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Hey, Cuda Country! Nick Nollenberger here. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Although the trip to Texas didn’t finish the way the team hoped, falling 4-1 to the Stars on Sunday at the H-E-B Center, the group finally got off the schneid on Saturday with a wild 7-6 shootout win over Texas.
The game featured three different lead changes and four different ties. The Barracuda got goals from four different d-men (team record), and they went beyond 60 minutes for just the third time this season and the first time in 33 games. It was also the third time in franchise history in which a game ended with a 7-6 final (Dec. 5. 2015 - 7-6 OTW vs. BAK, Mar. 8, 2017 - 7-6 OTL @ SD). It was the second-highest combined score in a 'Cuda game this year (Dec. 15, 2021 – 10-5 W vs. COL) and tied for the second-most combined goals in a Barracuda game ever (4x). Joachim Blichfeld took over the team lead in scoring (15+14=29) as he notched a pair of assists and netted the game-winning goal in the shootout, his first shootout goal in six career attempts. The win snapped a seven-game losing streak (team record) and a six-game losing streak on the road (team record). The penalty kill has begun to turn the corner too, having killed off all eight Stars power plays over the weekend and the last 19-straight overall.
The Roadrunners won on Saturday, but the Gulls were swept in both games against the Reign, meaning the Barracuda are now four points behind Tucson with four more head-to-head games to come and three points behind San Diego. All three teams are vying for the final playoff spot in the division.
With just one more game in February, March is make or break. The club played just seven games in February but will play 14 in March (matches a club record for games in a month, 2x other times). Four of the 14 will be against Tucson and six of the 14 are against either Stockton or Ontario, the top two teams in the division.
In this edition of Nolly’s Notes, I’m going to touch on an array of topics including the IIHF’s (International Ice Hockey Federations) announcement that the World Juniors will be rescheduled for August and what that means for certain Sharks’ prospects? Also, who could be joining the Barracuda at the end of the year from their college and junior teams? And last, after Alex Barabonov’s buzzer-tying goal on Feb. 17 against Vancouver with a 0.6 left in regulation, it had me thinking what was the latest goal scored in Barracuda game to force overtime?
First, let’s start with the World Junior Championships. After being canceled in December due to rising COVID-19 numbers, the ’22 World Juniors will now be played this August, the organization announced on Feb. 17. This means Sharks’ forward prospect and Michigan Wolverine forward Thomas Bordeleau may get a chance after all to don the Red, White, and Blue. Last year, Bordeleau was unable to compete because he had a prolonged exposure to another player on the team who later tested positive for the virus. Although the positive test was later deemed a false positive. And then this year, he himself contracted COVID before the tournament, which meant he was left off the roster.
Bordeleau who was born in Texas while his dad, Sebastian, was playing pro, grew up in Europe, and now resides in Quebec in the off-season.
The other prospect that is eligible to play in the tournament is William Eklund (Sweden). Eklund began this year with the Sharks but was reassigned to Djurgarded of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). By doing so, the Sharks preserved a year on Eklund’s entry-level contract.
Having the tournament in August will give players a runway leading into NHL training camp. I think that could be big in increasing their odds of making the Sharks next year.
Moving on... taking an educated guess, here is a list of players that could join the Barracuda at the end of the year on amateur tryout contracts:
Coe played all of last year in the AHL with the Barracuda because the Ontario Hockey League didn’t conduct a season. This year he looks like a player who has 21 AHL games under his belt. Coe is third in the OHL in scoring (78), t-sixth in goals (30), fourth in assists (48), third in power-play assists (20), second in game-winners (7), and 12th in plus/minus (+24).
Robins began last year with the Barracuda before the WHL finally got underway. He was on fire before suffering an injury that ended his season. So far this year, Robins ranks 11th in the WHL in scoring (59), 13th in assists (37), and t-fifth in power-play goals (11).
After a pair of seasons in the USHL, the skilled Russian forward has jumped right into the OHL and been an impact player. Gushchin ranks t-ninth in the league in goals (29), third in power-play goals (12) and sixth in shots on net (174).
On nearly a point-per-game pace (36 gp, 9=25=34), Ozzy Wiesblatt is still finding a way to rack up points on a team that’s near the bottom of the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Last year, like Robins, Wiesblatt began the season with the Barracuda and then rejoined the team after the WHL’s campaign ended.
Unlike the rest of the players on this list, Bordeleau will need to sign before being eligible to play in any pro games this year. On the #2 ranked Michigan Wolverines, the sophomore forward is fourth on the team in scoring (28) and assists (19). Michigan has 13 drafted players on its roster, including seven first-rounders. Bordeleau was named the top freshman in college hockey last year.
Buzzer Beater: When Alex Barabonov scored with less than a second left in regulation to force OT a week ago, it had me thinking what was the latest goal scored in Barracuda franchise history to tie a game and force OT. No goal has been scored with a second left, but the latest goal scored in a game to force overtime came on Feb. 12, 2019, when Nick DeSimone scored at 19:45 of regulation (15 seconds left) to force OT in a game against San Diego. The Barracuda would go on to win the game 2-1 in a shootout. The latest game-winning goal scored by the Barracuda to win a game came on Oct. 22, 2017, at Cleveland when Michael Brodzinski scored with two seconds left in overtime to propel the Barracuda to a 1-0 win over the Cleveland Monsters.
That'll do it for this edition of Nolly's Notes. Below you'll find my conversation with AHL President and CEO Scott Howson. Until next week, thanks for reading.