Luck is one of life’s strangest phenomenons. One day, everything is going right for you; the next day, you can’t even catch a single break.
For the San Jose Barracuda, the bad luck finally hit last night, in the form of a 5-0 drubbing in Tucson at the hands (or...wings?) of the Roadrunners. Former Barracuda legend Adam Helewka led the way for his new club with a pair of goals while Tucson netminder Merrick Madsen made 19 stops en route to his first American Hockey League shutout.
But today, San Jose will have the rare opportunity to prove their poor showing was simply an off-night, as they attempt to turn the tables on the Roadrunners in the second leg of their back-to-back series at the Tucson Arena.
For the first time in this 2018-19 campaign, the Barracuda were their own worst enemy. Sustained pressure in the offensive zone was incredibly hard to come by and the team took a few too many undisciplined penalties — including a high hit by Nick DeSimone on Tuscon’s Cam Dineen that earned him a game misconduct in the second period — that led to two Roadrunners power play tallies.
But it wasn’t all bad things. Despite having his two-game point streak snapped, Evan Weinger continued to make huge strides as a scoring threat, logging big minutes and leading the Barracuda in shots with five on the night. And Josef Korenar may have had one of the rougher outings of his short AHL career, but he still turned aside an impressive 33 Tucson shots in a game where he was truly peppered with pucks.
The win bumped the Roadrunners up to a 8-3-1 record and 17 points, putting them just one more ‘W’ behind the Barracuda for a tie in the Pacific Division title race. In other words, game number two tonight might be the most important of San Jose’s young season, with the ‘Cuda having a chance to take back their four-point lead against arguably their biggest threat in the division.
With Roy Sommer’s 50/50 split strategy in full swing, Antoine Bibeau will likely return to the crease tonight having won three of his last four games and while boasting the AHL’s best save percentage with 0.935. While Bibeau’s play has been spectacular so far this season, for the Barracuda to walk away with two points his teammates are going to need to give him more support than they gave Korenar yesterday.
If San Jose can atone for the mistakes they made on Friday, such as staying out of the penalty box and bumping up their possession stats, they’ll have no problem matching the skill and speed of the Roadrunners. Keeping Tucson’s highly potent offense like Helewka, Conor Garland and Mario Kempe in check is going to rely on a big night from the ‘Cuda blue line, which could also lose DeSimone if any sort of supplemental action is handed down for his hit to the head of Dineen.
The opening faceoff from Tucson will be at 6:05 p.m. Pacific, with video on AHLTV and audio on the Sharks + SAP Center app.