Sweepin' San Jose

Rafferty, Tracey Lead Gulls Past Barracuda On Third Jersey Night

Nov 26, 2021

By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com

Talk about winning in style.

Brayden Tracey scored the game-winning goal – and collected a second consecutive multi-point performance - to lead San Diego to a 4-2 victory tonight at Pechanga Arena San Diego. The Gulls debut a new third jersey – the first in their American Hockey League history – welcoming in their new sweater with a fourth consecutive victory, extending their season-long win streak.

"We’re coming together really good right now," Tracey said. "We’re a really tight room, really tight room. If we just keep building off of it, if we follow the structure, we keep going with that and keep pushing, teams might struggle with us. We have a good group in here."

Brogan Rafferty collected 1-1=2 and Nikolas Brouillard extended his point streak to a career-high five games in the win. Olle Eriksson Ek stopped 26 shots, pushing his career record to 5-0-0-0 against San Jose.

WATCH: Rafferty Scores First Goal In New Sweater

Joachim Blichfeld scored the lone goal for the Barracuda, who suffered a fourth consecutive loss. Alexei Melnichuk put forth a stellar effort in the loss, making 22 saves in the loss, several of them highlight-reel stops. 

The San Jose netminder set the tone early, turning away Bryce Kindopp to keep San Diego off the board just past the halfway mark of the opening frame.

The right wing dug the puck out from along the side boards, sending a bank pass to a streaking Buddy Robinson through the middle of the ice. The forward drove through the center of the San Jose defensive zone, taking a pass from Robinson and finding himself alone on Melnichuk. He tried to snap a shot low to the glove side, but the Barracuda netminder came to the top of his crease and snagged his attempt.

Following the same script of the previous three meetings with the Barracuda, the Gulls opened the scoring. Brogan Rafferty did the honors, blasting a point shot past Melnichuk with 3:05 left in the first frame.

O'Regan won a faceoff, and Brouillard filtered the puck back to the point. Rafferty collected the puck and took his shot, sending it through a high screen and past Melnichuk for his third goal of the season.

With an assist, Brouillard extended his career-high point streak to five games (2-6=8). He entered the game leading all AHL defensemen in scoring during the month of November and leads San Diego in assists (9) and is second in points (12).

O’Regan almost doubled San Diego’s lead early in the second period, but another dazzling save from Melnichuk denied the veteran center.

San Jose turned it over in the middle of their defensive zone, and O'Regan worked a give-and-go with Alex Limoges. Melnichuk didn't follow the pass, instead ranging across the crease with his pad to kick out O'Regan's attempt.

Blichfeld tied the game at one with a power-play goal 4:05 into the middle period.

From there, the Gulls would go on the attack. They held the Barracuda to just one shot over the next three-plus minutes, dominating the puck and keeping San Jose hemmed in their own end.

It paid off, as Tracey found the back of the net to put San Diego ahead by one with 7:58 remaining in the middle frame.

The right wing collected a loose puck behind the net. With no one around him, he curled toward the side of the net and found open space at the near post, rifling a shot past Melnichuk for his fifth goal of the season.

"Yeah, I kind of saw Morgy (Adams-Moisan) there in the slot and I was looking, looking," Tracey said. "The d-man changed his stick to the other way so I took a look at the net and it ended up going in."

Gulls head coach Joel Bouchard left the game impressed with the team's play in the period.

"Our second period today was probably one of our best periods of the year of our second periods so obviously, a coach will look for sixty perfect minutes-that’s not going to happen," he said. "But again, we came back to grit and principle and buying in and I’m very proud of the way the guys just kind of stick together through that kind of adversity the games will bring you because they will bring you. It ain’t going to be perfect all the time, but I’m happy the way we clawed on mentally and physically in games."

As they had in the previous three games, the Gulls scored a key third-period goal to extend their advantage.

Kindopp struck on the power play, deflecting home a pass from Limoges for an insurance marker with 6:31 left in regulation.

Tracey started the play, cutting through the neutral zone and leaving a pass for Limoges at the blue line. The left wing carried it into the faceoff circle, where his pass found a streaking Kindopp alone in the slot. The right wing perfectly deflected the pass by a beleaguered Melnichuk for his second goal of the season.

With an assist on the goal, Tracey recorded a second-straight multi-point game (1-1=2). He has five points in the last two games (3-2=5).

San Jose refused to go quietly, as Blichfeld struck again to bring the Barracuda within one with 33 seconds left in regulation. The Barracuda pulled Melnichuk for the extra attacker and Blichfeld took advantage, finding an open spot in the high slot and ripping a one-timed shot through a screened Eriksson Ek for his fifth goal of the season.

Buddy Robinson would put the game to bed, scoring on the empty net with .4 seconds left in regulation for his first Gulls goal.

San Diego will see a different Pacific Division for the first time in eight days tomorrow, traveling to Bakersfield to face the Condors at Mechanics Bank Arena (7 p.m. PT; TV: AHL TV; RADIO: Gulls Audio Network).

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