Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

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USATSI

Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

SAN JOSE – The Barracuda struck for three power play goals, including the game-winner in the second period by Joakim Ryan, in overcoming the Grand Rapids Griffins at SAP Center on Sunday night, 4-2.

San Jose’s victory evens the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series at one game apiece.

Grand Rapids erased a 2-0 hole to tie the game in the middle frame, but less than a minute after Matt Ford knotted the score at 2-2 with a rocket from the circle on a Griffins power play, Ryan’s blast from just inside the blue line at 15:28 staked the Barracuda a lead they would keep for the rest of the night. 

The Barracuda finished 3-for-5 on the power play, after going 0-for-6 in a Game 1 loss on Saturday.

“The power play was a lot better tonight,” Ryan said. “We got set up more. We were able to get shots through from the point.”

One of those shots came early, when defenseman Julius Berman beat goalie Jared Coreau from long range just 3:35 into the game with San Jose on a man advantage. Later in the first, on another power play, Ryan Carpenter found open ice in the slot and redirected a Tim Heed pass at 10:44 for his team-leading eighth of the playoffs.

“Coming out, we wanted to get the first goal tonight,” Carpenter said. “For Bergman to get that first goal was huge for us.”

Ryan and Carpenter both attributed the power play success to winning faceoffs, which is something coach Roy Sommer wanted the club to focus on after it dropped the series opener, 3-1.

Winning faceoffs often is an indication of a team’s compete level, and that, too, was lacking for the Barracuda in an opener in which Sommer said his team played “dumb and slow.” 

Sunday was a much better performance.

“Whenever we’ve had a bad start, or a bad game, the next day these guys have responded,” said Sommer, whose club is the top seed in the Western Conference. “They’ve done it all year.”

The series now shifts to Grand Rapids for the next three games, with Game 3 going Wednesday. The primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the Griffins posted a 25-11-2 record in their own building in the regular season.

The Barracuda, though, should be a confident group on the road. Against San Diego in the second round, San Jose won all three games in Southern California after splitting the first two at home.

“It’s going to be a hell of a series,” Sommer said. “It’s probably going to go the duration, I imagine. Both teams are kind of feeling each other out and kind of have a pretty good idea of what the other guys are doing now.”

Ryan said: “Honestly, I think they are the team in the league that plays the most like us. I felt like last night they did a better job of taking the game to us. I thought we came out better tonight, and we battled harder, competed more, won more pucks. They’re a really good team, it’s going to be a battle the rest of the series, for sure. They’re not going to lay down.”

Barclay Goodrow’s empty netter with 1:06 left in regulation was the only goal in the third period.

The Barracuda outshot the Griffins, 40-35, including a 20-11 advantage in the first period.

With Sharks' roster growing older, Barracuda's success that much sweeter

With Sharks' roster growing older, Barracuda's success that much sweeter

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ top minor league affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, has advanced to the American Hockey League’s conference final round. The best-of-seven series against the Grand Rapids Griffins begins on Saturday at SAP Center for Game 1 and continues on Sunday for Game 2.

Their performance so far, both in the regular season and the playoffs, is encouraging for an organization that fielded an NHL roster in 2016-17 that was among the oldest in the league. The Barracuda is just the opposite. While every AHL roster features young players and prospects, the Barracuda were younger than most.

Essentially, AHL teams are permitted to field no more than six veteran skaters on a nightly basis, or players that have skated in 260 or fewer professional games at the start of the season. Only John McCarthy, who had played in 457 professional games, qualifies as a veteran for San Jose.

“It’s really rare. Most of the year we’ve been the youngest team in the league,” said Sharks assistant general manager Joe Will, who oversees the Barracuda. “If you average it out over the year we’ve been the youngest team in the league while doing this. It’s just a good sign.”

Many of the players on the Barracuda roster were either drafted by the Sharks or unearthed and signed as free agents. Some were high round picks, like Timo Meier (first round, 2015) and Mirco Mueller (first round, 2013), while others like Danny O’Regan (fifth round, 2012), Kevin Labanc (sixth round, 2014) and Joakim Ryan (seventh round, 2012) have been late bloomers. Tim Heed, their top offensive defenseman, and Marcus Sorensen, who cracked the Sharks’ playoff roster, were both signed out of the Swedish League last May. All are under the Sharks’ control past this season (Heed, Ryan, Sorensen and Mueller are restricted free agents).

The added emphasis on accumulating players for the future began in 2013, according to Will. The Sharks selected a total of 24 players in three drafts from 2013-15, utilizing some of their own picks and others acquired through various trades, with 10 of those drafted players appearing in games for the Barracuda throughout the course of this season.

