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.
The Week That Was: Playoff Bound
It took two tries against the Stockton Heat, but the San Jose Barracuda became the first team to qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs. The Barracuda also added reinforcements from the NCAA ranks as the San Jose Sharks signed undrafted free agent Tim Clifton from the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Clifton, 24, was a teammate of the Sharks’ 2015 fifth-round draft pick Karlis Cukste.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 18, 2017
The Matawan, NJ native could join the team as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday for their road game against the San Deigo Gulls.
March 14: San Jose Barracuda 4 – Bakersfield Condors 3
The Barracuda jumped out to a quick lead over the visiting Condors and never looked back. In the first period, Julius Bergman, Rourke Chartier and Jon Martin all scored to send starting goalie Nick Ellis to the bench before the 10-minute mark. The Condors turned to Jonas Gustavsson to steady the ship, which he did, stopping 16 of the next 17 shots by the Barracuda. Unfortunately for the former Edmonton Oilers backup goalie, it was just enough to earn the loss.
The Condors finally got on the board in the second period as Justin Fontaine put a shot high over Troy Grosenick. Later in the second period, Jacob Middleton activated from the point and scored his first professional goal, which stood up as the game-winner.
After the Middleton goal, the Condors came out swinging in the final period and received two quick goals from Jordan Oesterle and Jaedon Descheneau to cut the Barracuda’s lead to a goal with about 11 minutes remaining in the contest. Once again, Grosenick’s stellar goaltending was the difference, and the late push by the Condors came up empty handed.
March 17: Stockton Heat 7 – San Jose Barracuda 4
Mantas Armalis got a rare home start for the Barracuda, and it was a rough one. The rookie goaltender gave up three goals in each of the first two periods in a difficult performance. The San Jose power play recorded a season-high four goals but could not overcome the shaky goaltending.
“When you give up 12 shots and [they] score six goals, it’s hard to win a hockey game,” said head coach Roy Sommer after the game. “It was one of those games. They had two breakaways, which is not like us. You’ve got to get a save, and we didn’t get one tonight. We have been throughout most of the year, but just had a rough go in [the net] tonight.”
Barclay Goodrow opened the scoring in the first period as the Barracuda were looking for a 10-1 franchise record against the Heat on home ice. But the Heat got goals from Mark Jankowski minutes after Goodrow’s goal and got late tallies from Garnett Hathaway and Brendon Bolig before a late power-play goal from Danny O’Regan put the score at 3-2 headed into the first intermission. Stockton again put three goals behind Armalis in the middle frame with goals from Matt Frattin, Linden Vey and Michael Kostka with a Julius Berman point blast the only goal for the Barracuda in the second period.
Stockton again put three goals behind Armalis in the middle frame with goals from Matt Frattin, Linden Vey and Michael Kostka with a Julius Berman blast from the point as the only goal for the Barracuda in the second period.
.@bgoodrow23 makes a great move for his 20th 🚨 on the season.
— San Jose Barracuda (@sjbarracuda) March 18, 2017
Armalis got his bearings in the third period. Joakim Ryan’s power-play slapshot cut the Heat’s lead to two goals with over 16 minutes of game time left, but the comeback fell short. Stockton’s David Rittich was solid in net for the Heat as he has been for much of the year and finished with 26 saves. Vey iced the game with an empty-net goal with just 19 seconds remaining as the Heat played spoiler to the Barracuda, keeping San Jose from being the first team to earn a berth in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Quote of the Game: “The guys are not to blame. I didn’t give the team the opportunity to win. If I would have played any differently I think we would have won pretty comfortably,” said Armalis after the loss. “I haven’t been playing that much [but] that’s not a reason to play like this. Obviously, I wish I had more to give today, but it was one of those nights.”
March 18: San Jose Barracuda 3 – Stockton Heat 1
Familiarity breeds contempt, and there is no love lost between the Barracuda and the Heat, the AHL’s only two Northern California teams. And once again the Barracuda showed a resiliency by responding to the adversity of the previous night.
“Last night was a tough one; you didn’t get a lot of bounces. But tonight, that was a man’s game. Both teams battled, it had a little bit of everything: fighting, scrappy and hits. Not a lot of free ice out there tonight,” said Sommer about the Barracuda’s response after the win. “Probably an entertaining game to watch, that was a playoff game.”
The rivals combined for 126 penalty minutes with four fights and the ejection of Keith Aulie who received a five-minute major for elbowing Nikita Jevpalovs at the beginning of the game.
During a tough first period, Mark Jankowski scored the only goal for the Heat on a great pass from Hunter Shinkkaruk. The Barracuda tied the game 1-1 on Buddy Robinson’s short-handed tally. Rourke Chartier’s chip out of the defensive zone sprung the 6’6 winger in alone on David Rittich.
Chartier and Goodrow both added tip-in goals in the third period to give the Barracuda the 3-1 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
“We had a good shift. O’Regan and Labanc were cycling the puck well,” said Goodrow of his insurance goal. “The puck made its way back to the point to Bergman, and I was able to get a stick on it.”
Brandon Bollig and Zack Stortini, who had been chirping each other all game, finally dropped the gloves for a spirited bout. Goodrow and Jankowski also threw down the mitts in the final minute of action as the Heat were trying to get back in the game. However, Troy Grosenick kept the door shut and finished with 19 saves to earn his 26th win of the year.
Quote of the Game: “It seems like every time we play each other, it’s a chippy, scrappy game,” said Goodrow after the playoff-clinching win. “It’s good for us to rebound after last night and find a way to get the two points. It was huge to clinch a playoff spot, too.”
The Playoff Picture
The Barracuda are still at the top of the AHL’s Pacific Division table in points (78) and winning percentage (.719). If the playoffs started today, San Jose would face the Bakersfield Condors in the opening round.
The Barracuda only have 11 games left in the 2016-17 season and will need to keep the hard-charging Gulls at bay. San Diego, a league best 8-1-1-0 in their last ten games, is the only team with a realistic chance of catching the Barracuda. San Jose’s winning percentage of .719 is first in the AHL, followed closely by San Diego’s .693. The two teams are also 1-2 in goals allowed. San Jose again is in first place with only 145 goals against, two fewer than San Diego.
On the Schedule: On the Road Again
The Barracuda play three games this week, and all of them are away from SAP Center in San Jose. Wednesday the Barracuda travel to San Diego to take on the Gulls in a showdown between the two squads battling it out for first place in the Pacific Division. San Jose will then travel to face the Tucson Roadrunners for back-to-back games out in the desert. The Roadrunners are battling for their playoff lives, sitting outside the top four in the Pacific Division. Tucson sits in seventh place and will have to go on a tear to leapfrog the Texas Stars, Heat and Condors, but have games in hand on all three teams.