by Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE, Calif- Luck can be tricky thing. In a game they mostly dominated, the San Jose Barracuda were on the end of some tough luck in a 4-2 loss to the Ontario Reign on Wednesday evening at SAP Center.
A fluky bounce led to a 2-on-0 breakaway for Giovanni Fiore who lifted a backhand top-shelf past ‘Cuda goalie Josef Korenar for what proved to be the game winning goal, Fiore’s fourth of the season, at the 10:52 mark of the third period.
Both teams split their last two games against each other. San Jose is 3-5-0-1 on the season against its SoCal rival. Ontario have a seven game winning streak on the road and jumped ahead of San Diego for fourth place and the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division with 60 points.
Ontario (27-20-5-1) drew first blood on the power play in the first period. The Reign took advantage of a 5-on-3 opportunity. Paul LaDue sent in a shot from the left point that was initially saved by Korenar but the rebound leaked out to Carl Grundstrom who buried it home for his 11th goal of the season at the 10:57 mark.
The Reign hadn’t registered a shot on goal for almost the first 11 minutes of the opening frame until their two-man advantage. The ‘Cuda (17-27-3-2) had outshot the Reign 8-0 but goalie Matt Villalta made key point blank saves to keep the Barracuda off the scoreboard.
“We had a really solid game,” said Sasha Chmelevski regarding his team’s performance. “I don’t think we had the right breaks at the right time and sometimes that costs you.”
San Jose scored the equalizer 38 seconds into the second period. Jayden Halbgewachs placed a shot on net. Danil Yurtaykin collected the puck and performed a spin-o-rama pass over to a wide open Manny Wiederer who tapped home the puck into an empty net while falling down for his third goal of the season.
Ontario regained the lead thanks to another trip to the sinbin by San Jose. Blaine Byron won a face off back up to Paul LaDue at the point. LaDue’s slapshot was redirected off Tim Schaller’s body for a power play goal, his first goal of the season at the 6:31 mark.
“There were times we pushed the pace, and there were times where they kinda took it to us. It was one of those games. It was a little back and forth. It was enough that I thought we did enough positive things,” said co-head coach Michael Chiasson.
The Barracuda tied the game back up on the power play late in the middle frame. Ivan Chekhovich led a rush up the ice. He fed a pass over to Halbgewachs who quickly sent it over to Chmelevski. The rookie forward then made a nice forehand-to-backhand move to finish off a pretty tic-tac-toe goal for his 10th goal of the season at the 18:27 mark.
“I just went to the net and Halbs (Halbgewachs) found me. I just wanted to be patient with the puck cause I knew the goalie was going to wait for me to make a move. So I was glad that I scored,” Chemelvski said.
With his two helpers, Halbgewachs notched his 11th mutli-point game of the season.
“I’m trying to work, just be consistent every single game. I think that is what I lacked the most is consistency. If I keep that going, things are bright for the future,” Halbgewachs said.
Byron iced the game with an empty netter goal, his 11th of the season, after a turnover by Jonny Brodzinski to complete the scoring at the 19:16 mark.
Villalta finished the night with 33 saves on 35 shots to earn his ninth win of the season. Korenar stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced in suffering the tough luck loss. He is now 0-4-1 against Ontario.
GAME NOTES: San Jose was 1-for-4 on the power play. Ontario was 2-for-4. The ‘Cuda have scored a power play goal in five straight games.
Yurtaykin was injured four minutes into the second period and left the game when he was slammed up against the boards by Ryan Stanton. No penalty was called on the play. Yurtaykin did not return to the game.
Anthony Greco played in his first game as a member of the ‘Cuda. He was acquired in a trade by the San Jose Sharks along with a 2020 first-round pick this past Monday for Barclay Goodrow and a 2020 third-round pick. Greco has appeared in 40 AHL games this season between Springfield and Syracuse, recording 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points.
The fourth-year pro set career highs with 30 goals, 29 assists and 59 points last season, earning a trip to the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic. He also made his NHL debut, appearing in one game with the Florida Panthers.
Greco has played 264 AHL games with Springfield and Syracuse, amassing 85 goals and 73 assists for 158 points
Keaton Middleton played in his 100th AHL game.
The announced attendance was 2,149.
UP NEXT: The Barracuda continue their six-game homestand hosting the San Diego Gulls on Saturday 2/29 at 1:15pm at SAP Center.