“There’s just a lag time, you don’t see it right away,” Will said. “Sometimes it’s three or four [years]. That’s kind of what it is now, and we just happen to have a very good freshman class, a bunch of young guys coming in at once.”

Considering the uncertainty of the Sharks’ roster next season, with players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau pending unrestricted free agents and others like Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Paul Martin all on the other side of 30, the Barracuda’s rise would seem to be coming at a good time.

Will isn’t afraid to look ahead to training camp already.

“The ultimate motivator is just to have this competition come through,” he said. “I think the players with the Sharks know that the players with the Barracuda are playing really hard, and are going to come into camp and compete for jobs.”

“All these guys going through [the Calder Cup playoffs] right now, it’s just valuable experience. It’s almost like a new season for them. So many of them played [for the Sharks] this year and are candidates to come up for jobs in the near future. It’s really a good thing.”

Barracuda vs. Grand Rapids third round schedule

Game 1 – Saturday, May 20, Grand Rapids @ Barracuda (6 p.m.)
Game 2 – Sunday, May 21, Grand Rapids @ Barracuda (5 p.m.)
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 24, Barracuda @ Grand Rapids (4 p.m.)
Game 4 – Friday, May 26, Barracuda @ Grand Rapids (4 p.m.)
*Game 5 – Saturday, May 27, Barracuda @ Grand Rapids (4 p.m.)
*Game 6 – Tuesday, May 30, Grand Rapids @ Barracuda (7 p.m.)
*Game 7 – Wednesday, May 31, Grand Rapids @ Barracuda (7 p.m.)

* – if necessary

Barracuda power play comes to life in crucial Game 2 win over San Diego

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SAN JOSE BARRACUDA

Barracuda power play comes to life in crucial Game 2 win over San Diego

SAN JOSE – During their impressive regular season in which they claimed the top seed in the Western Conference, the Barracuda relied heavily on their power play. More often than not, it got the job done.

That part of their game hit a snag in the playoffs, though, going just 2-for-26 through the first six games after posting a 23.8 percent success rate in the regular season – second in the AHL.

It’s coming back to life. 

San Jose struck for two power play goals in three chances on Saturday night against San Diego, tying its second round series with the Gulls at one game apiece in a 5-1 win. Five different players scored for San Jose, including power play markers by Ryan Carpenter and Adam Helewka.

“We’re just getting good chances, and I feel like the pucks are going in for us,” Carpenter said.

San Jose jumped out to a 3-0 lead and was never really in danger after dropping the series opener at home on Friday in overtime.

Timo Meier’s end-to-end rush helped generate the first score, when the former first round pick took the puck from behind his own net and weaved into the offensive zone. His backhand attempt was blocked, but DeSimone gathered it in before unleashing a slap shot that beat Jhonas Enroth to the far side at 4:31 of the first period.

DeSimone, a free agent signed out of Union College by the Sharks on March 30, has five points (1g, 4a) in seven playoff games. He looked comfortable – and especially mobile – in Game 2.

“He really gets around the ice nice,” coach Roy Sommer said. “He can really skate.”

The 22-year-old, who posted 19 points in 38 games with Union this season, seems to be adjusting well to the pro game.

“It’s definitely, I wouldn’t say easy, but it’s been a nice transition so far,” DeSimone said.

Carpenter increased the Barracuda to 2-0 at 7:13 on the power play, when his wrister got through Enroth on a shot that should have been stopped by the veteran goalie.

Carpenter, who added a third period assist, continues to lead the Barracuda in playoff scoring with 10 points (6g, 4a) in seven games.

Buddy Robinson’s second period goal at 1:10 bumped the lead to three, when he battled for a loose puck in the slot and managed to put it through. San Diego got on the board at 3:53 on a Sam Carrick goal, but Helewka answered that on the power play at 16:15 to give the Barracuda a 4-1 cushion at the second intermission.

Barclay Goodrow’s marker on a two-on-one with Carpenter just 40 seconds into the third period essentially put the game out of reach.

The series now shifts to San Diego for games three-through-five. The Gulls have won seven straight home games against the Barracuda, including all five meetings this season.

“They got home ice from us,” Sommer said. “We’ve got to go down there and win a couple games. It’s a tough building to play in. They play different down there than they play here. … Guys are ready. We’ll meet the challenge down there.”

Carpenter said: “Wherever we play, we’ve just got to stick to our game plan.”

Games six and seven, if necessary, would be back at SAP Center.