San Jose, CA - The San Jose Barracuda (31-26-4-4) won their third straight after surviving a highly competitive contest with the Stockton Heat (32-27-2-4) through 45 minutes of play. The Barracuda poured it on offensively in the third to finish with the 7-3 victory in the 11th match-up between the rivals this season.
San Jose opened up the scoring in the first when Jacob Middleton (6) tried to center it from the left side during the game’s first power play and it bounced off a Stockton defender’s skate and in, making the Barracuda 11-for-31 with the man advantage through their last eight games. But just 13 seconds later, the Heat would answer. Oliver Kylington (6) raced into the offensive zone uncovered and collected a cross-ice feed from Dillon Dube, pushing a wrister from the right circle past Antoine Bibeau to even the score 1-1. Stockton then took its first lead at the 15:03 mark with a point-blank score from Emile Poirier (6), set up by a backward, between-the-legs pass from Ryan Lomberg.
The second frame began with 14 scoreless minutes before Colby McAuley (4) batted the puck out of the air and in off an attempted save by Rittich to make it 2-2. The back-and-forth pace continued two minutes later as Emerson Clark (4) converted a rebound and put the Barracuda back on top, 3-2, entering the second intermission.
The Heat used a frenetic pace to tie the game for a third time early in the third when Colin Smith (9) pounded home a one-timer off a centering pass from Morgan Klimchuk at the 4:07 mark. Ivan Chekovich, who made his professional debut for the Barracuda on Wednesday night, got involved again on Saturday, finding Julius Bergman (10) uncovered with a long pass from the corner, allowing Bergman to put San Jose up 4-3 with a shot from the top of the right circle with less than 13 minutes to play. Then McAuley earned his second point of the night, pulling the Stockton defense away from the goal with a streaking move across the slot and leaving True (13) wide open for the point-blank, 5-3 dagger at the 9:49 mark. Rudolfs Balcers (22) would then add an empty net goal at the 17:46 mark. And Sasha Chmelevski (2), who also made his pro debut as the first native Californian to play a game for the Barracuda franchise on Wednesday, scored his second career goal to bring the final to a suddenly lopsided 7-3 for the ‘Cuda
Bibeau (21-14-9) earned the victory by making 21 saves on 24 shots. On the other side, Rittich (7-5-2) took the loss, giving up six goals on 34 shots.
The Barracuda will travel to Bakersfield on Wednesday for the first of two tilts with the Condors this week. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Listen live on AM 1220 KDOW or on the all-new Sharks + SAP Center App.