photo from: sjbarracuda.com
by Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE, Calif- A game that was exciting from start to finish ended with the San Diego Gulls defeating the San Jose Barracuda 4-2 on Wednesday evening at SAP Center.
On a night where San Jose dressed only 11 forwards, the Barracuda lost its fifth game in a row. The Gulls extended its five-game point streak and are now 4-3 against San Jose this season.
San Diego (20-16-4-2) drew first blood early in the first period. Chris Wideman sent in a shot on goal from the right faceoff circle that deflected off the pad off ‘Cuda goalie Andrew Shortridge and veteran forward Chris Mueller cleaned up the rebound beating Shortridge top-shelf for his 14th goal of the season at the 5:49 mark. Antoine Morand picked up the secondary assist.
San Jose (14-24-1-2) evened the score just over two minutes later. Noah Gregor won a race to the puck along the boards behind the net. Gregor fed a backhand pass out to a wide-open Ivan Chekhovich who made a deke around Gulls goalie Anthony Stolarz and tucked home the puck for just his third goal of the season at the 7:55 mark. Chekhovic snapped a 12-game goal-less draught. Nick Meloche received the secondary assist.
“Right now I’m playing on (one of ) the top two lines. I got an opportunity (to be more of an offensive threat) and it’s really nice,” said Chekhovich.
San Diego outshot San Jose 19-14 in the opening 20 minutes.
The Gulls regained the lead at the 9:00 minute mark of the second period. Blake Pietila had the puck along the right boards when he sent over a cross ice pass to Simon Benoit at the left slot. Benoit skated in and wired a wrist shot past Shortridge on the short side for his third goal of the season. It snapped a 28-game goal-less draught for the Laval, Quebec native.
One of the key moments of the game came in the middle frame when Stolarz stopped Chekhovich on a breakaway to preserve their 2-1 lead.
“I thought we made it a point to make sure we got to those (hard) areas and making it a game. I don’t want to say an ugly game but maybe a game they’re not as interested in playing,” said assistant coach John McCarthy.
San Diego scored an insurance goal early in the third period. A shot from the left point was redirected by Brendan Guhle that ricochet off Nick DeSimone’s stick into the back of the net. The unassisted goal was Guhle’s fourth goal of the season that came at the 5:24 mark.
San Jose scored a 4-on-4 goal late in the third period. Chekhovich fished out a puck from a scramble in front of it. He then fed it over to Joachim Blichfeld who buried the puck into an empty net for 14th goal of the season at the at the 14:13 mark. Meloche finished with a two-point game with his second assist on the evening.
“Obviously I have more minutes on the ice so it gives me more confidence (offensively). I just need to move my feet and that’s where I (am able to) create offense,” said Meloche.
Chekhovich played like a man possessed and was arguably the ‘Cuda’s best player of the game. He had numerous scoring chances while creating chances for his teammates.
I liked his game a lot,” said McCarthy regarding Chekhovich. “We talked to him kind of exactly what we’ve talked to the whole team. Not playing on the perimeter and stepping inside on faceoffs. To his credit, he’s been carrying it over into his game and it’s leading to the offensive chances he’s been generating for himself and his linemates.”
Things got chippy with just over nine minutes remaining when a big scrum ensued behind the net after Lukas Radil was called for boarding. Jeremy Roy and Max Comtois exchanged fisticuffs during the skirmish.
Alex Dostie scored an empty net goal, his 10th of the season, with 46 seconds left in the game to seal the deal for San Diego.
Stolarz finished the night making 36 saves on 38 shots in earning his 16th win of the season. Shortridge stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced in the tough luck loss.
GAME NOTES: San Jose was 0-for-1 on the power play. San Diego went 0-for-5.
Lean Bergmann returned to the lineup for the first time since 12/31/19 when he suffered a lower body. The German forward missed 12 games during his absence.
‘Cuda forwards Alex True and Maxim Letunov were called up to the parent club Sharks and both made their NHL debuts yesterday evening in a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames.
In a corresponding move, San Jose recalled Tristan Langan from Orlando of the ECHL. It is first call up to the AHL in Langan’s career.
Last Tuesday, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved a 200,000 square-foot expansion of Solar4America Ice at San Jose. The expansion will add two additional recreation rinks to the facility, increasing the building’s total to rinks to six. The expansion will also make the ice center the largest ice facility under one roof west of the Mississippi River. One of the rinks will be located inside a 4,200 seat, two story spectator arena which will serve as the new home for the Barracuda. Construction for the facility is slated to begin in April 2020, with a targeted completion date of April 2022.
The announced attendance was 2,072.
UP NEXT: The Barracuda travel up to Colorado to take on the Eagles on Friday 2/7 at 6:05pm at Budwiser Events Center.