Barracuda Bites: Barracuda “return” to Cleveland to face the Monsters; Split series

<em>For God’s sakes Lemon Shark, we’d all like to flee to the Cleve and see a game at the Q and have lunch with Miikka Kiprusoff, but we fight those urges.</em>

This past weekend, the San Jose Barracuda skated in Cleveland against the Cleveland Monsters for the first time ever. As the American Hockey League (AHL) does not participate in cross-conference play prior to the Calder Cup Finals, this was also the first time the franchises have faced off at all; prior to the 2015-2016 season, the San Jose Barracuda played in the Eastern Conference as the Worcester Sharks, while the Cleveland Monsters played in the Western Conference as the Lake Erie Monsters.

The City of Cleveland is inextricably (albeit explicably) linked to Bay Area hockey. In 1976, the Oakland Seals of the NHL were relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Cleveland as the Cleveland Barons (named after a recently folded AHL team that had a decades-old presence in Believeland). By 1978, the financially floundering Barons were forced into a merger with the also struggling Minnesota North Stars. In 1990, the North Stars ownership (who had also been minority owners of the California Golden Seals) attempted to relocate the team to San Francisco bay area, ultimately resulting in the 1991 NHL Expansion and the San Jose Sharks. Ahead of the 2001-2002 season, the San Jose Sharks placed their new AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Barons, in the city of Cleveland, playing out of Gund Arena (now known as the Quicken Loans Arena, or simply “The Q.”)

The first puck dropped at 10 AM PDT in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. Just 35 seconds later, the Cleveland Monsters netted their first goal, culminating in a 1-4 loss for the Barracuda. Despite being scored on only 35 seconds into the first, the Barracuda were able to kill off three penalties and outshoot the Monsters 6-to-5, but to no avail. Cleveland scored twice more in the second frame, while the Barracuda hit a couple of posts during a power play.

In the third, Brandon Bolling scored his second of the season, but Cleveland scored twice more. Troy Grosenick stopped 18 of 21 shots and was unfortunately conferred the loss.

For the second game of the series, the Barracuda opted to start Antoine Bibeau. This boded well, as the Barracuda were outshot by the Monsters in the first frame, but Bibeau stopped all 12, while Cleveland’s Matiss Kivlenieks stopped the four shots the Barracuda fired. The Barracuda would outshoot the Monsters over the remainder of the game. Both clubs failed to convert on any power play opportunity. As both teams were scoreless over three periods, the game entered overtime.

Just as it seemed the crowd would be seeing a shootout, Adam Helewka fed Michael Brodzinski for a buzzer-beating game-winning goal, powering the Barracuda to a 1-0 overtime win over the Monsters, and splitting the first of two series between these clubs this season. Bibeau was awarded the win for his 28 save effort, as well as his 11th professional shutout and his first with the Sharks organization. Brodzinski and Bibeau were awarded the first and second stars of the game, respectively for their efforts.

After this road trip, the San Jose Barracuda hold a 3-3-0 record, six points, and a .500 winning percentage, faring about as well as the parent club has over the season’s start. The Barracuda continue their road trip this Friday, October 28th, against the San Antonio Rampage at the AT&T Center.