SAN JOSE, Cal. — The San Jose Barracuda played host to the Tucson Roadrunners for game two of their Pacific Division Semifinal Saturday, desperately needing a win before the series moves to Arizona.
The Barracuda came in down one game to none to the division champion Roadrunners, after falling 4-2 Thursday. San Jose had outplayed Tucson much of game one, only to be stopped by Adin Hill. This time Hill couldn’t save the Roadrunners. San Jose would put six goals on the board, paced by a four-point effort from Rudolfs Balcers, in route to a 6-3 victory over Tucson.
The best-of-five series is now even at a game apiece and heads to Tucson for the final three contests.
The action would start early, as just 1:25 into the game San Jose found the back of the net. After a great push from the Barracuda left the Roadrunners trapped in their own end, Ivan Chekhovich fired a shot that Hill kicked out towards the high slot. Balcers scooped up the rebound, spun, and shot, and the puck flew underneath Hill before he could fully react. It was Balcers first of the series, but he was far from done in game two.
Tucson would be able to find a quick response this time, thanks to rookie standout Dylan Strome. Strome used a quick cut to beat the San Jose defense and open a lane to the center. He slid all the way through the slot, then turned and whipped a wrister back where he came from that found the corner. It was a beautiful goal to watch, and it evened the score at one 4:18 into the first.
Strome was not done in the first, and under two minutes later Tucson had a lead. This time Strome, a former teammate of Connor McDavid (Erie Otters, OHL), flung a shot from the point that found a path between the legs of San Jose tender Antoine Bibeau. It was Strome’s third of the series, and gave the Roadrunners a 2-1 lead with 13:44 still to play in the opening frame. It would be their only lead of the night.
The high-scoring first period continued with just under nine minutes to play when Adam Helewka joined the party. On the power play, the Barracuda swarmed around the Roadrunner net trying to find an opening. Hill was down on the ice trying to take away the bottom of the net and keep the puck out, but it was centered then eventual kicked by Balcers over to Helewka. Helewka smoothly pulled the puck to his backhand and lifted it over a sprawling Hill to tie the game 2-2 with 8:15 left in the first.
San Jose would take a 3-2 lead to the first intermission, thanks to a goal from Rourke Chartier 3:23 later. Chartier picked up the rebound off of a Balcers shot and deposited the go-ahead goal into the back of the net.
The second would not provide the same offensive onslaught as the first, with just one puck finding twine in the middle frame. That goal came from Tucson when Carter Camper found Mario Kempe all alone in the slot. Kempe beat Bibeau with a quick wrist-shot to level the score 3-3 midway through the game, and send the game to the third all square.
The Roadrunners had San Jose under early pressure in the third, but it was the Barracuda who a found a go-ahead goal on the counterattack. It was a perfectly executed rush, as Balcers and Rourke sliced through the Tucson defense. As they came into the zone, Balcers cut in front of Chartier while dropping the puck off to his linemate. Balcers then cut to the slot to be ready for the rebound he knew was coming. Chartier came down and fired a shot towards the far post, forcing Hill to blocker the rebound down into the slot to make the save. The rebound went directly to the waiting Balcers, who scored the eventual game-winner 3:45 into the third.
This game was full of beautiful goals, and San Jose’s fifth would be no different. The insurance marker came with an even 4:00 left in the game. Sasha Chmelevski took a shot from the point, and Manuel Wiederer deflected the offering between his own legs and up into the top corner of the goal. Hill had no chance on the play, and just like that, it was 5-3 Barracuda.
Tucson would pull Hill for the extra man with 2:46 to go, but it would not help on this night. Chartier deposited his second goal of the game into the open cage to end the scoring with 1:32 left, and provide the final score of 6-3 San Jose.
The series now has an entirely different feel with this result, as it effectively now becomes a best-of-three in Tucson to decide who advances. That may seem like this favors the Roadrunners, but it doesn’t. Tucson was 24-7-2-1 on the road in 2017-18, but 18-13-3-0 on their own sheet of ice. San Jose, meanwhile, was 3-1-0-0 in Tucson this season and is now 6-1-0-1 all-time in Tucson. The series just got very interesting, so do not look away from this one. The action will continue Wednesday at 7:05 MST (9:05 CDT), with game three from Arizona.
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