Nov. 26, 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Barracuda scored four unanswered goals in the third period in a 5-3 comeback win over the Gulls. The setback was the third consecutive loss for San Diego following back-to-back wins just a week ago to close out a long homestand.

Adam Helewka scored twice for San Jose (8-8-0-1, 17 pts.) in the third and the Gulls (7-10-1-0, 15 pts.) fell for only the second time in club history when leading after two periods (67-2-2-0 all-time since 2015-16).

“Experience and passion to finish it off. I think we had a bit of a mindset that they were just going to quit and the game was over and we would get back on the bus with two points and have a nice night,” said Gulls head coach Dallas Eakins. “That doesn’t happen in the game anymore. I’m not sure what lead is safe, even these three and four-goal leads. You see it in the NHL all the time, team’s come storming back. That was a big learning lesson for this group tonight.

“Again experience, and if you rate your players every night, usually your more veteran guys after a season (have) a pretty even line,” added Eakins. “With your younger guys it’s mountains and valleys and that does happen on a night-to-night basis. We would have like to start better. Everything was great going into the third and we just didn’t keep playing and it firmly bit us on the [rear end].”

An otherwise uneventful first period was interrupted at the 11:55 mark when Barracuda captain John McCarthy walked into the slot and deposited a pass from Marcus Sorensen above the right shoulder of Gulls goaltender Reto Berra (1-2-1) when Rudolfs Balcers retrieved a puck out of the right corner and cycled to Sorensen who found McCarthy in turn.

The Barracuda curiously replaced starting goaltender Troy Grosenick with Antoine Bibeau in goal to begin the second period, and the Gulls scored just 50 seconds into the period to knot the game at 1-1. Rookie center Julius Nattinen raced up the left wing and sniped a wrist shot over the blocker of Bibeau for his fourth goal of the season.

Less than three minutes later, rookie Austin Ortega one-timed a Sam Carrick cross-ice pass for his second of the year into the yawning cage to give San Diego its first lead of the contest. Just 14 seconds later Eric Fehr found Giovanni Fiore at the back door who beat Bibeau to extend the lead to 3-1. Fehr’s assist was his first as a Gull and Fiore’s goal, his fourth, marked the third goal on as many shots against a shell-shocked Bibeau. Nattinen also earned an assist on Fiore’s goal, his first professional assist. The quick-strike trio of goals, all scored by rookies, marked the fastest three goals scored this season at just 3:21 apart, and the quickest three goals since Max Gortz, Clayton Stoner and Kevin Roy scored goals 1:59 apart in the first period Mar. 31, 2017 at Tucson.

The start of the third period would see a reversal of fortunes for San Diego, as San Jose mounted a furious comeback.

Rudolfs Balcers knocked home a Radim Simek pass on the power play at 3:57 to pull the Barracuda within one and just 23 seconds later Helewka saw his ricochet off a Mitch Hults blocked shot to land right on his tape for a tap-in goal. Helewka would burn the Gulls again, this time snapping a shot through traffic from the right circle to give San Jose a 4-3 lead at 10:38, one they wouldn’t relinquish. The sequence started following a tremendous save by Berra on a breakaway by Helewka, but the Gulls defense was unable to clear the puck out of the zone by the time the froward found the back of the net for the game winner.

“We weren’t able to maintain our energy, we started off strong and kind of died down there. They got the best of us,” said Fiore. “They had momentum for sure. As a player and as a team you can’t let them get the best of you when they have momentum. You have to shut their momentum off right away and not let them build more of it.”

A couple of minutes later Olivier Archambault scored the game’s final goal on a 2-on-1 rush at 12:25 to give the Barracuda their largest lead of the day, putting a damper on any Gulls comeback hopes. Antoine Bibeau finished off his 14 save performance in relief of Grosenick to improve to 5-3-0 on his season.

The Gulls continue their five-game road trip Friday, Dec. 1 as they took on Southern California rival Ontario Reign at Citizens Business Bank Arena (7 p.m., Mighty 1090-AM).