The San Jose Barracuda right winger Scott Reedy (54) does some fancy puck handling against the Colorado Eagles at FivePoint Arena in Irvine the site of the Pacific Division Tournament on Wed May 19, 2021 (@sjbarracuda photo)
by Marko Ukalovic
IRVINE, Calif–The San Jose Barracuda scored three unanswered goals en route to a 5-1 victory over the Colorado Eagles in the third play in game of the Pacific Division tournament on Wednesday evening at FivePoint Arena.
San Jose, winning the fourth seed, advances to the Pacific Division semi-final matchup with the top-seeded Henderson Silver Knights in a best of three series starting on Friday.
This was the first and only meeting between the two teams as they did not play against each other in the abbreviated 2021 season.
San Jose drew first blood late in the first period with an even strength goal. Evan Weinger led a two-on-one odd man rush with Maxim Letunov along the right boards. Weinger made a cross rink pass to Letunov who buried a one-timer past Eagles goalie Justus Annunen on the far side for his first goal of the playoffs at the 14:10 mark.
The Barracuda outshot the Eagles 13-12 after the opening 20 minutes.
The ‘Cuda doubled its lead halfway through the second period. Steenn Pasichnuk fed a pass back out to the point where Zachary Gallant checked his options before blasting a slapshot to the far side just under the crossbar for his first goal of the playoffs at the 9:25 mark.
San Jose scored its third unanswered goal when Ryan Merkley made a move around Mike Vecchione at the right point, skated in to the slot and fired a shot that caromed out to the middle where Kristoff Hrabik fired a wrist shot from the high slot through the five-hole of Annunen for his first goal of the playoff at the 12:36 mark.
It was Hrabik’s first career AHL goal. He was recalled up from the Orlando Solar Bears in his debut for the ‘Cuda.
Colorado cut into San Jose’s lead on the power play late in the middle frame. Vecchione sent in a shot from the left point that ‘Cuda goalie Josef Korenar kicked out to the right. Sampo Ranta needed two chances to bury the puck into the back of the net for his first goal of the playoffs at the 17:47 mark.
The Eagles outshot the Barracuda 14-12 in the second period.
San Jose were awarded a five-minute power play in the first 44 seconds of the third period when Miikka Salomaki was given a five-minute major penalty for boarding on Jacob Middelton. Salomaki pushed Middleton into the right boards as he was in a vulnerable position.
Colorado was able to keep San Jose from adding to their lead as they killed the major penalty to Salomaki.
The ‘Cuda put the game away late in the third period with two empty net goals. First, Nicolas Meloche scored his first of the playoffs at the 17:20 mark. Then Hrabik scored his second of the game with his empty netter at the 18:58 mark.
Korenar finished the game stopping 32 of the 33 shots he faced in earning his second straight play in game win. Annunen made 30 saves on 33 shots in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: San Jose went 0-for-2 on the power play. Colorado was 1-for-2.
UP NEXT: The Barracuda begin its best of three series with the Silver Knights on Friday 5/21 at 7:00pm at Orleans Arena.