Six days removed from making the Calder Cup Playoffs by the skin of their teeth, the San Jose Barracuda faced off against the team that was responsible for them clinching: the Tucson Roadrunners.
Let’s recap last Saturday’s crazy events:
With the San Diego Gulls losing and the ‘Cuda winning, it came down to a scenario in which both teams, with the addition of the Stockton Heat, had to win and scoreboard watch. The Barracuda pulled out a tight victory over the Heat, 2-1, eliminating them from the playoffs- then after lots of edge-on-your-seat action in Tucson, the Roadrunners sent the Gulls to Torrey Pines, winning 5-2 and thus thrusting the Barracuda into the playoffs.
Antoine Bibeau started all but three games against Tucson in the regular season, and coach Roy Sommer hoped that would be the case Thursday night. In five games against the Roadrunners, Bibeau had an .893 save percentage and a 3.10 goals against average. Adin Hill, whose stats against the Barracuda were slightly worse than Bibeau’s (.863 save percentage, 3.30 GAA), got the call in net for Mike Van Ryn’s squad.
Despite out-shooting Tucson 10-5 in the first period, it was the Roadrunners who got the first goal of the series. Carter Camper made a rink-wide pass to Dakota Mermis on the right side and shot it past the left side of Antoine Bibeau to give the Roadrunners not only the lead, but their first-ever playoff goal.
The second period got off to a rough and rowdy start, as Colby McAuley took exception to a hit by Trevor Murphy and got in a shoving match with him, sending them to the bin for two minutes each.
After Cleveland Monster castaway Carter Camper was sent to the box for a tripping call, Alexander True continued his superb hot streak with his first goal of the playoffs to tie the game.
Unfortunately, Ryan MacInnis put the Roadrunners ahead 15 seconds later. MacInnis raced down the right side, getting around Jacob Middleton before going full Bobby Orr to put the Roadrunners back on top.
Despite their lead, the Roadrunners trailed in the shot count, 32 to 11, in the second period.
The third period had more of the same — until Sasha Fierce struck.
That’s right, Alexander Chmelevski, one of two men that you could say carried the Barracuda into the playoffs, made good on a 3-on-2 opportunity. Tim Heed, who is still down with the Barracuda somehow, shot the puck right at Adin Hill’s mask, falling to Adam Helewka, who whipped a spinning shot on Hill’s blocker side before it seemed to bounce off Sasha’s stick to tie the game.
The game went right down to the wire with great opportunities on both sides, and with two minutes to go it looked as if this game was bound for overtime.
Enter Lane Pederson.
On an odd-man opportunity, Michael Bunting got around Julius Bergman and made a pass to Pederson, who quickly shot it past Bibeau to give the Roadrunners the lead, again. Bibeau was immediately pulled for an extra attacker, and Dylan Strome made good on that empty-net opportunity, icing the game and the series lead for the Roadrunners.
If this game was any indication, this will be a series with lots of see-saw action.
The ‘Cuda lace it up again tonight for their final home game of the series. Puck drop is at 7 PM PST.