PREVIEW: Gulls vs. BarracudaDec 19, 2018
The Gulls look to continue their positive momentum with points in back to back games as they continue a three-game homestand when they host the San Jose Barracuda for the second straight game tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego (7 p.m., Mighty 1090).
San Diego (9-11-1-2, 21 points) is coming off a 4-3 comeback win over San Jose (16-3-1-3, 36 points) in which the Gulls overcame an early two-goal deficit to complete a weekend they earned three of a possible four points (1-0-0-1). Tonight will mark the second straight meeting against the Gulls’ northern California rival, and the third of a 10-game season series between the two clubs.
San Jose enters tonight atop the Pacific Division and leading the AHL in points percentage (.783) while they also boast a nine-game point streak (7-0-1-2), the longest current streak in the league.
Gulls forward Adam Cracknell appeared in his first home game with the club Saturday evening, a game that also marked his 500th of his AHL career. He was held scoreless in the contest, but had made a massive impact on the game as he netted the game-deciding shootout goal in the fifth round.
“You look at a team like San Jose, they’re at the top of our division and have a great hockey team.” said the newly-acquired Cracknell. “To get a win like that at home, I know San Diego has been playing some good hockey lately and just not getting the wins. To come back, down two goals, and win that game is a big momentum thing for us and we’ll carry it into (next game).”
All-time, San Diego has an 18-11-2-1 record in 31 prevoius matchups, with an 11-3-1-1 mark at home. Corey Tropp leads all active Gulls with 12 points and eight assist over 19 career games against the Barracuda, while Kalle Kossila paces the club with six goals. In seven career games vs. San Jose, Kevin Boyle has posted a 3-3-1 record with a 2.64 GAA and 9.20 SV%.
“We always talked about how much every game matters,” said Gulls forward Sam Carrick who has recorded points in three straight games (2G/3A) and 10 points in his last six games (5G/5A). “Coming into this Christmas break, we want to be on a roll. We want to be feeling good. There are still lots of hockey games left, so we’re not panicking by any means, but now is the time to go on a run, string a bunch of wins together, and climb back up the standings.”
In addition to Carrick’s three-game point streak, rookie forwards Troy Terry (three games, 0-3=3) and Joseph Blandisi (three games, 1-2=3), and defenseman Andy Welinski (three games, 0-3-3) each enter tonight’s game with points in their last three games.
The day following the shootout loss to the Gulls, the Barracuda traveled to Citizens Business Bank where they would score the first three goals of the game and ride their early lead to a 5-2 victory over the Ontario Reign.
Offensively, San Jose is led by left wing Francis Perron, who has 23 points (11G/12A) in 23 games this season. But it has been San Jose’s goaltending and defense that have buoyed the Bay Area club to the best record in the AHL.
The Barracuda goaltending duo of rookie Josef Korenar and Antoine Bibeau have excelled in goal for the Barracuda, as both netminders rank first and second respectively among AHL leaders in goals against average (GAA), and second and third in save percentage (SV%). Korenar has earned a 10-1-1 record with a 1.99 GAA and .929 SV% in 12 appearances, while Bibeau (6-2-3) has posted a 2.22 GAA and .924 SV% in 11 games.
Not only do the Barracuda boast one of the league’s best penalty kills (86.1%, fourth in the AHL), but they also have been shorthanded the least amount of times in the AHL with only 79 power plays allowed this season. However, San Jose has struggled on the power play with 14 goals on the second fewest opportunities in the league at 97 (14.4%, 25th in the AHL).