By Alexandra Evans
SAN JOSE—The Barracuda retaliated against the Manitoba Moose big time this afternoon, overthrowing them 4-1 after a 5-2 loss the previous day.
The Cuda’s defensive game went up from yesterday in the first period. The Cuda took a few slick shots, but each was a “close but no cigar” type of situation; they just could not make it past Moose goaltender Eric Comrie, who is said to be an NHL starter for Winnipeg in the near future. In other words, the Cuda were strong on defense, not so much on offense despite two power play opportunities. The total of nine shots were comprised of two from Radim Simek, two from Adam Helewka, and one each from Rudolfs Balcers, Brandon Bollig, Danny O’Regan, Jacob Middleton, and Alexander True.
The second period started off strong defensively, and the Cuda took a 1-0 lead after O’Regan scored at the 4:10 mark with helpers from Middleton and John McCarthy. San Jose held on until 16:33, when Manitoba’s Patrice Cormier notched a power play goal to tie the score 1-1 after 40 minutes of play.
“[Comrie] is really good, I think I was just able to get through the defensive zone there have get a point-blank shot, and those are tough [for goalies] to stop,” O’Regan said of his goal.
The third period was the game-maker. The Cuda amped up their offensive game big time and scored three goals in these 20 minutes, despite a no-goal call for O’Regan, who made a shot attempt close to the two minute mark. Marcus Sorensen made a wrist shot at 1:53 after receiving a pass from Balcers (who would put up three assists before the 60 minute mark hit). Rourke Chartier, who was out six months due to injury, notched his first goal of the season “Logan Couture-style,” Coach Roy Sommer described, referring to the Sharks forward who currently leads the team in points with 14. Chartier’s goal was assisted by Balcers and Brandon Mashinter. Balcers also assisted Radim Simek’s empty-net goal at 17:22, as did Sorensen.
“He’s good,” Sorensen said of Balcers. “When he skates hard, he’s creating a lot of space for other people [to score]. It is fun to see him play.”
Balcers, who has one goal and 10 assists this season, added, “I didn’t expect that I was going to struggle with scoring goals this season, but I’m happy that assists come and that the other guys score.” Sommer noted that Balcers, in the past, has been more adept at putting up goals rather than assists.
Tonight’s starting goaltender, Antoine Bibeau, earned his second win with the Cuda. He only gave up one shot in the entire 60 minutes (he had 17 saves on 18 shots, and has above a .925 save percentage overall).
“[Tonight] was probably the best game I’ve played defensively, especially going into the third period,” Bibeau shared following the match. “It felt to me like a playoff game, how we were playing. We played hard, played everything right… We didn’t show up just to be here [today], we showed up to win a game.”
Forwards Kevin Labanc and Brandon Bollig were spot on about the fact that the key to success is playing with a two-way mindset, having confidence both offensively and defensively, though not so much confidence that effort subsides. Bollig added that attitude impacts the game significantly, which few could argue against. The momentum from yesterday’s third period translated well into today’s match, overall.
“We were a lot tighter,” Sommer said after the match. “We took time and space away [from the Moose], which made us play a lot better than last night.”
How can the Cuda carry on this kind of energy, cultivating wins, without becoming overly confident? I asked Adam Helewka, and he answered, “We just have to keep our game simple, not too pretty, and keep making the plays we made tonight, but at the same time, we just want to get pucks and bodies to the net.”
By “pretty,” Helewka suggested that making too many passes, and playing or shooting from the outside of the opposing team’s defense, would convey a “showy” type of game rather than competitive.