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Tonight’s Matchup: On Saturday, the San Jose Barracuda look to even their best-of-five series with the Tucson Roadrunners after a 4-2 loss on Thursday. During the regular season, the Barracuda went 5-2-0-1 against the Coyotes AHL affiliate and 2-1-0-1 at the Tank.
In Case You Missed It: Despite outshooting the Roadrunners 38-to-24 on Thursday, San Jose fell 4-2 in game one of the best-of-five Divisional Round matchup. Alex True (PP) and Sasha Chmelevski scored for the Barracuda while Dakota Mermis, Ryan MacInnis, Lane Pederson and Dylan Strome (EN) found the back of the net for the top-seeded Roadrunners.
Odds Makers: On April 4, the Barracuda had less than a .01% chance of making the playoffs, but six-straight wins lifted San Jose above four teams in the division over a 10-day period, punching a ticket to the Calder Cup playoffs for the third straight season. Tucson also did San Jose a favor by taking down the San Diego Gulls in three-straight games to close out the season.
Let’s Go Streaking: The Barracuda finished the regular-season riding a season-long six-game winning streak as they outscored their opponents 25-to-10 over that span, netting power-play goals in five of the six contests.
Past Playoffs: Tucson makes its first appearance in the Calder Playoffs after finishing with the Western Conference’s best regular season record (42-20-5-1 - .662%), while San Jose makes its third-straight trip to the dance after finishing with its second-best regular-season record in franchise history (34-26-4-4 - .559%). A season ago, the ‘Cuda won the Western Conference’s regular-season crown after compiling a record of 43-16-4-5 (.699%). The Barracuda are 9-11 all-time in Calder Cup playoff play.
Desert Swarm: The Roadrunners concluded the regular season with a +41 goal differential, which was tops in the Pacific Division. Also, Tucson allowed the AHL's second-fewest goals (173). Trade deadline addition Carter camper finished T-11th in the AHL in scoring, and netminder Adin Hill ranked fifth in goals-against average (2.28). But 2017-18 was all about the rookies for the ‘Runners as Tucson had three first-year players represented at the 2018 AHL All-Star Game (Dylan Strome, Nick Merkley, Kyle Capobianco).
Road Warriors: Tucson finished the regular season as the AHL’s second-best road team (24-7-2-1 .750) only behind the Toronto Marlies (30-5-1-2 .829). The Roadrunners boasted a +30 goal differential away from the Tucson Convention Center compared to a +11 mark on home ice. In addition, Tuc held the leagues best road power play (32/142 - 22.5%).
Young Guns: Since Ivan Chekhovich and Sasha Chmelevski joined San Jose’s lineup on Amateur Tryout Agreements on April 4, the ‘Cuda went 6-0 in their final six games, and the two teens combined for 13 points (six goals, seven assists). Chekhovich had points in all six games he played (three goals, six assists) in the regular season and ended with the team’s best plus/minus (+8). Chmelevski who scored on Thursday in game 1 is the first California native to appear in a game for the ‘Cuda.
Captain America: When Captain John McCarthy was at the Winter Olympics in February representing Team USA in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Barracuda sputtered without their leader, going 2-6-1-1 in the month. Since Mac’s return, San Jose has gone 12-5-1-1. On Thursday, the Barracuda signed McCarthy to a one-year contract extension, which means he’ll return for his tenth season with the organization in 2018-19. McCarthy is the Barracuda’s all-time leader in games played (190), T-first in goals (45), T-first in power-play goals (15), and T-first in short-handed goals (4).
Blueline Bolster: 19% (36/186) of San Jose’s goals scored in 2017-18 came from its backend, compared to 15% (35/232) from its defense a season ago. In 2016-17, San Jose had the AHL’s most potent offense that included NHLer Joakim Ryan and Second Team All-AHLer Tim Heed on the blueline.
Powering Up: Before failing to score on the power play in the season finale at Stockton last Saturday, the Barracuda had lit the lamp on the man-advantage for a franchise-record 10-straight games, going 13-for-39 (33%) over that stretch. On Thursday, San Jose went one-for-four on the man advantage.
Age Is Just A Number: With an average age of 22.57 years old, San Jose is the AHL’s youngest team while Tucson (23.23) is the league's third-youngest roster.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!: Rookie forward Rudolfs Balcers finished his first pro season ranked seventh in points (48) among AHL freshman, T-fifth in goals (23), and T-14th in assists (25). During the regular season, Balcers paced the Barracuda in points, goals, points-per-game (.72), and power-play goals (8). Balcers is the sixth player in Barracuda history to reach the 20-goal mark in a season, joining Brian Lerg (21) ’15-16, Nikolay Goldobin (21) ’15-16, Barclay Goodrow (20) ’15-16, Danny O’Regan (23) ’16-17, and Barclay Goodrow (25) ’16-17. Balcers was a mid-season AHL All-Star, joining fellow teammate Antoine Bibeau in Utica.
Big-Time Bibeau: Antoine Bibeau finished his first season in San Jose ranked 10th in the AHL in goals-against average (2.37), 11th in save-percentage (.919), T-sixth in wins (23), and T-third in shutouts (5). Bibeau was named a mid-season AHL All-Star and is riding a four-game winning streak entering postseason play. Bibeau is 6-8-0-1 in 15 career Calder Cup playoff games with a 2.90 goals-against average, and a .900 save percentage.