November 22, 2015 By Paul Gackle

Barracuda Extend Point Streak Behind 49 Saves From Grosenick

STOCKTON — After 65 minutes, 52 shots and five shootout rounds, the Stockton Heat finally broke their stalemate with the Barracuda.

Freddie Hamilton, who spent close to three seasons with the Worcester Sharks, scored the final tally against his former squad in the fifth round of the shootout on Saturday, lifting the Heat (5-5-2) to a 4-3 victory over the Barracuda at the Stockton Arena.

But the night belonged Barracuda netminder Troy Grosenick, who stole a point for the visiting squad by stopping 49 shots, including 20 saves in the third period and overtime. With the shootout loss, the Barracuda extended its point streak to a season high four games (2-0-2).

“He got us that point — 100 percent,” forward John McCarthy said. “He kept us in it in the third when they were buzzing us. I thought he had a strong game.”

After the Heat tied the contest 3-3 at the 12:05 mark of the third, Grosenick made several key stops to preserve the point for the Barracuda. He made a nifty pad save on Kenny Agostino from in close with 6:31 remaining in regulation and stonewalled Aaron Johnson’s shot from the slot with 28.8 seconds left on the clock in the third.

During 3-on-3 overtime, he thwarted Markus Granlund’s breakaway attempt with a little help from Mark Cundari, who skated back and disrupted the Finnish center’s shot with a hard play to the body.

But Grosenick wasn’t thinking about any of his season-high 49 saves as he walked out of the Barracuda’s dressing room at the Stockton Arena. Instead, he was disappointed that he surrendered four goals in the five rounds of the shootout after 65 minutes of hockey.

“It’s the goals — the goals,” Grosenick said humbly when asked if any of his saves stood out in his memory. “It’s always that way, you just kind of remember the goals. I don’t remember saves, I remember the goals and that’s what you learn from most of the time.”

The Barracuda fell behind 2-0 in the game’s first eight minutes and 13 seconds, surrendering both tallies on odd-man rushes. On both plays, the Barracuda’s high forward got caught down low as a defenseman was pinching up the wing, leading to quality scoring chances that the Heat capitalized on.

“We had four odd-man rushes that we gave away in the first, but then we came back,” head coach Roy Sommer said. “Our high forward wasn’t filling, he was flat with everyone else. That team’s got a lot of speed and they’ve got a good transition game and that’s what they beat us on.”

But the Barracuda cleaned things up in the second and third periods and stormed back with goals from Barclay Goodrow, Scott Timmins and McCarthy.

Goodrow got the Barracuda on the board at the 3:14 mark of the second, redirecting a rocket from Cundari on left point, converting on the team’s only power play opportunity in the contest.

Timmins tied the game just two minutes and 49 seconds into the third, going top shelf from the left circle with helpers from Nikita Jevpalovs and Greger Hanson and McCarthy gave the Barracuda a 3-2 lead less than three minutes later, converting on a 2-on-1 scoring chance.

But the Heat grabbed the momentum after a Trevor Parkes tripping penalty in the middle of the third and eventually scored the equalizer with 7:55 left in regulation.

“I would have to re-watch that period to see how we played,” captain Bryan Lerg said. “One thing that our team did last year that I didn’t like was that when we got the lead we sat back too much. We were trying to protect it instead of going out and winning. You want to play with the lead but you don’t want to sit back. I don’t know if that happened tonight. I know that was something that popped up a lot with our team last year and I don’t want it to continue with this team.”

Sommer said he would have liked to have seen more pushback from the Barracuda in the latter stages of the third, but he didn’t think his club sagged with the lead. He said the penalty turned the momentum around.

“Right when you get momentum going, then you’re killing the penalty, and you’re killing our two centermen, which are Johnny Mac (McCarthy) and Timmins, whose lines play a lot,” Sommer said.

Despite the shootout loss, both Sommer and Lerg were pleased with the character the Barracuda displayed in battling back from an early 2-0 deficit.

“There’s a lot of fight in our room right now,” Lerg said.

“It just shows the character in our room. We’ve been through a lot so far in the first [14 games] and we’re taking baby steps right now. That’s the main thing, if we can continue this and keep building, I think come Christmas time, come All-Star break, we’re going to be happy with where we’re at as long as we keep progressing.”

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