Unless we’re talking about the orange jerseys the San Jose Barracuda donned on Monday afternoon, not many people would call their 5-2 win over the San Diego Gulls the prettiest victory in the world.
But for a team picking up just their second win in their last six games, the Barracuda weren’t complaining about how they got it. Alexander True led the way with a pair of first period goals, including the eventual game winner, while Dylan Gambrell notched a pair of assists after getting sent down by the Sharks just hours prior to puck drop.
For head coach Roy Sommer, the way his team showed up with their backs to the wall, and against an opponent that they’ve struggled against all season in the Gulls, made the key difference. “They’ve got a good hockey club, and we’re still kinda finding our way,” Sommer said. “We haven’t really been through a big slump like this, but it looked like they cared tonight. It was just a lot of effort and a lot of emotion.”
The early parts of the first period seemed to set the tempo for the entire game, with both teams playing a high-octane, offense first strategy. But the speedy Gulls took advantage just four minutes in when rookie center Sam Steel sneaked in behind the ‘Cuda defense, picked up a stretch pass from Adam Cracknell and slid a nifty deke just under the right arm of Korenar for his 14th goal of the season.
Despite falling into a quick deficit, San Jose was able to erase it in just as short order. Two minutes after Steel’s goal, some hard work along the boards by Evan Weinger and Vincent Praplan pushed the puck up towards Jeremy Roy. Roy wired a quick wristshot towards the short side of the net, but the puck took an odd deflection below the hashmarks and around the blocker of Gulls goaltender Jeff Glass to tie the game.
Four minutes later, with Jonathan Martin stuck in the penalty box for roughing, the Gulls’ power play unit got their first opportunity of the night. Just 12 seconds into the man-advantage a slap shot from Cracknell was initially stopped by Korenar, but the rebound popped right out to Sam Carrick, who whacked the puck home for his team-leading 25th goal of the year.
But this time San Diego’s lead didn’t even last half a minute. Jeffrey Viel sped past the Gulls defenders for a loose puck and spun a perfect dish to True, who blew the puck by Glass, bringing the game back to square. The intensity picked up, with both teams’ physicality resulting in donnybrooks at either end of the ice. But the intensity quickly put San Diego in hot water and the Barracuda on a two-man advantage.
San Jose’s top power play unit got to work, and thanks to some crisp passing by Francis Perron and Dylan Gambrell, they found True open at the top of the crease for his second of the night and the Barracuda’s first lead. From there, Roy Sommer’s crew never looked back, and with a minute left in the opening frame a slap shot from Kyle Wood was redirected in front by Maxim Letunov, giving San Jose a two-goal lead with his ninth of the season.
The tone shifted in the second period, where the game went from a high-scoring affair to a tight checking defensive game. Korenar and the Barracuda blue line kept out all 15 shots they faced over the final 40 minutes, while Glass stopped 20 of 21 for San Diego. According to True, the coaching staff wanted to play a safer game with the lead in hand.
“We had to have a good relationship with the defensemen; knowing when to pinch and the third forward staying high to not give up too many odd man rushes against,” True said of the main talking points during the first intermission.
The only break the ‘Cuda got came midway through the second period, when Kevin Roy was sent to the sin bin for tripping. One solid zone entry later, Dylan Gambrell tipped a bouncing puck on goal before Rourke Chartier pounced and batted the rebound in past Glass, adding the insurance marker and providing San Jose with some much-needed payback for their 8-3 loss at the hands of this same San Diego squad on Saturday.