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Cuda Corner: Penalties plague Barracuda in 3-2 loss to Stockton

You go to the box, and you feel shame.

Bryan Del Fava, Fear the Fin

It took a lot longer than any of us expected, but the San Jose Barracuda were finally handed their first regulation loss of the season on Sunday, a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Stockton Heat. Tyler Graovac led the way for the Heat, scoring one goal and assisting on the team’s other two, while Calgary Flames goalie prospect Tyler Parsons turned aside 26 San Jose shots for his first victory of the season.

Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer felt the ‘Cuda’s struggles to hold onto possession and their seven trips to the penalty box played a big factor in the loss. “In the third period when we needed a push, we didn’t have the puck a whole lot to create anything,” Sommer said. “[Stockton] had a lot of power play opportunities, which kinda wore some of our guys down a little bit.”

The Barracuda got off to a quick start in the first period, at one point leading the Heat 6-2 in shots on goal. Their best chance to open the scoring came early in the opening frame when Francis Perron caught Stockton in the midst of a change with Dylan Gambrell rushing up for an odd-man rush. Perron fed him a perfect pass into the slot, but Gambrell was checked at the last second and pushed it wide across the crease behind Tyler Parsons.

But as the period moved along, Stockton began to pick up steam, peppering Bibeau with seven shots over the final 10 minutes. The pressure paid off when Andrew Mangiapane corralled a loose puck and whipped a hard wrist shot over Bibeau’s left shoulder to give the Heat the lead, with Oliver Kylington and Graovac picking up the assists.

Just two minutes later, Graovac picked up a goal of his own when he was left wide open in front of the crease and Mangiapane threw him a pass from behind the net. Graovac quickly roofed the puck over the left shoulder of Bibeau for his third goal of the season, putting the ‘Cuda into a 2-0 hole going into the second period.

San Jose had some solid chances to close the gap in the early parts of the middle frame, but in the reoccurring theme of the night, the ‘Cuda simply struggled to finish on their best chances. Early in the second, Jeffrey Viel led a 2-on-1 into the attacking zone and put a pass right on the stick of Evan Weinger, but he bobbled the puck and couldn’t get a shot on net.

But scoring chances were suddenly the least of San Jose’s problems, as a Manuel Wiederer hooking penalty midway through the period began a parade to the penalty box. While Mangiapane would get called for holding just a minute later, it was an interference penalty to Francis Perron and a Vinny Praplan double-minor for high sticking Andrew O’Brian that put Stockton on an extended 5-on-3.

Just a minute later, Flames blue chip defense prospect Spencer Foo made the ‘Cuda pay, letting a howitzer go from above the faceoff circles and blasting it by Bibeau for his third of the year, with Graovac getting his third point of the night on the power play marker.

Three minutes after Foo’s goal, San Jose finally got some life when Vincent Praplan lobbed a pass between the Heat’s defenders to Maxim Letunov. The speedy young Russian was then able to fight off Adam Ollas Mattsson and chop the puck over Parsons’ glove to get the ‘Cuda on the board. Praplan earned the only helper on Letunov’s fourth goal of the season.

As the second drew to a close, the Barracuda found themselves on a late power play after Andrew O’Brian was sent to the sin bin for cross-checking. The Heat managed to kill O’Brian’s entire penalty, but just as he was stepping out of the box, Francis Perron found Jayden Halbgewachs alone in the slot. Halbgewachs made no mistake, dekeing out Parsons and cutting Stockton’s lead to 3-2 on his fourth tally of the campaign.

With the Heat clinging onto a one goal lead, San Jose needed an aggressive third period to try and settle the score. But Stockton was able to hold off the potent ‘Cuda attack by clogging up the neutral zone and preventing San Jose’s top guns from any sort of extended time in the offensive end. By the time the horn sounded, the Heat had out-shot the Barracuda by a slim 9-8 margin in the third period and held off a late flurry to hand San Jose their first regulation loss of the season.

Despite the magic six game points run being cut short tonight, it’s clear to Sommer that it was far from early season luck. “Overall it was a fun run, and now we’ve gotta start it again.” Sommer said.

The Barracuda will look to get back on the winning track when they head to San Antonio to face the Rampage on Friday, October 26 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific.