Barracuda defeats Condors 2-1 for Coach Roy Sommer’s 700th career AHL win

Photo credit: @sjbarracuda

By: Alexandra Evans

BAKERSFIELD–First things first, the San Jose Barracuda’s win over the Bakersfield Condors tonight marked their coach Roy Sommer’s 700th career win, the most wins of any coach in AHL history.

Roster update: Marcus Sorensen was called up to the Sharks yesterday. He exceeds all Barracuda players in points with 14, and ranks T-2nd in goals (5) and assists (9). Manuel Wiederer has also returned to the ice following a concussion. Also, defenseman Michael Brodzinski was moved to the forward position, playing right wing for the evening.

Both teams excelled defensively in the first period, though the Cuda could not manage to make it past the Condors’ defense and were, at one point, outshot 9-0. Forward Iiro Pakarinen, who was recently reassigned to the Condors from the Edmonton Oilers (their NHL affiliate), made a wrist shot over Cuda goaltender Antoine Bibeau’s to give the Condors a 1-0 lead on the power play at the 12:42. Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald tied the score at 16:51 with a wrist shot from the blue line, assisted by Jeremy Roy and Rudolfs Balcers. The score remained tied 1-1 at the end of the first period.

Each team held one another scoreless in the second period, at the end of which the Condors had 19 shots compared to the Cuda’s nine. Wiederer handed the Cuda a 2-1 victory when he notched a goal, his second of the season, at 8:42, assisted by John McCarthy and Jacob Middleton.

Bibeau made 30 saves on 31 shots for his fifth straight win this season, defeating Condors goaltender Eddie Pasquale who made 18 saves on 20 shots.

The Cuda will face the Condors, who beat them 6-0 in the preseason, another nine times this season. They are back at home on Wednesday, December 6 to face the Stockton Heat.

Barracuda Defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald – Profile

By Alexandra Evans

SAN JOSE—Cavan Fitzgerald is commencing his first season of professional hockey with the Barracuda this year, which he could not be more excited for.

“Getting to where I am today [with the Sharks] has been the biggest accomplishment of my hockey career,” he said after a morning practice.

The 21 year-old defenseman grew up in Boston and was influenced by his two older brothers (now 24 and 26), both of whom played hockey growing up. He left home for the first time at age 14 to play hockey in Nova Scotia, Canada, during which he lived with his grandparents. In 2013, he began his career with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (having played for the Shawinigan Cataractes and the Cape Breton Tradesmen before that, splitting time between the two teams). He had 31 points (four goals and 27 assists) in 40 games with Halifax in 2014-15 as a rookie.

After the first seven games of the following season (2015-16), Fitzgerald was ranked second on the team in goals (with three) and T-3rd in the QMJHL. His Halifax career would come to a close after three more games for a total of 50. During this time, he played alongside current Sharks forward and 2015 draft pick Timo Meier and, with his rankings, he was tied with Jeremy Roy, who is now one of his fellow defenseman on the Barracuda.

Fitzgerald attended the Sharks’ training camp in 2015 as a tryout before inking a three-year entry deal with the franchise that October.

“The Sharks are an unbelievable team, San Jose is an unbelievable city. It means the world to be a part of this organization. Every step of the way, you can’t take for granted.”

When becoming a pro hockey player, one is not only encouraged to improve on the ice on a day-to-day basis. Independence plays a big role in self growth off the ice, according to Fitzgerald, who is living on his own for the first time and learning the fundamentals of household basics, such as cooking, he noted. Also, he admitted that he seldom misses the snow. San Jose has a lot in store for him as both hockey season and his residence continue.

Barracuda Outshines Stars 6-1, Sorensen Gets A Hat Trick, Labanc Returns

Photo credit: @sjbarracuda

By Alexandra Evans

SAN JOSE — The Barracuda have returned to San Jose from their road trip to the Midwest, Texas, and Southern California (a trip that came with three consecutive losses) to face the Texas Stars yet again. The Stars overthrew them 3-2 in a shootout last Saturday, October 28. Tonight, the Cuda refused to be outshined again and crushed them 6-1.

