February 17, 2017 By Paul Gackle

Barracuda Pick Up Armalis, Extend Winning Streak to 10 Games

STOCKTON — Double digit winning streaks require teams to win games in a variety of different ways.

The Barracuda’s 5-4 win over the Stockton Heat at the Stockton Arena on Friday won’t be found in the Louvre anytime soon, but the not-so-pretty victory allowed them to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 10 games.

“Sometimes you only need to score two goals and sometimes you’ve got to score five, I guess,” head coach Roy Sommer said. “There’s a saying that you know when you’re in a groove and you know when you’re in a rut. We’re in a groove right now.”

Over the course of their winning streak, the Barracuda (29-11-4) have won games by shutting teams out, running them out of the barn and hanging on for dear life in the third period.

On Friday, they blew a 3-0 first period lead, scored the go-ahead goal in the final minute of the second and played a strong road third to close out the win.

“They’re learning how to win games, that’s the key,” Sommer said. “That’s what they weren’t doing last year.”

The opening frame looked very similar to the first 20 minutes of the Barracuda’s 5-0 win over the Heat in Stockton on Jan. 14, the game that also kicked off the winning streak.

Like that game, the Barracuda stormed out to an early 3-0 lead in the first.  Nikita Jevpalovs scored a pair of goals, his ninth and 10th, and Patrick McNally notched a power play tally.

But instead of shutting the door in the second, the Barracuda, who are now 25-2 when scoring first and 16-1-1 when leading after one, allowed the Heat to climb back into the game, surrendering four goals in the period.

Rasmus Andersson got on the Heat on the board just 92 seconds into the frame, beating Mantas Armalis with a shot from the point that the Lithuanian netminder didn’t see until he bent over and looked through his legs, finding it in the back of the net.

Mark Jankowski made it a 3-2 game 2:16 later, firing in a shot from the left circle that deflected in off captain John McCarthy’s stick. After Timo Meier regained the Barracuda’s two-goal edge with the team’s second power play tally at 7:32, the Heat tied it up at 4-4 scoring two more goals by the 10:44 mark.

Matt Frattin cut the lead to 4-3 by scoring the Heat’s second power play goal in 53 attempts and then Hunter Shinkaruk tied the game by slipping the puck through Armalis’ five hole on a wraparound play.

Although Armalis gave up four goals in just 10:44, Sommer stuck with him the rest of the way.

“Whatever happened, even if he let in 10, I was going to let him battle through it,” Sommer said. “I’ve pulled the goalies enough, he hadn’t played a lot and it was good to see that we did a good job for him in the third.”

“He’s got to figure things out, and the reason I didn’t pull him was that he was so strong in the first. He had 12 saves and kicked aside maybe five grade-A chances, a breakaway and a two-on-one.”

Joakim Ryan picked up Armalis by scoring the game-winning goal on a shot from the point through traffic with just 22 seconds left in the period.

“That’s a backbreaker,” Sommer said. “We’re a pretty confident bunch when we have a lead going into the third.”

The Barracuda improved to 24-0-1 on the season when leading after two periods, withstanding early pressure from the Heat, who held the visiting team without a shot for the first 11:18 of the period.

But the Barracuda’s defense kept most of the Heat’s third period shots to the outside and Armalis bounced back by making nine saves in the stanza, including a glove stop on a dangerous shot from the slot with 2:24 left in the frame.

“I just took that time that we had in between periods to wipe it clean and start over,” Armalis said.

“We found a way to work it out. We regrouped and played a pretty solid last period.”