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Barracuda Advance to Playoffs, Robins Talks Rivalry with Wiesblatt

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Credit: Tucson Roadrunners / Kate Dibildox

IRVINE, Calif. — Well, at least one San Jose hockey team is making the playoffs this year.

The San Jose Barracuda overpowered the Colorado Eagles in the Pacific Division play-in finale 5-1, booking their trip to Henderson. The San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate will take on the Vegas Golden Knights’ beginning this Friday night.

San Jose got off to an early lead, as Maxim Letunov kicked off a gorgeous give-and-go with Evan Weinger.

San Jose continued to press the attack in the opening frame, with Ivan Chekhovich stickhandling his way through a phone booth.

However, it wasn’t until the second period that the Barracuda really took control of the game.

Both Brinson and Steenn Pasichnuk earned assists on the long Zach Gallant goal, the first time at the pro level that the Pasichnuk brothers have both got points on the same goal. A scout, by the way, told San Jose Hockey Now that he was impressed with Gallant’s game during this tournament, saying, “He’s got a little f-you to his game.” There might be a fourth-line NHL future for the once-Detroit Red Wings’ third-round pick yet.

About three minutes later, Krystof Hrabik, in just his second AHL appearance, fired home his first-ever AHL goal, giving San Jose a 3-0 cushion.

It was top San Jose Sharks prospect Ryan Merkley walking down from the point who made mincemeat of AHL veteran Mike Vecchione, exposing Colorado netminder Justus Annunen to Hrabik.

Speaking of the goaltending, Josef Korenar grabbed both Barracuda victories this week, turning away 32 of 33 Eagles shots to lead San Jose to the playoffs. In total, the Czech keeper stopped 51 of 53 shots yesterday and today.

Colorado managed a late second period goal from Sampo Ranta to keep things close, but Korenar shut the door the rest of the way, and Nicolas Meloche and Hrabik added empty netters to seal the Cuda victory.

San Jose will travel to Las Vegas tomorrow. They’ll take on the top-seeded Silver Knights at 7 PM on Friday night, the first contest of a three-game semifinal, all at Orleans Arena.

Also, check out Sheng’s thoughts from FivePoint Arena:

Robins on Wiesblatt, Crazy Texas Road Trip

Tristen Robins will be traveling to Henderson, but he will be questionable to play.

Robins hasn’t played since arriving in San Jose May 6, slowed by a lingering MCL sprain. Regardless…

“It was really nice to get the boys back,” Robins told San Jose Hockey Now Friday.

It’s a more-than-full house for the Barracuda. With the San Jose Sharks season over and players coming in from junior hockey, the ECHL, and the Finnish Elite League, the Barracuda have 27 skaters and five goalies on the roster.

“It’s just a great atmosphere … a totally different atmosphere than junior,” Robins said. “Everything about it is different and so professional. It’s exciting to come to the rink every day.”

The San Jose Sharks 2020 second round pick made most of the shortened WHL season, scoring 10 goals and 13 assists in 23 games for the Saskatoon Blades. However, he suffered a season-ending MCL sprain Apr. 11.

“I went to finish a body check along the boards and just twisted my knee a little funny,” Robins said. “It was a super innocent accident that just gave me a little bit of grief.”

The injury kept him out of Saskatoon’s final eight games. Robins graded his status as “day-to-day,” and said he’s appreciative of the assistance from the trainers in San Jose.

“It’s just one of those things that slowly gets better, Robins said. “If you push too hard, it’ll just keep pushing back your recovery time. So you just have to treat it properly.”

Jumpstarting a Pro Career

With the delayed start to the WHL season, Robins got the unique opportunity to join the Barracuda at the beginning of the AHL season. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County, the Barracuda started their season in Chandler, Ariz. The 19-year-old called it “an amazing experience.”

Robins played his first two pro games Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 before returning to Saskatoon Feb. 21. The Clear Lake, Manitoba native said his biggest takeaway from the experience was the need to be “extremely sound defensively.”

“If you’re trusted in both ends of the ice, you’ll for sure get a lot more opportunity,” Robins said.

Robins said some system differences, specifically in neutral zone forechecking, between the Barracuda and the Blades caught him by surprise.

“I’ve caught myself a few times like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s not it,'” Robins said. “And then the defensive zone coverage as well. I’m used to more of a man-on-man coverage. The Barracuda do more of a zone type of defense, in a way.”

Robins was with the Barracuda when they traveled to Texas during the state’s worst winter weather in decades. Robins described the experience as “something out of a storybook.”

“Still, to this day, I can’t believe it,” Robins said. “That was one of the most unique and memorable experiences I’ll ever have in my life.”

Robins said he was surprised at how quick the conditions changed. When he went to sleep after a game Feb. 13, it was still sunny.

“There was this nice palm tree out at my window,” Robins said. “I woke up in the morning … and the game got canceled due to weather conditions. I’m like, ‘Oh, it must be pretty bad.’ Then I opened my blinds, and the palm tree leaves were inverted and covered in ice. It was crazy.”

Playing Against Ozzy

Returning to the WHL Feb. 21 meant Robins and fellow San Jose Sharks’ 2020 draft pick Ozzy Wiesblatt went from Barracuda teammates back to being opponents. Their teams, the Blades and the Prince Albert Raiders, have a long-standing rivalry.

“I’m not really one to make friends on the ice,” Wiesblatt told the Locked on Sharks podcast May 10. “So I probably gave him the cold shoulder a couple of times out there.”

“I don’t know what Ozzy’s saying,” Robins said. “But I’m not out there to make friends on the ice either, I’m out there to win games and battle hard. That’s probably what he means as well. But I really enjoy battling against him for sure.”

Robins lit up the scoreboard while playing against the Raiders, recording nine points across three games, including a season-high four points Apr. 8. His MCL sprain kept Robins out of their final meeting, the only game in which the Raiders beat the Blades all season.

“I really enjoy it, [Wiesblatt] and I play very hard against each other,” Robins said. “We’re good friends off the ice, but we love to battle on the ice. It was fun getting to know him in Arizona and it was even more fun getting that rivalry going again.”

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[…] Well, at least one San Jose hockey team is making the playoffs this year. The San Jose Barracuda overpowered the Colorado Eagles in the Pacific Division play-in finale 5-1, booking their trip to Henderson. The San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate will take on the Vegas Golden Knights’ beginning this Friday night. (San Jose Hockey Now) […]

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