Barracuda’s Sommer Aiming To Break AHL Wins Record At Home This Week
SAN JOSE — Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer isn’t typically a silver lining kind of a guy.
After losses, he speaks candidly about his team’s shortcomings, where the squad can improve and he does it without worrying about the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings.
But he’s found a bright side to the Barracuda’s recent struggles, the opportunity to make history at the SAP Center on Wednesday against the first place Ontario Reign.
“You know what?” Sommer said after practice on Monday when asked about his squad’s recent skid. “There isn’t a better way to break the record than beating the best team in the league at home.”
Sommer is still locked at 636 career victories after the Barracuda (19-16-8) lost back-to-back games to the Reign (28-10-4) in Southern California last weekend, keeping him tied with Fred “Bun” Cook atop the AHL’s all-time wins list.
The Barracuda is just 1-6-2 since Sommer collected career win No. 635 against the Rockford IceHogs on Jan. 15 and, as a result, the team slipped out of a Pacific Division playoff spot for the first time since Jan. 3 over the weekend.
Despite his team’s recent struggles, Sommer isn’t panicking. He’s concerned about the Barracuda’s offensive woes, but he doesn’t think the team’s all-around game is in an entirely bad spot.
Sommer’s words, keep in mind, should be taken at face value: when the team got run out of their own rink on opening night, he said his guys played like “peewees”; after a 6-2 loss to the Bakersfield Condors on Nov. 8, he accused his team of not being “ready to play”.
Right now, he’s humming to a different tune.
“We’re playing a lot better, but we’re playing against good teams, we’re playing against good goalies. Our division isn’t easy,” he said.
“I’m not going to say I’m not worried about our scoring. We’ve tried some different things and switched the lines up.”
Veteran forward Micheal Haley expressed confidence in the team’s game, too. Haley is convinced the narrative will change sooner rather than later.
“This is my ninth year in this league now and there hasn’t been a year yet where you don’t go eight this way and eight the other way. For some reason, that’s the way it goes, you’re hot for a month and then you struggle.”
“It’s not like we’re getting blown out. We know, and I think the other teams know, that every one of these games could have gone the other way if you get that break or two.”
If the Barracuda’s four-goal outburst against the San Antonio Rampage on Jan. 30 is discarded, the team has collected just six goals in six games since Jan. 22.
A key variable is the schedule. The Barracuda have faced the Reign four times in their last seven games, a squad that leads the league in goals-against average (1.86) and shots against per game (24.6) while boasting the AHL’s second-ranked penalty kill (86.9 percent).
How stingy is the Reign’s defense? The Albany Devils are ranked second in goals-against average (2.29), trailing the Reign by an astronomical 0.43 goals per game.
The team’s goalie, Peter Budaj, leads the AHL in wins (26), goals-against average (1.58), save percentage (.935), shutouts (8) and minutes (2284:25).
“They’re kind of like the Denver Broncos,” Sommer said. “They’ll get a goal or two and then they’ll sit back on their defense and their goaltending.”
“They don’t make it easy.”
Sommer said the Barracuda will need to get more scoring from its depth forwards to break out of its funk.
Scott Timmins hasn’t recorded a point since he returned from injury on Jan. 9, Haley hasn’t found the scoresheet since Jan. 15 and Nikolay Goldobin is riding a 12-game goalless drought.
“He’s been picking up some assists, but we need some goals from him — that’s kind of what he is,” Sommer said, referring to Goldobin. “I’d like to get some goal production from him.”
The Barracuda will get another chance to snap out of its scoring drought and capture the AHL wins record for Sommer when the Reign roll into town on Wednesday.
Haley said the team’s offense is ready to break out.
“A few of these pucks are going to start going in and we’ll get our groove back,” he said. “I think we need one game where the floodgates open, and then after that, we’ll be good to go.”
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