The San Jose Barracuda’s 2-1 win last night over Los Chimuelos de San Antonio (otherwise known as the San Antonio Rampage for you casual AHL followers) was essentially a microcosm of both teams’ season so far. The ‘Cuda didn’t have the dominating performance they were looking for and yet, thanks to a very fortunate bounce off an AT&T Center stanchion, Matt Fonteyne pocketed his first AHL goal and the game winner to put San Jose back into the win column.
On the flip side, the Rampage iced one of the more recognizable lineups in the AHL, with names like Jordan Nolan, Carl Gunnarsson and even Robbi Fabbri, the 22-year-old Blues young gun playing his first pro game since blowing out his knee a year and a half ago. But having a solid lineup on paper hasn’t stopped San Antonio from falling into a league worst 1-8-0 record, just as playing a pretty good game against San Jose last night didn’t keep them from losing in the worst way possible.
There’s a lot to take out of this victory for the Barracuda, both good and bad. On one hand, San Jose has been getting outshot with regularity; on the other, they’ve made the most out of their smaller number of chances, while Antoine Bibeau and last night’s starter, Josef Korenar, are stopping pucks at an elite level.
When it comes to special teams, the ‘Cuda haven’t found their stride on the power play yet, but they sit tenth in the league on the penalty kill. And from a roster standpoint, Roy Sommer may not have the most stacked squad in the division (let alone the league), but he and the coaching staff have been pushing all the right buttons so far and have managed to ice a team that makes up for its lack of star power with a high level of chemistry.
The Barracuda’s win last night wasn’t the prettiest, and they certainly have some fixes to make down the line. But as long as pucks keep rocketing off the glass right into the slot, there’s no reason we can’t sit back and enjoy the wins as they come.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned this October, it’s that Francis Perron is far from being just “the other guy in the Erik Karlsson trade.” The Laval, Quebec native became the first Barracuda player to hit double digits in points last night, which came in the second period on a wicked wrister from the high slot that cleanly beat Chimuelos goalie Ville Husso.
Even with his original linemate, Dylan Gambrell, rotating in and out of the Barracuda lineup, Perron’s play has unwavered, posting points in all but one of San Jose’s games so far and making Doug Wilson look like an evil genius. Even if he regresses to the mean a little bit over the course of the year, he’ll still likely blow his career-high 26 points in 2016-17 out of the water.
At only 22-years-old, the Sharks may have plucked a absolute gem from the Senators system, and if he keeps on improving there’s no doubt in my mind that Perron will earn a call from the mother club sometime down the road.
When Josef Korenar moved to North America in the offseason, you wouldn’t be crazy for thinking he’d spend 2018-19 solidified as the backup to Antoine Bibeau. But through eight games, the pair have split the ice time 50/50, and Korenar’s 27 saves against the Rampage both made the difference for the Barracuda on Friday and pushed his undefeated record to four.
The legend of the kid from Pelhrimov has started to grow, and that fact isn’t lost on Roy Sommer. When asked about his plans going forward with his pair of netminders on Sunday, the coach said he believes that a 1A/1B situation is the best thing for them right now, especially given the ‘Cuda’s shorter schedule.
“Until things change, they all need to play,” Sommer said. “The division we’re in, we don’t play that many games. They don’t get a lot of reps, so if they miss a weekend that’s two weeks almost before they’re playing again. Both of them are capable, so we’ll just keep rotating them.”
Viva Los Chimuelos!
This recap wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the uniforms the Rampage donned in honour of Dia de los Muertos.
They. Were. Gorgeous.
The Sharks had their own Hispanic Heritage night recently, and the slow but sure inclusion of more Latino culture in hockey is super exciting to see. If more teams embrace these promotions and ideas like Spanish TV/radio broadcasts, they could find massive untapped markets both across the country and south of the border.
McCaptain hits the big 5-0-0
Yesterday wasn’t only a celebration for San Antonians. It was also a milestone night for El Capitan John McCarthy, who played in his 500th AHL game against the Rampage.
While he probably won’t get the same recognition as his NHL counterparts would, playing 500 games at any level of pro hockey is a major achievement. Especially when you consider that he’s played 475 of them in the Sharks’ system with the ‘Cuda and their predecessor, the Worcester Sharks.
He holds nearly every major Barracuda franchise record including games played, goals and points, and sits just six assists shy of Joakim Ryan’s club record for helpers with 66. Some great players have come and gone through San Jose’s AHL locker room, but none of them have meant as much to the team as John McCarthy. Congrats, McCaptain.
The Barracuda will aim to preserve their undefeated road record today when they head to Austin for a matchup against the defending Western Conference champion Texas Stars at 5 p.m. Pacific.