Prior to Saturday night's game against the Stockton Heat (AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames) at the Stockton Arena, San Jose Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer stated in a pre-game interview with Barracuda radio play-by-play announcer Eric Lindquist that the team will play the best goaltender down the final 20-game stretch of the season.
In Sunday evening's rematch against the Heat at the Stockton Arena, Barracuda goaltender Aaron Dell continued to make his case to be the team's number one goaltender down the stretch in their pursuit of a playoff berth in their inaugural season as he made 39-saves in helping lead the Barracuda to a 4-1 win and snapping the Heat's 10-game home ice win streak.
Dell, who was named the game's number one star for the third time in his last four starts, has stopped 170 out of 177 shots on goal faced in his last five starts. Furthermore, Dell is now fifth league wide in save percentage (.925) and eighth in goals-against-average (2.37)
Scoring wise for the Barracuda, forwards John McCarthy and Trevor Parkes each had two points games as McCarthy scored two third period goals, one of which was a shorthanded goal that held up as the game-winner, while Parkes had a goal and an assist. Also scoring for the Barracuda was forward Nikita Jevpalovs.
With the win, the Barracuda leapfrogged the Charlotte Checkers in the standings for the final playoff spot in the AHL Western Conference and trail the San Diego Gulls by .001 percentage points for the third guaranteed playoff berth in the Pacific Division.
With Dell making 14 first period saves, the Barracuda took a 1-0 lead into intermission thanks to Jevpalovs' goal at 15:06 that saw Jevpalovs do a give-and-go with forward Nikolay Goldobin along the left side and deke out Heat goaltender Kevin Poulin for his fourth goal of the season. With the lone assist on the goal, Goldobin extended his point streak to six games.
After a scoreless second period that saw Dell make 12 more saves, the Heat tied the game at 5:16 of the third period when former San Jose and Worcester Sharks forward Freddie Hamilton buried home a one-timer from the right side of the crease off a backhanded through-the-slot pass from linemate Kenny Agostino for his 14th goal of the season.
Following Hamilton's goal, Barracuda defensemen Gus Young and Mirco Mueller were assessed slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at 6:18 and 7:32 respectively. Once the Barracuda killed off the remaining time on Young's penalty, McCarthy scored what held up as the shorthanded game-winner at 9:06 when he skated in two-on-one with linemate Ben Smith and beat Poulin with a snap shot from the left face-off circle dot for his seventh goal of the season.
A little over five minutes later at 14:25, McCarthy scored his second goal of the game with a trailing rebound strike after Parkes out-worked Heat defenseman Brett Kulak for the puck behind the Heat net and fired a shot on goal from on top of the crease while on his knees after being shoved down to the ice from behind by Kulak.
Parkes sealed a Barracuda win at 17:40 with an empty net goal for his eleventh goal of the season and second goal of the weekend.
NOTES... Shots on goal were 40-28 in favor of the Heat... The Barracuda went 0-for-1 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill... Dell's record is now 10-10-5... McCarthy had a team high four shots on goal and has a five game point streak (3-3-6)... Goldobin has seven assists during his six game point streak... Barracuda defenseman Rick Pinkston picked up his first AHL fighting major with a quick scrap against Heat forward Garnet Hathaway at 13:10 of the first period... Barracuda defenseman Joakim Ryan had the lone assist on Parkes' empty net goal... The Barracuda improved to 10-7-7 on the road and 22-17-9 with 53 points overall... The Barracuda are back in action Feb. 26 when they travel to play the Bakersfield Condors with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m./pt.
1. Aaron Dell - Barracuda (39 saves, WIN)
2. John McCarthy - Barracuda (2-0-2, SH GWG)
3. Freddie Hamilton - Heat (1-0-1)
*In order of appearance*
Haley (A) / Carpenter / Parkes
Lerg (C) / McCarthy (A) / Smith
Goldobin / Langlois / Jevpalovs
Emanuelsson / Timmins / Doremus
Young / Ryan
Stollery / Bergman
Mueller / Pinkston