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Silver Knights-Barracuda Semifinals Preview

The Semifinals for the Pacific Division playoffs are set, as the Henderson Silver Knights welcome the San Jose Barracuda to the Vegas Strip for a best-of-three series, the first post-season play in Silver Knights history. The Barracuda fought through the play-in round in Irvine with victories over the Tucson Roadrunners and the Colorado Eagles, while the Silver Knights have been watching and waiting since their regular-season finale last Sunday.

Having earned the top seed during the regular season, the Silver Knights will have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Henderson went 14-5-1 at the Orleans Arena during their inaugural season.

The Barracuda defeated the Roadrunners 2-1 in their play-in opener on Tuesday, followed by a 5-1 win over the Colorado Eagles on Wednesday. Josef Korenar earned the win in net for both contests, stopping a combined 51 of 53 shots against. Defenseman Nicolas Meloche tallied a goal and four points in two games, and Evan Weinger had a goal and two assists.

The Matchup

The Silver Knights won six of eight matchups with the Barracuda during the regular season, including all four games at the Orleans Arena. The teams squared off four times in early May, with the Silver Knights winning three of the four to help cement their hold on the division’s top spot.

Henderson was the AHL’s fourth-best defensive team this season, averaging 2.62 goals against per game. The Silver Knights held San Jose to two goals or fewer in five of eight meetings this season, and in three of four games at the Orleans Arena. Logan Thompson has been dominant against the Barracuda this season, going 4-1-0 with a 1.38 goals-against average, a .960 save percentage, and a shutout.

The Barracuda entered post-season play without several of their most potent scorers. Three of their top four point-producers – Joachim Blichfeld, Sasha Chmelevski, and Alexander True – were recalled by the Sharks in early May. Joel Kellman was returned at the end of the season but did not appear in either play-in game. True and Leann Bergmann have since been assigned to their respective national teams.

Silver Knight To Watch

The Silver Knights had several skaters competing for end-of-season awards in the AHL, with Jack Dugan finishing second in the rookie scoring race and Ryan Murphy leading all AHL defensemen in scoring. Yet no Silver Knight had a better finish to the season than assistant captain and former Barracuda Danny O’Regan. In his first season in silver, O’Regan finished tied for second in the AHL scoring race with 36 points in 37 games. O’Regan finished the season with 11 goals over his final 11 games, as well as 17 points in that span. He ended the year on a four-game goal scoring streak and a six-game points streaks, both personal bests. Against his former team, O’Regan totaled six goals and 10 points in eight games.

Cody Glass and Dylan Sikura were recalled to Vegas on Wednesday.

Barracuda To Watch

Maxim Letunov has been the most dangerous Barracuda scorer against the Silver Knights this season. The third-year Barracuda had five goals and seven points in eight games against Henderson, with two goals scored in four games at the Orleans Arena. Letunov finished the regular season with points in five of his last six games, totaling three goals and six points. He had one goal and a plus-3 rating in the play-in round.

Keys to the Series

  • One of the outliers of the season-series was April 30 at SAP Center, a 7-5 win for the Barracuda in which they went 5-for-5 on the power play, led by Joel Kellman’s three-goal, five point performance and Sasha Chmelevski’s two power play tallies. That was the low point of a particularly challenging stretch for the Silver Knights PK, the most power play goals they allowed in a game this season. The Barracuda have not had Kellman or Chmelevski for post-season play, but weapons like Letunov, Jayden Halbgewachs, and Robbie Russo can still make an impact for San Jose.
  • The Barracuda PK ranked last in the AHL during the regular season at 74.0 percent.
  • Scoring first is always preferred but perhaps even more so in this series. The Silver Knights were 18-4-1 this season when scoring first while San Jose struggled with a nimus-15 goal differential in first periods. The Barracuda were 5-10-1 when trailing after 20 minutes.
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