A lot has changed in the American Hockey League since the Worcester Sharks last took the ice, but there are three things that have remained the same: Roy Sommer, John McCarthy and on-ice success.
The San Jose Barracuda, wearing the sweaters of the old Worcester Sharks franchise, pulled out a 2-1 win over the Stockton Heat yesterday afternoon. Kyle Wood scored the game winner at 9:09 of the third period, while Antoine Bibeau turned aside 22 Heat shots for his 13th win of the season. The Barracuda’s fourth win in six games puts them four points ahead of the Tucson Roadrunners in the race for the Pacific Division title.
With the Heat having struggled to string wins together all season, and some of the team’s best players like Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington currently playing in Calgary for the Flames, this game provided San Jose with a great chance to prove their dominance. In the first period, Roy Sommer’s club did just that, throwing ten shots at Heat netminder Jon Gillies while Stockton could only muster five of their own.
But it took until the final minute of the opening frame for the Barracuda to break through, when a clearing attempt by Stockton defensemen Adam Ollas Mattsson was intercepted at the blue line by Manny Wiederer and quickly pushed forward to Dylan Gambrell. Gambrell fired a slap pass right onto the stick of the trailing Antti Suomela, who broke in alone and deked out Gillies to grab the lead with just 11 seconds to go in the first.
The second period was where the goaltenders took center stage, as both Gillies and Bibeau stymied the offense at every turn. While they weren’t able to capitalize, the Heat finally found some rhythm in the middle frame, outshooting the ‘Cuda 11-10 and using their speed to maintain control in the offensive zone.
With San Jose clinging onto their one goal lead heading into the third period, the ‘Cuda were determined to ramp up their attack. Their offensive pressure in the early stages of the period forced Heat defender Rob Hamilton to take a slashing penalty and on the ensuing power play, Kyle Wood threw a seeing eye shot through a number of Heat skaters and past Gillies for the 2-0 lead.
But just over a minute after Wood’s third goal of the season, Alexander True was caught holding onto his broken stick, resulting in a trip to the sin bin. On Stockton’s man-advantage, Curtis Lazar threw the puck towards the net with Kerby Rychel waiting on the doorstep. Bibeau stopped the initial shot, but former Barracuda Buddy Robinson followed up on the rebound to cut the lead back to one with nine minutes remaining.
While the score was a little too close for comfort, the Barracuda were still able to earn the majority of the chances in the final 20 minutes with 13 shots on net. When Stockton pulled Gillies for an extra attacker, the Heat had a few good looks to tie the game, but Bibeau was equal to the task, stopping six out of seven shots to seal the victory.
The Barracuda return to action on Friday when the defending Western Conference champion Texas Stars pay a visit to the SAP Center at 7 p.m. Pacific.