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Barracuda vs Griffins Game 4 Preview: Confronting the unknown

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Game 4 is an unfamiliar, must-win situation.

Photo by Sam Iannamico / Grand Rapids Griffins

Roy Sommer and the San Jose Barracuda find themselves in an unfamiliar position entering Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight.

For starters, this iteration of the Barracuda has not trailed in a series all postseason. Plus, the last time a Sharks AHL affiliate trailed two games to one entering the fourth game of a best-of-seven series was seven years and a city ago.

Then, the Worcester Sharks trailed the Manchester Monarchs in their second round series, the second straight season they faced such a deficit. Just as they had the previous season, Worcester won Game 4 to tie the series.

In fact, Sommer-coached teams have won the last three Game 4s after trailing two games to one, and three of five overall. Yet the fourth game of the series is where that success has mostly ended.

Only once has a Sharks AHL affiliate won a series when trailing two games to one. That was in 2009, during Logan Couture’s first (partial) season as a professional hockey player. In other words, it’s been a while since Roy Sommer’s been in this situation.

Of course, Sommer and the Barracuda have never truly been here, as this is the first ever Conference Finals appearance for a Sharks AHL affiliate. Plus, Sommer’s not coached a team as good as this one in his 20 years with the Sharks organization.

Sommer and other Sharks AHL affiliates has once advanced out of a series from this exact position in the past, but the AHL’s all-time wins leader has never won a series after trailing three games to one. A run to the Calder Cup would be an organizational first, but additional history will need to be made along the way.

He’ll need San Jose’s touted top-end talent to make an appearance if San Jose are to buck the historical trend, win Game 4, and eventually the series. AHL-leading postseason scorer Ryan Carpenter has remained excellent, with four points in three games this series, but the same cannot be said of most of the top six forwards.

Barclay Goodrow, Timo Meier, and Daniel O’Regan have combined for two points, a goal and a secondary assist, through three games. O’Regan and Meier, in particular, have struggled of late.

Neither player has scored since a win over the San Diego Gulls 17 days ago. Meier and O’Regan combined for 43 goals during the regular season, good enough for 18.5% of San Jose’s offensive output.

But the Barracuda will need a better effort from the entirety of the team, especially in the third period. Grand Rapids grabbed hold of Game 3 thanks to a dominant stretch over the final 20 minutes, when they peppered Troy Grosenick with 15 shots on goal, plus one into an empty net to seal the game.