Barracuda Survive Late Push By Moose, Extend Winning Streak to Five Games
WINNIPEG — When Barracuda coach Roy Sommer took a glance at his team’s schedule after it completed a stretch of games in which they hosted 14 of 16 contests at the SAP Center on Jan.16, he thought, “man, this could be trouble.”
The Barracuda (23-11-4) opened a seven-game road trip with games in Southern California against the first-place Ontario Reign and the third-place San Diego Gulls. Then, they traveled to Stockton for a bout with their Northern California rivals before heading out to the Midwest for games with the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Milwaukee Admirals.
The team completed its trip at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Saturday, surviving three third period goals by the Manitoba Moose to hang onto a 5-4 win. In doing so, they finished the roadie with a 5-2 record, extended their road-winning streak to a franchise record five games and moved to within 0.008 percentage points of first place in the Pacific Division.
“Who would have thought?” Sommer said. “When I looked at this road trip I went, man, this could be trouble.”
But the Barracuda wouldn’t have survived the final game of the grueling trip had it not been for several spectacular saves from goalie Troy Grosenick and six-consecutive kills from the penalty kill.
After the Barracuda jumped out to a 4-1 lead midway through the second period, the Moose stormed back by scoring three goals in the last 9:17 of the third period. Rookie Kyle Connor scored twice to cut the lead to 4-3, and after Marcus Sorensen potted an empty netter with 1:56 left in regulation, Quinton Howden made it a one-goal game again at 18:15 of the third, beating Grosenick from in close on a backdoor play.
By hanging on, the Barracuda improved to 20-0-1 when leading after two periods this season.
“That wasn’t one of our best games, but I guess you could say that good teams pull games out when they really shouldn’t,” Sommer said.
“You could see it coming. We were cheating, flat passes at the blue line, and we didn’t really play a good road third. But we’ll take it.”
Although the Barracuda managed to extend their winning streak, captain John McCarthy doesn’t like some of the bad habits that are slipping into the team’s game.
“Wins and losses, we are pleased. But it’s more important to see how we played, how we won and how we lost,” he said.
When the Barracuda fly out of Winnipeg on Sunday, Moose center Dan DeSalvo might just be waiting at customs to make sure that Grosenick actually leaves the country.
Grosenick robbed DeSalvo on three separate occasions and those stops wound up being the difference in the outing.
The Barracuda netminder thwarted DeSalvo from in close late in the first, making two right pad saves; the first while his momentum by carrying his body in the opposite direction, the second as he was face down on his belly.
The larceny continued early in the second as Grosenick stopped DeSalvo with a flashy-glove save after the forward skated around defenseman Michael Brodzinski. Later in the frame, he made a brilliant blocker save on the Moose centerman, going post-to-post on a hard shot from the slot.
“They had a couple point blankers where he made huge saves,” Sommer said.
After the power play lifted the Barracuda to victory on Friday with three goals, the penalty kill stepped up in the rematch, killing off six-consecutive penalties after it surrendered the opening goal to Peter Stoykewych at 3:24 of the first.
“We had a group of four every time that worked together and pressured the puck and eliminated their chances,” McCarthy said. “But your best penalty killer has to be your goalie and Grosenick played great.”
The Barracuda took a commanding 4-1 lead by the 7:17 mark of the second by receiving tallies from Adam Helewka and John McCarthy in the first, a power play goal from Danny O’Regan in the second and a first tally in teal from Buddy Robinson just three minutes later.
“I was starting to worry a little bit,” said Robinson, who found the net in his fourth game with the Barracuda after producing several quality chances. “You don’t want to panic too early, but it was nice to find one laying in the crease for me there.”