Photo credit: @sjbarracuda
By Marko Ukalovic
The San Jose Barracuda (1-3) were veterans of playing with their backs against the wall this season. Winning six straight games just to make the playoffs, their luck ran out on their season as the Pacific Division champion Tuscon Roadrunners (3-1) finished off the best of five series 3-1 with a 3-0 shutout victory in Game 4 on Friday evening at Tuscon Convention Center Arena. Tuscon will take on the Texas Stars in the second round of the playoffs.
The Cuda gave a much better performance from the other night, but it wasn’t enough to force a decisive Game 5 as they were shutout in back-to-back games, thanks to another solid performance by goaltender Adin Hill (3-1). Hill stopped all 25 shots in doing his part to help the Roadrunners advanced to the next round. Tuscon outscored San Jose 9-0 in the final two games of the series.
San Jose had an early scoring chance in the first period when captain John McCarthy, with 40 seconds left on the penalty kill, had his short-handed wraparound attempt stopped by a sprawling Hill to keep the puck out of the net.
However, the ice would be tilted in favor of Tuscon in the first 20 minutes. Antoine Bibeau (1-3) was Superman making big saves on a breakaway chance by Michael Bunting eight minutes into the game, robbed Lawson Crouse of a goal two minutes later and a point-blank chance on Mario Kempe after he skated in all alone right out of the penalty box seconds after the Roadrunners killed off his slashing penalty. Tuscon outshot San Jose 10-4.
Joachim Blichfeld’s empty-net chance was taken away when two Roadrunner defensemen collapsed on him to knock the puck away from Blickfeld’s stick two minutes into the second period.
Tuscon would break the seal in the second period after a failed clearing attempt by the Cuda. Carter Camper was able to feed the puck over to Kempe, who snapped home a shot from the hash marks that trickled past Bibeau’s arm into the back of the net for his third goal of the playoffs at the 4:24 mark. Andrew Campbell received the secondary assist.
Conor Garland would give the Roadrunners an insurance goal with his first goal of the series. A Campbell shot from the point rattled off Adam Helweka’s body and hit off Garland into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead at the 4:53 mark in the third period. Dylan Strome received the secondary assist. It was his eight straight game with a point.
Kempe completed the scoring with his fourth goal of the series with an empty-net goal with 59 seconds left to seal the fate for the Cuda.
Bibeau had another MVP performance in net, making 31 saves on 33 shots in the tough luck loss. Hill, over the past two games, stopped 46 Cuda shots.
GAME NOTES: San Jose went 0/2 on the power play. Tuscon went 0/4.
Rourke Chartier and Brandon Mashinter were out of the lineup due to suffering injuries in Game 3. Jon Martin was in the lineup for the Cuda.
The Barracuda resigned defenseman Radim Simek to a two-year contract extension. They also resigned McCarthy to a one-year deal earlier this week.