Photo credit: @sjbarracuda
By Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Barracuda had a week to stew on their horrible seasoning opening loss against Ontario. They came out chomping at the bit as they used three-first period goals to rout the San Diego Gulls 5-1 in their home opener on Friday evening at the SAP Center.
San Jose (1-1) drew first blood late in the first period on the power play. Joel Kellman sent a pass back over to the point to Thomas Gregoire, who fired a shot toward the net. Maxim Letunov camped out in front and the Russian forward was able to tip the puck past Gulls goalie Anthony Stolarz for his first goal of the season at the 15:47 mark.
“I got stronger,” said Letunov, who had a two-point night. “I think that’s where my biggest improvement was made. I think I’m going to get a lot of goals this year, dirty goals like you said in front of the net.”
The Cuda doubled their lead 72 seconds later. Letunov stole the puck on a clearing attempt. As he was knocked off the puck, Jeffery Viel skated in for the loose puck near the left slot and wired a wrist shot past Stolarz for his first goal of the season at the 16:59 mark.
“Last game our forecheck wasn’t very good,” said Viel. “Our d-zone was sloppy. We had a good week of practice. I think it showed today on both sides (of the ice) so it’s good.”
Alexander True appeared to have scored his first goal with 2:08 remaining, but the goal disallowed as he kicked the puck in with his skate.
San Jose scored their second power play goal of the period when Gregoire fed a pass over to Noah Gregor at the right slot where his shot was saved by Stolarz. However, a big rebound carried out to Jayden Halbgewachs near the left side of the net, where he buried the puck into an empty net for his first goal of the season at the 18:32 mark.
The Cuda outshot the Gulls by a 2-1 margin, 16-8 in the opening 20 minutes.
“I think it was the camping trip, the rangers making us pour all of our beer out,” head coach Roy Sommer bemused about his team’s start. “I think we found two descent forechecks. Tonight there was a barrel of them. Great effort.”
San Diego (0-2) received two power plays in the first 10 minutes of the second period, but weren’t able to cash in on either opportunity, thanks to some good goaltending from Cuda goalie Josef Korenar. He made two consecutive point-blank saves during the second power play attempt that kept the Gulls off the scoreboard.
San Jose added to their lead late in the middle frame when the line of Halbegwachs, Joachim Blichfeld and True generated two good scoring chances before True found himself all alone in front of the net. After jamming away at the puck twice, the third time was a charm as the puck slid underneath Stolarz for True’s first goal of the season at the 14:36 mark.
The highlight of the period came when Chase De Leo stormed in on a breakaway attempt, only to have Korenar hold his ground and turn away De Leo’s shot with under four minutes remaining.
“The big saves early (on), those are the ones that usually win you games,” said Sommer. “Like the NHL, this league is a hard league to come back from when you’re down. It got us going and we took off from there.”
San Diego broke the shutout bid for Korenar on the power play late in the third period when Kiefer Sherwood sent over a cross-ice pass to Hunter Drew at the right point. Drew skated in and snapped a wrist shot past Korenar for his first goal of the season at the 14:22 mark.
Jonny Brodzinksi put the bow on the box when he closed out the scoring on a breakaway 42 seconds later. Brodzinski intercepted a pass at the center ice and skated in on Stolarz and finished off the play with a forehand-to-backhand move over the right shoulder of Stolarz for his first goal of the season at the 15:00 mark.
Korenar (1-1) finished the game, stopping 23 of the 24 shots he faced to earn his first win of the season. Stolarz (0-2) had a busy night, making 37 saves on 42 shots in the losing effort.
GAME NOTES: San Jose was 2/6 on the power play. San Diego was 1/6.
Fisticuffs! Viel and Coey Tropp got into it with each other five minutes into the first period. Both went off for fighting majors.
UP NEXT: San Jose hosts the Bakersfield Condors on Sunday, October 13 at 1:15 pm at SAP Center.