosenick. Not to be outdone, Kevin Labanc answered back less than a minute later as a Joakim Ryan shot bounced onto the winger’s stick and he snapped the puck past a surprised Jhonas Enroth to head to the first intermission in a 1-1 tie.
Sam Carrick scored the only goal of the middle stanza as he took the puck from the sideboards and cut to the slot, cleanly beating Grosenick glove side.
In the third period, the Barracuda again tied the game when Colin Blackwell’s wraparound attempt pinballed in off Enroth. The Gulls regained the lead at 16:40 of the third as Spencer Abbott gave the Gulls the late 3-2 lead. The Barracuda pulled Grosenick, looking for the equalizer, and did just that as Danny O’Regan gathered a rebound at the side of the Gulls net to tie the game 3-3 with only 61 seconds remaining.
In the overtime period, both teams carefully skated to limit chances. Both the Gulls and the Barracuda had a tense penalty kill in the extra frame, but with less than three minutes left in the overtime period, Jacob Middleton tipped the puck off the stick of Antoine Laganiere to repel the Gulls attack. Robinson then recovered the loose puck and fed Timo Meier. Meier fought his way up the right side boards and turned the corner on Andy Welinksi and with only one hand on the stick, put the puck over Enroth for the game-winning goal.
“It was one of those [games] that if we didn’t win it would be a shame the way we came back and tied it up,” said head coach Roy Sommer after the first Barracuda victory in San Diego this season. “I thought we had a really good third. I thought they kinda took it to us in the first period, and it was kinda all them, and we came out of it 1-1, which is good,”
May 12: Grosenick Steals Another in San Jose’s 4-3 Victory
Despite the power play surging to a 2-0 lead on goals by Goodrow and Ryan Carpenter, the game was closer than the final score. Blackwell, with his second goal in as many games, scored the Barracuda’s only five-on-five goal after he collected the rebound of Jacob Middleton’s point blast to make it 3-0.
The Gulls got a fortuitous bounce as Mitch Hults found a puck bouncing in his feet and swatted in the first Gulls goal of the game. Tim Heed blasted in the third power play goal for the Baracuda to make it 4-1 before the Gulls turned desperate in the final period.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) May 13, 2017
Staring at a 3-1 series deficit, San Deigo pulled starting goalie Jhonas Enroth for the second time to make way for Dustin Tokarski at the onset of the third period. San Diego added goals from Nic Kerdiles early in the third period and Sam Carrick with 16 seconds left in the final frame, to give the Gulls a chance in the waning moments of Game 4.
“It’s been like that all year for us if you really look at it. Again, we’ve changed the lineup tonight and from [game 3],” said Sommer after the victory of the roster changes the Barracuda were forced to make with injuries stacking up. “They’re missing guys too. They got some call-ups and some guys out. It’s part of going deep into the playoffs a little bit. It’s kind of what happens. ”
May 13: The Gulls Grounded by Grosenick
Game 5 started the same as Game 4 with a Goodrow goal to quiet the home crowd. Middleton jumped up into the play to create a four-on-two play, and he was able to send a pass to Goodrow for a clean shot that beat Enroth. The play was heavily in favor of the Barracuda as they quickly transitioned the play in the first period from the defensive zone back down towards Enroth.
At the start of the second, it was San Diego that came out quick. The first five shots of the period all belonged to the Gulls as Grosenick was forced to stay sharp. The pressure on the San Jose net continued as Middleton sat for high-sticking. The Gulls had three spectacular chances on Grosenick, who was a mix of lucky and quick to keep the Gulls off the board.
Adam Helewka got his second goal of the postseason on the power play as he one-timed a rebound of Julius Bergman’s point shot to extend the Barracuda’s lead to two.
The door was opened for a San Diego to attempt a comeback as Timo Meier received a five-minute major for charging Stu Bickell in the Barracuda zone. The San Jose penalty killers put forth a massive effort to completely shut down the Gulls’ power play.
“You have to give it to the penalty kill and [Grosenick]. That penalty kill, that was a clinic,” said Sommer after the game of the pivotal kill. “I don’t think they even had a scoring chance on it. It was a clinic.”
Grosenick finished with 34 saves to blank the Gulls in the series-deciding contest to send the Barracuda to the conference final for the first time in AHL franchise history.
“I think we really believed in ourselves. Even though we hadn’t won a game down here yet this year, we still had a belief in ourselves, we’re a pretty good road team,” Grosenick said after the game. “That being said, I would never have expected [this series] to go only five games. That’s a great team over there.”
Injuries Starting To Show
The Barracuda were lucky during the regular season to not face any daunting injury news. Players mostly were out a game or two with the normal bumps and bruises that needed some extra rest, but call-ups were the frequent decimator of the roster rather than the injury ninja.
In Game 3 that luck ran out. The Barracuda skated without Rourke Chartier, Marcus Sorensen and Nikita Jevpalovs as Sommer was forced to juggle his lineup card to mitigate the loss of two centers and the speedy Swedish winger. Dan Kelly came into the lineup as the Barracuda went back to seven defenders and Noah Rod slid into the fourth line along with Colby McAuley.
The Barracuda brought up big Spencer Asuchuk from the Allen Americans to bolster the lineup in Game 4 and brought in Zack Stortini as well for just his third game of the postseason. Jevpalovs returned for Game 5, but Sorensen and Chartier remained out. Sommer said both should return to the ice next week.
Next up: The Grand Rapids Griffins
The AHL’s winningest coach was pleased with his young squad’s victory over the Gulls. Head coach Roy Sommer will make his first trip to the AHL conference finals in his long career.
“Special group. I think we’ve learned that,” said Sommer after the series-clinching win in Game 5. “Who would have said we’re going to come down to San Diego and it’s a best of three and you’re going to take three games out of this building that we hadn’t beaten all year, down here. It’s saying a lot about the character in [the room].”
Welcome to the Western Conference Finals, @sjbarracuda! pic.twitter.com/1syiExPZt9
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) May 14, 2017