It simply wasn’t meant to be.
The San Jose Barracuda’s improbable Calder Cup playoff run came to an end at the hands of the Tucson Roadrunners, winning just one game out of the best of five series.
The same goaltenders that started the previous three games started on Friday: Adin Hill for the Roadrunners, Antoine Bibeau for the Barracuda. Bibeau was pulled on Wednesday night in favor of Stephon Williams after allowing five goals on 15 shots.
Tucson earned all the shot opportunities in the first period, out-shooting the Barracuda 10 to 4. On the flip-side, the Barracuda took three penalties in the opening frame. However, no goals could be scored by either team, with the ‘Cuda penalty kill stepping up and killing all three penalties. John McCarthy generated a quality wraparound chance in the first period, but it was thwarted by Adin Hill.
Tucson’s early barrage of chances paid off in the second period. Andrew Campbell won a board battle with Jon Martin, passing it to Carter Camper who set up Mario Kempe right in the middle of the faceoff circles. Kempe ripped the puck at Bibeau and it trickled in to give the Roadrunners a 1-0 lead.
The Barracuda tried to close the gap in shots, and goals, in the second period, getting strong chances, but they were simply no match for Adin Hill.
Everything came down to the third period.
Nick Desimone took an elbowing penalty early on into the third period, but it was killed off. But the Roadrunners showed that they didn’t need power play goals, which is something the Barracuda definitely can relate to.
Andrew Campbell’s point blast was initially stopped by Antoine Bibeau, but Michael Bunting made a fantastic screening effort to free the puck. The puck found the stick of Conor Garland, who scored with a backhanded effort to put Tucson up by two.
It seemed as if it was Groundhog Day for the Barracuda: great chances each and every period, but inevitably Adin Hill was there to deny all of them.
Mario Kempe iced the game with a center-ice empty net goal to end the series.
The Roadrunners proved why they were one of the best teams in the Western Conference this series, with a fire-powered offense and a great one-two goaltending tandem of Adin Hill and Hunter Miska. Unlike many other teams in the Pacific Division, I have no ill will towards them. Congratulations to them, and I hope they have a strong rest of their playoff run.
Meanwhile, the Barracuda will have to fly back to San Jose and debrief, but the boys have nothing to be sorry about. This was a team that was dead last in the Pacific Division at one point, but they never once gave up the fight. This is a team that looks stronger than ever, and have even more to build upon with reinforcements coming next season. They were the youngest team in the league this season, averaging 22.4 years old, and with explosive players like the Everett Silvertips’ Matt Fonteyne coming in next season, they will pack an even bigger punch.
The Barracuda have, time after time in their residence in San Jose, proven that they are worthy of respect. They may be done this season, but they will be back.