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A Saturday night special, as Below the Goal Line visits the Rockford Icehogs again as they take on the San Jose Barracuda in an AHL game. The Barracuda, fresh off a shootout loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins, travel to Rockford to take on the Icehogs, on of the AHL's hottest teams of late.
The Icehogs have been playing some inspired hockey lately as they push for a playoff spot. The Icehogs look to top of a successful month of March, where they went 8-2-1-1 before this contest. That success has propelled the Icehogs into a playoff spot, but they need to keep accumulating points to clinch a playoff spot.
The San Jose Barracuda, on the other hand, have had a trying year. After making the playoffs last season as the Pacific Division champions, the team sits tied for last in the division.
This was a very strange game. The teams traded goals and penalties in the first period. Chris DiDomenico, who I wrote about from the last Icehogs games I attended, received a double minor in the first period. The Barracuda took a penalty during their powerplay opportunity, but scored a 4-on-4 goal when Noah Rod found Sam Warning in alone for his second of the year.
The Icehogs would come back with a powerplay goal late in the period. The Icehogs won the faceoffs, and Adam Clendening ripped home a shot from the point on goalie Stephon Williams.
The Barracuda grabbed the only two goals in the second period. Brandon Mashinster scored his 11th of the season on the powerplay, and Caleb Herbert scored just 32 second later to make it 3-1 for the visitors.
The Icehogs looked flat in the second period. The Barracuda, who played the night before in Grand Rapids, were winning races to pucks and looked like the hungrier team in the second. I'm not sure if the Icehogs assumed they could walk through this game because San Jose has been so poor this season, but they definitely needed the second period wake up call.
And boy did Rockford respond. The Icehogs scored four goals in the first 4:25 of the third period to open up a 5-3 lead. Lance Bouma, Henrik Samuelsson, Luc Snuggerud, and Matthew Highmore scored to down the visiting Barracuda.
A couple of notes: the Barracuda definitely look like a depleted team from last season. While they have some good components like defenseman Julius Bergman, they just don't have the scoring power they had last year.
I was impressed with Rudolfs Balcers for playing a strong game tonight. While he didn't record a point or a shot on goal, he was in the right spots in the offensive zone and he playing a good physical game despite standing just 5'-11". I'm not sure he will be an NHL player, but he has the best shot among the Barracuda forwards will his hockey smarts and creativity.
Check back on Monday for a look into the AHL playoff races!