Roster update: Kevin Labanc was reassigned to the Barracuda from the Sharks today. In 13 games with the Sharks this season, he has posted three goals and four assists for seven points, along with a minus-3 rating and 10 penalty minutes.

The force was strong in the first period, and I am not just saying that because the previous night (November 4th’s match against the Anaheim Ducks) was Star Wars night for the Sharks! Marcus Sorensen scored two goals less than three minutes apart, the first one on the power play (Ludwig Bystrom scored the Stars’ first goal of the game 59 seconds before Sorensen’s second goal, on the power play). Nearing the end of the period, at 17:19, Filip Sandberg scored after being handed the puck by Rudolfs Balcers, who received the pass from Brandon Mashinter. In some of the earlier games this season, the Cuda had put up numerous penalties in a single period alone. There were only two in the first tonight.

The second period remained rather quiet, and ended scoreless. Following the first intermission, the boys stepped on the ice looking confident, as they should after a killer first period. Three goals in one period alone is something the Cuda had yet to accomplish prior to tonight’s match.

Five minutes into the third period, the Cuda has 25 shots on goal. Adam Helewka and Julius Bergman each fired the puck at the net within a few minutes of one another, hitting the rim and bouncing back after each player’s attempt. Then, almost eight minutes in, Sorensen notched a hat trick, assisted by Danny O’Regan and Labanc. Approximately three minutes later, Cavan Fitzgerald scored his first goal of the season, making the score 5-1. Oliver Archambault (who was recently recalled from the Allen Americans of the ECHL) wanted in on the action, and scored (his first goal as well) at the 18:44 mark. The final score was 6-1.

Sorensen, who played on the offensive line with O’Regan and Labanc (as he had last year), spoke with the media about his hat trick following the match. This was his first time scoring since opening night.

“It’s huge to be part of the offensive [line], especially on a power play. You need to help the team,” he said.

“[Sorensen] has always had potential, he just found the back of the net, which made an easy night. It was awesome to watch,” Coach Roy Sommer said.

Labanc also spoke about his reassignment to the Cuda. It came as a shocker for some, but his A-game is as strong as always.

“It was definitely fun [playing with the Sharks]. You want to come with the right attitude, you don’t want to think you’re sent down, you just have to be motivated to get back up, and be a good leader for all of the young guys, show them what it takes to play up there [in the NHL]. Work hard, work everyday.

“I learn from Jumbo [Joe Thornton], he’s always working. No matter what or where I play, you’ve got to have that work ethic, that’s what will make you a good hockey player. I’m down here [with the Cuda], so I’m going to work and just do the best that I can.

“Just because you get sent down, don’t be sorry for yourself. Instead, make a statement. Let them know you’re going to play hard no matter what…don’t waste a day,” Labanc shared.

Labanc, who enjoyed reconnecting with last year’s teammates, also discussed the smooth flow between him, Sorensen, and O’Regan.

“I knew I was playing with Marcus and Danny beforehand, so I knew we had chemistry. You just do what you can, play hard, and goals will come,” he said.

I also spoke with Helewka, Archambault, and Fitzgerald on their overall thoughts and feelings about tonight’s big win.

“The talk in the room before the game was ‘it’s a must-win for our confidence.’ We played like that, it showed, and we had success because of it,” Helewka said.

Helewka’s hand-eye coordination has really stood out to me so far this season; he truly knows where the net is, he knows where to send the puck in order to get it into the net, and how to find the “holes” around the net minder. He has been the king of assists thus far.

“I’ve always kind of worked on [my hand-eye coordination], so I guess it might be progressing this year,” Helewka told me after I brought the subject up with him.

Archambault and Fitzgerald scored their first goals of the season in tonight’s match, Archambault’s being his first in the AHL.

“It’s fun to get the first one out of the way, a good pass by my teammates [Tim Clifton and Radim Simek], so I was happy,” Archambault said.

“We had a lot of confidence in everyone tonight, in all three zones we felt good,” Fitzgerald said. “It was a big bounce-back game for us. We knew we needed to come back… it’s good to get that first win [since returning to San Jose] out of the way.”