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Cuda Corner: Weinger, Viel take charge as Barracuda trample Rampage 3-1

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The legend of the 2018-19 ‘Cuda is growing by the day,,,

Bryan Del Fava, Fear the Fin

For the 3,156 hockey fans at the SAP Center on Friday, they not only got to watch the San Jose Barracuda put together a dominant, 3-1 victory over the San Antonio Rampage — they got a front row seat to watch an AHL team turning themselves from a league afterthought into a west coast legend.

The ‘Cuda’s season sweep of the Rampage last night was a true three-and-one-third line effort, where depth players like Evan Weinger and Jeffrey Viel stepped up to lead the offense while Josef Korenar, making his home debut for San Jose, turned aside 22 shots to extend his season-long undefeated streak to five games.

Viel echoed those sentiments after the game. “Everyone was pushing...we played really well defensively and obviously Korenar was huge in the net.”

What made this game unique was the way it unfolded. A 3-1 score doesn’t exactly scream “thrilling entertainment,” but even in a scoreless first period there was plenty of action.

Roy Sommer’s decision to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen proved a risky decision early on, when Manuel Weiderer collided with San Antonio’s Ryan Olsen in front of the San Jose net and left the ice favoring his left leg. When Weiderer didn’t return to the game (with Sommer saying he’d be reevaluated on Saturday), it left San Jose with only six wingers and a lot of extra ice time.

For the ‘Cuda bench boss, losing Wiederer so early ended up resulting in some more experimental line choices. “I had guys playing all over the place,” Sommer said. “We were just kinda rolling the next three up and trying to even out everyone’s ice time.”

The first 20 minutes chugged along quickly, with both the Barracuda and Rampage trading great scoring chances while their respective goalies, Korenar and Ville Husso, put on a puck-stopping clinic. Korenar stopped a number of early chances right in the slot area, while Husso proved equal to the task when Kyle Wood sprung Weinger on a breakaway late in the first.

According to Weinger, the coaches kept the game plan pretty simple between periods. “Mostly just tighten up our defensive game. We were making a few too many turnovers in the [defensive] zone and not getting the pucks out.”

In the second frame, the Barracuda quickly began to take over. Just two minutes into the period, a slapshot from Keaton Middleton hit the pad of Husso and bounced right to Lukas Radil. Radil quickly spun around and chipped the puck around the fallen Rampage goalie, giving San Jose the lead with his first AHL goal.

From there, the ‘Cuda never looked back. Midway through the period, Maxim Letunov caught the San Antonio defense off guard with a slick wraparound that Husso barely held out with his right pad. But once again, the loose puck landed right in the wheelhouse of Weinger, who snapped it right through Husso’s legs for his fourth goal of the season with Letunov and Viel adding the assists.

San Jose added some insurance just three minutes into the third period when yet another rebound went right to a Barracuda player, this time Viel being the recipient. Viel attempted a quick shot, but it deflected off a Rampage defender and over the shoulder of Husso before rolling into the net.

San Antonio did eventually break Korenar’s shutout bid with four minutes remaining when Letunov was stripped of the puck in front of his own blue line and picked up by a wide open Samuel Blais. The 2014 St. Louis Blues draft pick got a nifty backhand off just under the crossbar to pick up his first of the year, with former Montreal Canadien Brian Flynn picking up a helper.

The Barracuda hope to extend their winning streak to four games on Monday when they visit the Stockton Heat at 7 p.m. Pacific.