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Bond Between Barracuda Players Fueling Success

The bond between Barracuda players has helped the team be one of the best in the AHL

by Missy Zielinski /

The Sharks may be the NHL's most fun team according to recent national publications, but those good vibes have trickled down to another hockey team in San Jose.

The Sharks minor league affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, is having some fun of its own and it's been an important ingredient of their first-place status this season.

"The more you know about somebody, the more you care about them and the more you'll play for them," Barracuda Head Coach Roy Sommer said.

To instill that mentality right out of the gate, his teams typically hits the road for an atypical "bonding" trip to help build off-ice chemistry.

Each season Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer and his team go camping. The idea was something he started during his coaching stint in the ECHL and has become a mainstay throughout his 19-year career as a bench boss with the Sharks organization.

"When you get the team in a place where there' no attractions around - just an area where they have to be together for two days - it's a way to get away from the rink and hockey and have a little fun," Sommer said. "The quicker you bond as a team and the better you are in the long run."

His camping trip has blossomed into something much more for the Barracuda this season, who have proved to be one of the closest and most successful teams he has ever coached.

"They've exceeded everyone's expectations," Sommer said. "A lot of it is because they play for one another."

Their ability to play for each other has not just developed during the time they spend at the rink. A lot of it has to do with the comradery that develops when they hang up their skates for the day.

And a closeness that's echoed between forwards Colin Blackwell and Danny O'Regan.

The two may be roommates now, but they have a storied history as foes on the ice during their college careers. From 2012-13 to 2015-16, Blackwell played for Harvard and O'Regan played for Boston.

"BU used to beat-up on us pretty badly whenever I played Danny," Blackwell said. "I think he had a double overtime-winner against us."

Now, post-college, Blackwell and O'Regan make it a point to keep the rivalry alive when their Alma maters play each other.

"I told [Colin] I'd wear a bunch of Harvard stuff to the rink if Harvard got the win," O'Regan said. "They did, so he has some bragging rights for a little while."

As for O'Regan and holding up his end of the bargain, that's another story.

"Harvard won this year, but he actually hasn't fulfilled the bet we made," Blackwell said. "I'll have to remind him of that."

The friendly competition between teammates doesn't just exist in the sports realm, it bleeds over to pop culture, where not just Blackwell and O'Regan, but most of the team admitted to watching The Bachelor and participating in a "fantasy draft" at the beginning of the reality show's season.

"I'm not going to lie, we were pretty into it," blueliner Joakim Ryan said.

"Monday nights, it's the best," O'Regan added.

And while they all had to pay out winger Alex Gallant, who was The Bachelor fantasy league-winner, there was one thing most of them agreed on -

"Definitely Team Corrine," O'Regan added.

There's no doubt the Barracuda are having fun off the ice, but there's also a direct correlation between this team's closeness and their success on the ice.

After being the final team in the AHL to clinch a playoff spot in 2015-16, the Barracuda are the first team to clinch a postseason berth this season.

They also went on a league-leading 14-game win streak from January 25 to March 1 and sit atop the AHL with a .719 winning percentage.

"We know when to be serious and work hard, but the guys like to have fun and joke around and it's definitely helped us this year," Ryan said. "When we play the way we do on the ice, we're going to be successful most of the time and when you have a tight team like we do, it makes it even easier."

While the tone may get more serious as the postseason nears and the Barracuda look to make a deep run for the Calder Cup, there will always be times to reminisce about the camping trip that started it all to keep the mood light.

"At the end of the trip Mueller's horse was coming down the hill and it charged my horse and reared up," Sommer said holding back laughs. "I got it on the go pro and we put it into one of our meetings…the look on his face…it was a good trip."

Yet with the way the Barracuda are connecting as teammates and friends, this roster is more than equipped to make a deep run this spring.

"Everyone in our locker room knows what we're capable of doing," Blackwell said. "I think we're going to go out and do it."

And the city of San Jose, as well as the Sharks organization, sure wouldn't mind two teams vying for a Cup

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