Bitten By The Barracuda

Third-Period Comeback Sinks Gulls As Losing Streak Hits Three

Dec 18, 2021

By AJ Manderichio/

A furious third-period comeback by the San Jose Barracuda grounded the San Diego Gulls 4-1 tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego. 

Evander Kane led the charge for the Barracuda, collecting 1-1=2 points to extend his scoring streak to four games. Scott Reedy and Jaycob Megna collected shorthanded tallies while Patrick Holaway scored his first American Hockey League goal to power San Jose’s victory.

San Jose goaltender Alexei Melnichuk stopped 26-of-27 shots to even his record at 5-5-1.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx scored a power-play goal, his first of the season, in the loss. Olle Eriksson Ek suffered his first career loss to the Barracuda, stopping 28-of-31 shots in defeat.

“Well, we took charge more,” Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard said. “The first two games, I think the first two games left a little bit of mark on the confidence side. Obviously, we got banged up a lot, like I said last night. Today was better. Didn’t really love the third period on some breakdowns and didn’t love that we had an opportunity to score a goal and we didn’t. 

“Guys have good intention, we’re learning. We’re twenty-some games into the season. It’s going to be a tough journey, guys. We have a lot of young guys and lot of guys that are learning how to play together so I’m not happy about the week at all. I thought we took a lot of strides in the last month or six weeks, but this week was definitely not the week we wanted. Some of the guys realized what the American League is all about.”

With Gulls fans filling the arena eagerly awaiting the chance to participate in the team’s Teddy Bear Toss – an annual event where fans fill the ice with stuffed animals following the team’s first goal – the goaltenders set the tone with several big saves.

Melnichuk would start, turning away Vinni Lettieri and the recently-reassigned Buddy Robinson on back-to-back San Diego shorthanded chances.

Eriksson Ek would match his counterpart, making two saves just past the six-minute mark to keep San Jose off the board. His first came on Holaway, denying the defenseman with a poke check. The puck laid in the slot, where Jeffrey Viel tried to whack it past the Swedish netminder. Eriksson Ek met his chance, deflecting the puck up and over the net.

Melnichuk would once again stand tall, denying Robinson on a penalty shot attempt with 8:42 left in the opening frame.

In the 13th penalty shot in franchise history, Robinson broke in from center ice and swung wide, cutting back to the front and pulling the puck from his backhand to his forehand. Melnichuk slid his pads across the crease and kicked away the bid. The attempt marked the first penalty shot for San Diego since Bryce Kindopp's successful attempt against Justus Annunen on May 15, 2021.

Overall, the Gulls are 4-for-13 (30.8%) in penalty shots.

The two teams would continue their scoreless battle in the middle frame, trading chances until Groulx’s power-play snipe with 2:13 left in the middle frame.

Danny O'Regan fed a curling Lettieri with a hard pass at center ice. He moved over San Jose's blue line with Groulx in tow, feeding the center with a pass to the left. He let go a wrist shot wired to the top of the net for his first goal of the season.

“We’ve got work to do with Bo (Groulx) in a way that he hasn’t played much this year so it was good for him to score, but obviously, there’s stuff we’ve got to work with him,” Bouchard said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t have much experience. Had a great camp, obviously, in Anaheim. Now, he hasn’t played in a little while so three games like that for him- it’s a lot. He did push the pace today, he did work hard and we’ll keep working with him.”

From there the bears flew, with players and staff joining together to collect the stuffed animals. The Gulls will donate these bears to several local charities, including Ronald McDonald House, SAY San Diego, Father Joe’s Villages and more.

"You know, we have great fans," Robinson said following the game. "They’re always out here supporting us. There was a lot of bears out there tonight, our arms got a little tired from pushing them around so we appreciate all the support and we just hope they keep coming back and we’re going to turn the ship around. It’s going to be a fun, long season for us."

The momentum from the goal failed to carry over for the Gulls, who saw San Jose storm back to steal the win in the game’s final frame.

Holaway earned a second scoring opportunity and didn’t miss, tying the game at 4:08 of the period. A loose puck found its way to the high slot, where the defenseman collected and found a shooting lane. His attempt worked itself through a mass of bodies and past a screened Eriksson Ek for Holaway’s milestone marker.

San Jose continued its push, with Kane scoring the eventual game-winning goal at 9:40 of the period. The Barracuda forecheck forced a turnover deep in the San Diego zone, and Kane jumped on a loose puck in the middle of the ice, scooping it onto his stick and firing it through the legs of Eriksson Ek to give his team a 2-1 lead.

Just under three minutes later, Scott Reedy extended the Barracuda lead with their first shorthanded goal of the game. 

As 4-on-4 play expired and San Diego started a power play, San Jose’s Artemi Kniazev fed the puck to Reedy, who carried it into the Gulls zone. He found Kane in the slot, who sent a low, hard shot on Eriksson Ek. The Gulls goaltender made the initial save, but Reedy battled at the front of the net and slammed home the rebound for his 13th goal of the season.

Reedy leads all American Hockey League rookies in goals and is third among first-year skaters with 13-9=22 points.

With the assist, Kane collected second multi-point performance of the season and extended his point streak to four games (2-6=8).

Megna, San Diego’s former captain, would seal the victory late in regulation. Pressing for the tying goal and on a power play, San Diego pulled Eriksson Ek for the extra attacker. After a collision in the corner of his own end, Megna collected the puck and sent it the length of the ice and into the empty net for his second goal of the season.

"It was tough," Robinson said. "You know, you’re in the game for the whole game, you’re controlling it for most of it, you get that lead and you’ve just gotta find a way to hang onto it. They’re a skilled team, they play an up and down game and we can’t get sucked into that. We’ve got to play our game you know, when we get that lead and it’s hard to get points in this league. So, especially when you’re playing division rivals very other night, you’ve got to make sure you hang onto those leads, but we’re going to work on it. We’re going to get better, we’re going to comeback and get a couple points back on Wednesday."

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