Barracuda Topple Reign, Extend Record Winning Streak to Eight Games
SAN JOSE — The wins just keep getting more and more impressive.
Over the last two-plus weeks, the Barracuda have stormed into the upper-Midwest and snagged road victories over two of the Central Division’s top-three teams. They’ve picked up back-to-back wins in front raucous crowds in one of the world’s most-rabid hockey towns in Winnipeg.
Last week, they snapped the San Diego Gulls 12-game point streak, and on Sunday, they tied a Sharks’ AHL affiliate record with their eight-consecutive win, dismissing an Ontario Reign team that completely owned them last season by a 4-1 score at the SAP Center after riding the bus home from Bakersfield and arriving in town at 1 a.m.
“It’s been really weird because we’ve had some really hard travel the last couple of weeks,” head coach Roy Sommer said. “But there hasn’t been a lot of games where we’ve come out really stale.”
In addition to winning games on seemingly every corner of the continent recently, the Barracuda are proving that they can roll out the same game against a variety of different styles and emerge victorious.
On Saturday, they picked up an overtime win against the Bakersfield Condors, who play a run and gun style of game. Then, they turned around and knocked off a defensively-stingy Reign squad, proving they can win a pitcher’s duel, too.
‘We were joking around that these two games couldn’t be much more different,” said goalie Troy Grosenick, who matched a career record with his eighth-straight win.
“Bako (Bakersfield) kind of likes to run and gun. You don’t know if they’re going to catch you on a night where they’re hot and they put in six… when you play Ontario, you know it’s going to be the opposite. They’re usually not going to put up a ton and they’re going to defend well.”
After traveling home from Bakersfield last night, the Barracuda wanted to get off to a strong start, assuming they might hit a wall later in the game. They also wanted to avoid the challenging task of chasing the game against the Reign’s suffocating neutral zone defense.
Defenseman Dan Kelly helped the team achieve that goal, notching his first tally in a Barracuda uniform by simply throwing the puck at the net through traffic from the left point.
Kelly also earned his fourth point in two games by setting up Barclay Goodrow’s empty-net goal in the game’s final two minutes.
“I honestly don’t worry about that (points), I worry about my defensive game,” Kelly said. “Anything else is a bonus. I’m not here to score goals or get assists. I’m here to block shots, help these guys develop and keep pucks out of the net.”
After Patrick Bjorkstrand tied it up with three-and-a-half minutes left in the first, Nikolay Goldobin gave the Barracuda a 2-1 lead at 13:43 of the second, sneaking in a feed from Danny O’Regan on the short side for his 12th of the season after a Julius Bergman shot from the point got knocked down in the slot.
Nikita Jevpalovs extended the lead to 3-1 at 3:42 of the third, cleaning up the garbage of a Michael Brodzinski shot after Goodrow cycled the puck out to the point.
With the primary assist, Brodzinski earned his first AHL point.
Although the Reign are known for their air-tight defense, the Barracuda snuffed them out on Sunday by severely limiting the number of quality scoring chances they received, keeping everything to the outside in the defensive zone, forcing dumps in the neutral zone and running down the clock with a strong forecheck in the offensive zone.
In the middle stanza, the Barracuda limited the Reign to just two shots on goal, the first coming at the 18:55 mark of the period.
“That second period, it was barely in our end. They had two shots and they were both with like a minute left,” Grosenick said. “Right now, our best defense is a good offense and when we hem teams in in their own zone, we’re going to have a lot of success.”
Although they played cards on the back of the bus beyond the midnight hour, the Barracuda continued to bring the pressure in the third, a sign that the group is having a lot of fun on and off the ice right now.
“We’ve got a tight-knit group, whether we’re hanging out on the bus or the road,” Grosenick said. “That’s been part of our success: everyone’s playing for each other.”