Barracuda Brief: San Jose Tops Westeren Conference

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: San Jose Best in the West

The Barracuda cemented first place in the Western Conference with four points in their three contests. San Jose not only has the conference locked up but has a slight edge as well for the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy. The first three rounds, if the Barracuda proceed through the playoffs, will begin at SAP Center in what hopes to be a very busy spring and summer for the San Jose Sharks organization.

April 5: San Jose Barracuda 5 – Ontario Reign 1

In a textbook Barracuda win, San Jose started the week with a commanding performance over the Los Angeles farm club. After a scoreless first period, Timo Meier potted his first of two goals in the game on a sharp angle shot past Reign netminder Jeff Zatkoff. Meier added another later in the middle frame as Danny O’Regan found the power forward atop of the crease and fired his 14th of his rookie campaign.

San Jose Barracuda forward Timo Meier
(Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda)

“Luck hasn’t been too much with me this season,” Meier said of his first goal after the game. “They’re going to go in sometimes. If you have the lane, just try to test the goalie [and see] if he’s ready or not. That time, I was able to find some space upstairs.”

Jacob Middleton continued his strong play. The 6’2 defender has been more active with the puck lately, and his plays helped the Barracuda to a pair of goals in the game.

[miptheme_quote author=”Jacob Middleton on his evolving game with the Barracuda” style=”text-right”]There’s no such thing, really, as a shutdown defenseman anymore. You have to be able to contribute on both ends of the ice. [This season] has been a good learning curve, and hopefully, I keep going with it.[/miptheme_quote]

The Reign got their only goal of the game off the stick of T.J. Hensick before the Barracuda piled it on in the last dozen minutes of action. San Jose got goals from Tim Heed, Buddy Robinson and Adam Helewka to fill out the scoresheet. Both Robinson and Helewka, along with center Rourke Chartier were swarming the offensive zone all night. The Reign had no answer for the Barracuda’s most dangerous line over the last month, and all three forwards figured heavily in the decision.

“This team is a special group. They just keep coming at you,” Head coach Roy Sommer said after the win on his 60th birthday. “I’ve had teams in the past they get up a goal, and they let up. These guys get up 2-1 and then all of a sudden they put the pedal down, and it’s 5-1. We have that ability. We have three lines that can score.”

April 8: Stockton Heat 5 – San Jose Barracuda 2

Recalls are a fact of AHL life, and every team exists to help the parent club’s roster. That does not mean it comes without a bit of pain at times. The Sharks recalled Tim Heed, Timo Meier, Danny O’Regan and Barclay Goodrow in the span of 24 hours to go with Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen who were already up with the big club.

In the most depleted roster of the year and starting newcomer Clarke Saunders in net, the Stockton Heat capitalized on the shorthanded Barracuda.

San Jose Barracuda goaltender Clarke Saunders
Clarke Saunders defends the Barracuda’s net. (Asvitt Photography/Stockton Heat)

The Heat playing for their playoff lives raced out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Mike Aagaard and Hunter Shinkaruk just 17 seconds apart. The weekend series took a turn when Zack Stortini lined up Oliver Kylington for a big hit but ended up only catching the leg of the shifty Heat defender. That lit the fuse for 87 penalty minutes doled out at 10:28 of the opening period.

Adam Ollas Mattsson scored his first professional goal once play resumed.  Adam Helewka finally got San Jose on the board with his 14th of the year that was quickly answered by Andrew Mangiapane on the power play with Dan Kelly in the box for roughing.

Colin Blackwell, playing some of his best hockey of the season, gave the Barracuda a glimmer of hope with is fourth of the year in the middle of the second period. But the Heat used the shutdown goaltending of Jon Gillies and another goal by Shinkaruk in the third period to take the win.

April 9: San Jose Barracuda 2 – Stockton Heat 1 (OT)

An afternoon match that oozed bad blood, with a coach ejected and players itching for a fight, firmly established a rivalry that likely extends to the postseason.

