Sommer Sets New AHL Wins Record As Barracuda Tops Reign At Tank
SAN JOSE — Berkeley Ice wasn’t available, so Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer settled for the next best rink.
The Oakland-native, who grew up playing hockey at Berkeley Ice, set a new AHL record for wins by a head coach on Wednesday, returning to the Bay Area after five-consecutive road games and clinching victory No. 637 with a 4-2 triumph over the first place Ontario Reign (28-11-4) at the SAP Center.
Although it took 26 days to pick up win No. 637 after the Barracuda snagged win No. 635 on Jan. 15, Sommer was pleased to break the record at home in the Bay Area where his unlikely hockey odyssey began.
“It was all set up,” Sommer said. “We beat the best team in the league, which is what you’ll remember, too. That team had won [eight of nine] and we had to beat them to get it, so that makes it even nicer.”
After he left the arena bowl, Sommer received a hug from Sharks general manager Doug Wilson outside the Barracuda’s locker room and the first word out of his mouth was: “finally”.
The Barracuda put Sommer, who’s in his 18th season behind the team’s bench, on the doorstep of breaking the record in mid-January by putting together a nine-game point streak (7-0-2) in between Dec. 30 and Jan. 16. After that, the team went cold, losing seven of its next eight games, delaying history for nearly a month.
Prior to the game, captain Bryan Lerg told Sommer: “It’s happening tonight. Enough is enough.”
Lerg said the team wanted to break the record for its coach so bad, it was starting to weigh the locker room down.
“Guys have been pushing to try to get this done for a while now. We felt bad for him that it’s taken this long, but it’s part of the game and now it’s over with,” he said.
The Barracuda caught a break as Reign netminder Peter Budaj, who leads in the AHL in wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts, received a recall from the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, leaving Michael Houser, who entered the contest having played just one AHL game this season, to patrol the blue paint.
With just eight goals in their last six games, the Barracuda needed a breakthrough and the team received it by lighting the lamp twice in the game’s first six minutes against the untested netminder.
First, Lerg got the Barracuda on the board by throwing a puck at Houser from the right circle on the power play and redirecting it into the net off a Reign defenseman. Gus Young added to the lead 4:24 later, dancing around a defender at the blue line and skating into the high slot where he ripped a shot past Houser on his stick side.
The Reign cut the lead in half exactly one minute later before Barclay Goodrow added another power play tally with 5:34 left in the frame.
Ben Smith gave the Barracuda a 4-1 lead at 1:22 of the second, notching his third goal in four games by converting a breakaway opportunity on the penalty kill.
After that, the Barracuda turned things over to Aaron Dell, who made a season-high 50 saves to preserve the victory for Sommer and his teammates.
Dell made 21 saves in the second period and another 15 in the third.
“He lost 15 pounds,” Sommer said, pointing at Dell as he stood outside the Barracuda’s locker room after the victory.
“I’m going to need to hydrate after that one,” Dell replied.
Dell’s best save came less than five minutes into the second period as he dove across the crease to stop a backdoor opportunity from Reign forward Kris Newbury, who pounced on a rebound in the left circle.
“It definitely kept me busy,” Dell said. “I didn’t have any time for my mind to wonder in that one.”
Despite Dell’s heroic performance, the team awarded its goofy-looking Barracuda fish hat to Sommer after the game.
“It’s an honor,” Sommer said, referring to the record, not the hat. “You look at all the guys that have coached in the American Hockey League and you reflect back on the people I’ve worked with.”
“The organization’s stuck with me and it’s something to do it with the same organization.”
With the win, the Barracuda leapfrogged the San Diego Gulls in the Pacific Division standings, putting them back into a playoff position.
“Now that it’s over we can get back to playing a little looser,” Sommer said. “There were games we’d have it with like a minute left, they’d tie it up and we’d lose in overtime. It should have been over a while ago.”
Lerg said the record is particularly special for the Barracuda because the team sees Sommer as being more than just a “great coach”.
“He’s obviously a great coach, but more, most people don’t know how great of a person he is,” Lerg said.
“He’s genuinely an unbelievable person if you really get to know him. People are probably watching behind the bench and he’s screaming and all of this, but he’s genuinely an awesome person, and I think that’s the best part about him. He has a great family. Mo (his son) fits in great with us. He lets us have our fun. When you’re winning with Roy, it’s a fun time, too, and that’s why guys play hard for him.”
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