Photo credit: @sjbarracuda
By Marko Ukalovic
The San Jose Barracuda have made such a bad habit of not being able to close out games this season and they still haven’t found the answer to breaking it as the Stockton Heat scored two unanswered goals in the third period to defeat their NorCal rival 3-2 on Saturday night at Stockton Arena.
San Jose has hit a season low six-game losing streak and continue to anchor down the cellar of the Pacific Division. For Stockton, they won the second game of a back-to-back as they lost to Tucscon the night before. They are currently 2-0 against San Jose this season.
Stockton scored the game-winning goal in heart breaking fashion. Ryan Lomberg led a odd man rush down the left boards when he centered a pass down the middle to a streaking Justin Kirkland, who buried the puck into the back of the net for his second goal of the season with just 17 seconds left in regulation.
“I would say that was right up there with the most complete game we’ve played.” said Kirkland. “We had everybody going, everybody making a difference.”
The Heat (9-3-1-2) drew first blood just 63 seconds in to start the game. Zac Rinaldo skated from behind the net and centered a pass over to Lomberg, whose one-timer beat ‘Cuda goalie Andrew Shortridge for his sixth goal of the season.
San Jose (4-8-0-1) responded with two unanswered goals in a span of 74 seconds. Danil Yurtaykin fed a pass up to the blueline over to Anti Suomela. The Finnish forward quickly touched pass it to the right over to Jeffery Viel, who skated past a Stockton defender and roofed a wrist shot top-shelf over the shoulder of Heat goalie Artyom Zagidulin for his third goal of the season at the 10:02 mark.
Then, Keaton Middleton fired a shot from the left point that Evan Weinger tipped on goal that Zagidulin stopped but the puck trickled out in front of the net where Alex True skated in from the corner and fired a back-hander into the back of the net for his co-team leading fourth goal of the season at the 11:16 mark.
Stockton tried to grab the momentum back in the second period as they outshot San Jose 15-10, but Shortridge held his ground not allowing a goal in the middle frame. Each team had a power play opportunity, but neither were able to cash it in.
“I think overall the team played a good, responsible brand of hockey tonight,” said Heat head coach Cail MacLean. “Huge play at the end to get that extra point and not have the game go into overtime.”
The Heat tied the game exactly at the nine-minute mark of the third period on the power play. Byron Froese threw the puck out in front of the crease that went off of Shortridge. A failed clearing attempt by Nick DeSimone went right to the stick of Luke Philp and he quickly fired a wrist shot past Shortridge for his third goal of the season.
“The power play there we excuted the breakout (well),” said Philp. “I just had to put it in the empty net. It’s nice to get em and I hope I continue doing that.”
Zagidulin made 29 saves on 31 shots to earn his sixth win of the season. Shortridge suffered another tough luck loss making 33 saves on 36 shots. The 33 saves matched a career best for Shortridge.
GAME NOTES: San Jose was 0/3 on the power play. Stockton went 1/3.
The six-consecutive losses (0-5-0-1) matches the longest such streak in team history and the five consecutive regulation losses is the most in franchise history.
True snapped a five-game scoreless streak and Viel snapped a six-game goalless drought.
The announced attendance was 4,114.
UP NEXT: The Barracuda return home to host the Tucscon Roadrunners on Sunday, November 17 at 5:00 pm at SAP Center.