photo from sjbarracuda.com
By Marko Ukalovic
The Stockton Heat are proving themselves to be a power house in the Pacific Division. They used two goals in the third period to put a close game out of reach in a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Barracuda on Sunday evening at Stockton Arena.
Despite putting up a season high of 49 shots on goal, San Jose has dropped three out of their last four games and were swept in their weekend series with their NorCal rival. Stockton has won four in a row and sit in second place with 37 points.
Stockton (17-5-1-2) got off to a fast start in the first period when Matthew Phillips scored his second goal in two games against San Jose. Brandon Davidson and Byron Forese assisted on Phillips’ 11th goal of the season at the 1:17 mark.
Heat goalie Jon Gillies made his presence known in the opening 20 minutes as he stopped all 21 ‘Cuda shots he faced in frustrating San Jose’s offensive attack.
Stockton jumped out to a 2-0 lead just 30 seconds into the second period. Alan Quine skated up from the right wing back up towards the blue line where he found Buddy Robinson alone on the left wing. Robinson then fired a one-timer past ‘Cuda goalie Andrew Shortridge for his 12th goal of the season.
San Jose (9-13-0-2) cut the lead in half at the mid-point of the second period. Manny Weiderer won a faceoff inside the Heat zone back up to Thomas Gregoire. Gregoire quickly fed a pass up to Nick DeSimone at the point and the ‘Cuda defenseman rocketed a shot top-shelf into the upper left corner of the net beating Gillies for his second goal of the season at the 10:06 mark.
Stockton regained their two-goal lead just four seconds into their power play with Jayden Halbgewachs in the sinbin for hooking. Glenn Gawdin won the faceoff draw back up to the point to Justin Kirkland. The left winger sent in a wrist shot that change direction on Shortridge when it was deflected off Trevor Carrick’s body and sneaked into the back of the net for Kirkland’s fifth goal of the season at the 15:01 mark.
The ‘Cuda once again cut the lead back to a one-goal deficit 68 seconds later when Maxim Letunov skated in from the behind the net and centered a back-door pass to a crashing Lukas Radil, who tapped home the puck to the left side of Gillies for his first goal as a member of the Barracuda and fifth of his AHL career at the 16:09 mark. Radil now has points in both games he has played in with the ‘Cuda this season.
Stockton put the game away with two goals in the first eight minutes of the third period.
Adam Ruzicka led a rush from his own blue line and found Alex Gallant in the neutral zone. Gallant raced down the left wing and from a tough angle sniped home the puck on the short side of Shortridge for his second goal of the season at the 4:27 mark.
Then four minute later Quine fed a pass down low to Gawdin who centered the puck over to Phillips in the middle of slot and he snapped a home a one-timer top-shelf in the upper left corner for his second goal of the evening and 12th of the season at the 8:47 mark.
Gillies stopped 47 of the 49 shots the ‘Cuda peppered him with to earn his sixth victory on the season. The 47 saves were the second most of Gillies’ career. Shortridge, whose bad luck in between the pipes continues, made 22 saves on 27 shots in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: San Jose was 0-for-6 on the power play. Stockton was 1-for-3.
DeSimone snapped a 15 game goal-less drought with his goal in the middle frame.
Letunov’s assist on Radil’s goal gives him 20 points on the season to lead the Barracuda in scoring and has points in 10 of his last 11 games.
The announced attendance was 3,344.
UP NEXT: The Barracuda return home to host the Ontario Reign on Wednesday 12/18 at 7:00 pm at SAP Center.