Leonard’s late goal lifts Barracuda over Eagles 5-4

San Jose Barracuda John Leonard gets the Barracuda the go ahead goal against the Colorado Eagles at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland on Oct 22, 2021 (file photo thehockeywriters.com

by Marko Ukalovic

LOVELAND, Colo—In a game that went back and forth, John Leonard provided the heroics for the ‘Cuda.

Leonard scored the game winning goal late in the third period as the the San Jose Barracuda defeated the Colorado Eagles 5-4 on Friday evening at the Budweiser Events Center.

San Jose earned its first win of the season of the ’21-’22 season. Colorado have lost three straight games to start the season.

Leonard pick pocketed Jordan Gross at the red line and raced down the right side on a breakaway. Leonard went sliding down before stuffing the puck underneath Eagles goalie Justus Annunen for his first goal of the season with 4:12 remaining in the game.

Colorado (0-2-0-1) drew first blood early in the first period. Former Barracuda defenseman Keaton Middleton sent a cross ice pass from the left end line over to Alex Beaucage who crashed in from the right wing. The puck hit off a Barracuda defenseman’s stick right to the tape of Beaucage who deposited the puck into the back of the net for his first goal of the season at the 6:13 mark.

The Eagles controlled the majority of the play in the opening frame as they outshot the Barracuda 12-7.

San Jose (1-1-0-0) answered back with two goals in 17 second span early in the first second period.

After a faceoff win by Dylan Gambrell, Noah Gregor sent a shot attempt behind the net that bounced off to the right where a pinching Nick Merkley came in and put the puck into the short corner of the past Annunen for the team’s first goal of the season and his first at the 4:07 mark.

The ‘Cuda then gained possession of the puck inside the Eagles zone where Noah Gregor sent a pass back to the left point where Nick Cicek blasted a one-timer through traffic into the back of the net for his first career AHL goal for the rookie defenseman at the 17:24 mark.

Colorado answered back with the equalizer four minutes later. Kiefer Sherwood stripped the puck off two Barracuda players inside the Eagles zone. Sherwood backhanded the puck out of the zone that sent Dylan Sikura on a breakaway and the former Henderson Silver Knight beat ‘Cuda goalie Alexei Melnichuk with a wrist shot for his first goal of the season at the 8:31 mark.

The Eagles regained the lead on a two-on-one break. Callahan Burke set up Dalton Smith with a cross ice pass and Smith buried the one-timer past Melnichuk for his first goal of the season at the 16:59 mark.

San Jose scored the equalizer 44 seconds later. Timur Ibragimov led a counter attack into the Eagles zone. Ibragimov sent a back pass over to Jayden Halbgewachs in the left shot and the veteran forward rifled home a wrist shot to the far side to beat Annunen for his first goal of the season at the 17:43 mark.

Colorado went up 4-3 with a power play goal right at the end of the period. With the ‘Cuda shorthanded due to a minor penalty for too many men on the ice, Justin Barron snapped a wrist shot top shelf through a sea of traffic in front of the crease for his first goal of the season with one second remaining in the period.

The goal was reviewed and the call stood as it was determined the goal crossed the line before the horn sounded.

The Eagles outshot the ‘Cuda 15-8 in a wild middle frame that featured six combined goals.

The ‘Cuda evened the score to start the third period. Ryan Merkley skated in from the point to the right slot where he found Scott Reedy with a back door pass on the left in front of the net and Reedy tapped home the puck into an open net for his first goal of the season at the 1:58 mark.

Melnichuk finished the game with 21 saves on 25 shots to earn his first win of the season. Annunen made 29 saves on 34 shots in the losing effort.

GAME NOTES: San Jose went 0-for-2 on the power play and are 0-for-7 to start the season. Colorado was 1-for-2.

San Jose is now 8-5-2-1 against Colorado in the all-time series.

UP NEXT: San Jose and Colorado wrap up their two-game series on Saturday 10/23 at 6:05pm at Budweiser Events Center.

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