In a tightly contested game that still had a lot of steam in it from the previous night in Stockton, The AHL officiating crew routinely interrupted fights, much of it stemming from Stortini’s hit on Kylington and the lopsided loss the Heat laid on San Jose the night before. After Danny O’Regan scored on the powerplay to make it 1-0, things got even chippier.

Brandon Bollig’s stickwork on Sommer set off a chain reaction that kept the game on the edge of exploding. After-whistle scrums became the norm with complementary face washes, helmet adjustments and whacks to the back of the legs freely handed out by both sides.

“It’s two teams that compete hard against each other. We’re both playing for something and both very competitive. Those kinds of games are very fun to play in. Everyone is dialed up and ready to compete. That goes for all the players and obviously our coaching staff, too. We wear our hearts on our sleeves, and those guys play hard over there. It’s a game that’s fun to play in, emotions are high, and guys are passionate. It makes it fun.”

The Heat finally got a puck past Grosenick midway through the third period as captain Mike Angelidis finished off a tic-tac-toe play to level the score at a goal apiece. After Ryan Carpenter and John McCarthy had great chances to give San Jose the regulation win, Barclay Goodrow stepped in and wired home his 25th of the season at 2:12 of the extra period, the 49th Barracuda shot on Stockton netminder David Rittich.

New Faces Making The Roster

The Barracuda welcomed another new face to the organization as they signed Prince George Cougars forward Colby McAuley to an amateur try-out. The 20-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alberta skated in a pair of games and recorded his first professional point in his debut against the Heat. The Sharks were in contact with McAuley’s camp, and now he’s in San Jose.

“They’ve been talking to me since playoffs, with my agent. They wanted me to come for what I do on the ice,” McAuley said after the win over the Heat. What I did in Prince George, I’m going to do here and do it for my new teammates.”

Noah Rod, finally in his first game with the Barracuda, got a baptism by fire introduction to the AHL and the rivalry with the Heat.

“That was crazy. We don’t fight much in Switzerland. We play hockey. [Tonight] there were some guys slashing heads with the stick. It was weird.”

San Jose Barracuda center Tim Clifton
Center Tim Clifton is among the reinforcements now joining the San Jose Barracuda (Asvitt Photography/Stockton Heat)

“I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s better to come here with a good team than a bad team. They did a good job the whole season. We don’t have to play selfish, we [just] have to help the team.”

With the spate of Barracuda players heading up to fill injury holes in the Sharks’ roster, players like Rod, McAuley, Tim Clifton and Nick DeSimone are important to fill up the lineup card.

“You have to do what it takes for these guys,” McAuley said as he’s trying to make an impression while the Barracuda prepare for the postseason. “They’ve been battling all year. You don’t want to do anything dumb. You just want play as a team and do what you do as a player.”

The Playoff Picture

The Barracuda are still in first place in the AHL after securing the Western Conference title with their overtime win against the Heat. However, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are on a 4-0-0-1 tear and the winning-percentage edge is down to just .003% to separate the two clubs.

The Stockton Heat capitalized on a pair of losses by the Bakersfield Condors and the Heat now control their destiny for the final playoff spot. The Condors and Heat face off on April 14 in what should be an epic battle that could decide the divisional playoff picture.

Standings via

On the Schedule: The Final Countdown

For the second straight week, the Barracuda stay in their home state all week with three games. San Jose takes on the Tucson Roadrunners in a rare pair of midweek games Tuesday and Thursday. The 2016-17 season concludes against the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday, April 15.

Grosenick AHL Goalie of the Year & Ice Cream Aficionado

In the easiest vote on the AHL’s year-end ballot, Troy Grosenick won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s top goaltender. Grosenick bounced back in a big way this season to set career highs across the board.

San Jose Barracuda goalie Troy Grosenick waits for the puck drop.
(Jonathan Kozub/Manitoba Moose)

With three games to go, Grosenick sports a 1.98 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. His 30 wins are second in the league and his ten shutouts lead the AHL. Grosenick will likely have many suitors as the Vegas Golden Knights join the NHL, opening up jobs as the goalie carousel spins this offseason. He’ll probably celebrate with some ice cream later this spring.