Barracuda Looking To Take Series Lead With First Win In Ontario In Game 3
SAN JOSE — The formula for beating the defending Calder Cup champions is fairly straight forward. The Barracuda just need to figure out a way to execute the plan on the road.
With their first-round Calder Cup playoffs series against the Ontario Reign tied at 1-1, the Barracuda will attempt to follow the blueprint that worked so perfectly in Game 2 as they aim to win their first game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Game 3 on Thursday.
“That’s how we have to play against them,” captain Bryan Lerg said. “They aren’t going to give us much, so we need to make sure we capitalize on our opportunities.”
Despite getting outshot 36-15 in Game 2, the Barracuda executed their game plan with precision, notching the first goal, scoring in the grease against goalie Peter Budaj and staying even on the special teams ledger.
The Reign entered the series with a 31-2-1 record when scoring first, a 21-0 record when leading after 20 minutes and a 30-1 mark when leading after two periods.
“Their record with the lead is a little ridiculous, so we don’t want to be playing with that fire,” Lerg said.
By scoring first, the Barracuda stopped the Reign from settling into their conservative defensive game, where they sit at the blue line, chipping pucks in and out of the zone all night.
“When they get up, they put a stranglehold on you,” head coach Roy Sommer said. “It’s tough to get to the net.”
The Barracuda also proved that Budaj is human in Game 2. Budaj won the Bastien Award given to the AHL’s most outstanding goaltender this season after leading the league in wins (42), goals-against average (1.75), save percentage (.932) and shutouts (nine).
But the Barracuda managed to beat Budaj three times on 15 shots by getting a deflection in traffic and by driving hard to the net.
“It’s hard to beat him straight up,” Sommer said. “If he sees the puck, he’s going to stop it.”
“We got a tip, a backdoor play with [Nikolay] Goldobin and then Lergie drove the net. That’s something we’ve really got to be better at — we’ve got to step on their defense and take more pucks to the hoop.”
The Barracuda also put together a strong special teams effort in Game 2, keeping things even by going 4-for-4 on the penalty kill after receiving only one opportunity on the power play.
“That’s where you want to be strong,” Sommer said, referring to the penalty kill. “If your PK is hitting on all cylinders in the playoffs, you’re going to win a lot of games.”
Although the Barracuda are pleased with their Game 2 effort, executing the plan in two of three games in Ontario, where the team’s yet to win a game, is an entirely different challenge.
The Barracuda produced an 0-4-2 record in Ontario this season, but the team believes it can breakthrough in the playoffs after losing five one-goal games in the Reign’s barn, including a pair of overtime losses where they held leads in the last minute of regulation.
“They’re beatable,” Sommer said.
Lerg said the Barracuda are playing with more confidence against the Reign after beating them in their final meeting of the regular season and again in the playoffs. He expects the confidence to be there on the road this weekend.
“I don’t think our team is phased by having to play down here,” Lerg said. “We’ve had them on the ropes in their building, we just haven’t closed them out.”
Alternate captain John McCarthy said the Barracuda will find success on the road if they assert themselves like they have recently on home ice.
“We know that they play well at home, we know they come out fast, we know they’re going to have big crowds, so the biggest thing is we’ve got to do what we can to dictate our game,” he said.
“We can’t just sit back and let them play their game. We need a good start and we need to show them we’re going to play the game that we play instead of just reacting to them.”
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