Cuda Corner: Emotional weekend in Abbotsford

A trip up to the Great White North saw mixed results for the Barracuda.

It’s been a while since the San Jose Barracuda took a trip to Canada to pay a visit to the Manitoba Moose — who were once the only Canadian team in the AHL’s Western Conference — with the last time that they did so having been in the 2017-18 season.

Last weekend, the Barracuda crossed the border to play the newest team in the league, the Abbotsford Canucks. This past off-season, the Vancouver Canucks relocated their AHL affiliate from Utica to Abbotsford, something I maintain they should have done much sooner than they did, but better late than never. While the first game of the weekend series was an absolute trouncing by the Canucks, the second one proved to be much more dramatic.

Welcome to the Cuda Corner weekly roundup, where I take a look at the week that was for the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate, what opponents lie ahead and which Barracuda players are trending up and trending down.

Friday, Nov. 12 at Abbotsford Canucks: 7-1 loss

It’d be an understatement to say this was not the Barracuda’s best game.

The Barracuda got most of their regular players back in an organizational trickle-down effect when the remaining Sharks players on COVID Protocol re-joined the team, such as Ryan Merkley, Jaycob Megna and John Leonard.

Despite the boost of talent, the Barracuda fell behind quickly in the first period when former Ontario Reign forward Sheldon Rempal scored just one minute and 57 seconds into the game. Jett Woo and Will Lockwood then scored two more unanswered goals to put the Barracuda in a 3-0 hole not even seven minutes into the game. Starting goaltender Zachary Emond was pulled after the third goal, having face just five shots, and was replaced by Alexei Melnichuk. Melnichuk didn’t fare any better, though, allowing four goals on 21 shots.

The only bright spot for the Barracuda in the game was Scott Reedy’s power play goal with two minutes to go in the first period. Outside of that, it was a dreadful night for the Barracuda’s power play, going 1-for-9. Yes, you read that correctly.

Sunday, Nov. 14 at Abbotsford Canucks: 3-2 win (SO)

The closing match-up of the weekend series saw no goals in the first period of play, but lots and lots of emotion.

While trying to make a play behind the net, Joel Kellman was the target of a dangerous hit from Canucks forward Vincent Arseneau. Arseneau, who actually played with the Sharks’ AHL organization for seven games between 2015 and 2017, was assessed a match penalty for the hit. Kellman left the ice on a stretcher, but gave a thumbs-up to the crowd and was responsive later that night.

Tensions were quite high after the hit: there were over 30 combined penalty minutes in the first period alone, including a mini-line brawl after Noah Gregor and Will Lockwood dropped the gloves. Nick Cicek and Phil Di Giuseppe got into a tussle as well, and were given two roughing minors each.

Much like the previous game, the Canucks were first to score. Chase Wouters netted the opening goal of the game three minutes and 35 seconds into the second period. In contrast to the previous game, though, the Barracuda answered back quickly, with Evan Weinger scoring his second goal of the season just over a minute after Wouters’ goal. Late in the period, Jarid Lukosevicus pulled the Canucks back in front, but Noah Gregor’s goal in the third period tied the game. It stayed scoreless all the way through overtime, until Sasha Chmelevski got the game-winning (and only) goal of the shootout.

Wednesday, Nov. 17 vs. Bakersfield Condors: 4-3 win

The Barracuda came home on Wednesday night for the first of a three-game homestand, first playing the Bakersfield Condors. The game marked the return of netminder Zach Sawchenko, who was activated from COVID Protocol.

Joachim Blichfeld started the scoring early in the first period with a power play goal only three minutes and 13 seconds into the game, but the Condors answered back in rapid succession. Brad Malone got the Condors on the board a little more than two minutes after Blichfeld’s goal, then Graham McPhee scored 22 seconds after that to give the Condors their first lead of the night. Cooper Marody scored his sixth goal of the season later on in the first to put the Barracuda down 3-1.

Despite the familiar deficit heading into the first intermission, the Barracuda flipped the script from last Friday night and found a way back into the game. Joachim Blichfeld scored his second goal of the game, again on the power play, with an absolute laser of a shot after some nifty movement from Ryan Merkley on the blue line.

Scott Reedy continued his hot streak roughly two minutes later, scoring his fifth goal of the season to tie the game.

With under ten minutes to go in regulation, it was once again Reedy who came up big, scoring his second goal of the night and the eventual game-winner, leading the Barracuda to a 4-3 comeback victory.

Trending Up: The aforementioned Scott Reedy is quietly making his case for a call-up to the Sharks.

The 2017 fourth-round pick has been seeing first-line ice time with Noah Gregor and Jayden Halbgewachs, as well time on the power play, and returns have been very good so far. Reedy has scored 5 points in his last five games, and is currently second in scoring on the team with 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists) on the season. While Reedy’s shooting percentage is currently at an unsustainable 50 percent, Reedy is certainly showing that his hot start may be no fluke.

Trending Down: While it’s not of the utmost concern, the Barracuda could use John Leonard to get going soon.

Leonard started out the season with 2 goals in his first four games, but hasn’t recorded a point since. It’s important to note, though, that Leonard was up with the Sharks as an emergency call-up, skating in five games and recording no points. Leonard was playing on the second line with Sasha Chmelevski and Joachim Blichfeld, so he’ll look to re-gain his scoring touch on that line.

What’s Next

The Barracuda play another weekend set of games on Friday and Saturday against a familiar divisional foe in the San Diego Gulls. Friday night’s game is set to begin at 7 p.m. PT, while Saturday’s game is a matinee puck-drop of 1:15 p.m. as part of a double-header day at SAP Center. The Sharks will take on the Washington Capitals later that night.