Monsters Roar Back To Beat Barons In Early Season Rematch

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

The Oklahoma City Barons and Lake Erie Monsters meet four times this season as a part of the AHL’s dummying down of the schedule to lighten the travel load on most clubs. Three of those games have now been played in nine days. The fourth in 72 hours. And that’s unfortunate, because all three games thus far have been highly entertaining. And irregardless of the outcome, a rivalry seems to be simmering between the two Western Conference opponents.

On Saturday night in OKC, the Barons were cruising towards a victory through almost two periods when the Monsters punished them for late penalties, and win the game 5-3.

If you’re a Monsters fan, you love the 2-1 edge that you’ve gained in games won against OKC. You love the power play chances that you’ve completed. You love how your goaltenders, both rookies in this league, have mustered the courage to stand tall. You like how you’ve matched up against the Barons defenders, and maybe slightly frustrated their star forwards. You like how the coaching staff has prepped the team, schemed the framework for victory, and executed that blueprint to the enjoyment of Northern Ohio. In all, the Monsters are proving to be a superb hockey team — color me impressed.

Curtis Hamilton, on a fiery shift, was given a fantastic setup by Taylor Fedun and Ryan Martindale before rifling a shot around Monster tender, Sami Aittokallio for a 1-0 lead. Ten minutes later, Tyson Barrie evened the game by following a blocked shot on Olivier Roy. Brandon Davidson and Colten Teubert found themselves slightly lost on the play, and neither committed to a streaking Barrie. The first period would end in a one all tie, a fast and furious pace, and no penalties for either side.

The first period energy spilled over into the second. The Monsters scored at the under two mark on an Andrew Agozinno shot. But Justin Schultz and Magnus Paajarvi would score as Oklahoma City takes the lead back temporarily.

The third period was glamorless for the Barons penalty kill. Not once, but twice, the Barons we’re whistled for silly penalties that proved costly. Magnus Paajarvi, with an early third period board, allowed Thomas Pock to net a PP goal. Then it was Justin Schultz with a delay of game penalty that put Monsters D-man, Karl Stollery, in a position to score. Stollery’s goal lifted Erie past the Barons. The nail in the coffin came with Olivier Roy skating off the ice as Mark Olver scored an empty net power play goal to defeat the Barons 5-3.

Random Thoughts

The Barons power play went 0-2 on Saturday. That’s a total of 1 for 17 in four games played. I’ll give the team ten full games of mercy, but it’s inconceivable to think this team can’t score with an extra skater.

The PK got abused. 3/4 with all three in the final frame. Problematic. But, again, props to Lake Erie for mounting a strong comeback. Well done.

Schultz scores again, and now has four goals and two assists in four games. However, he cost his team tonight with the delay of game penalty. It happened at a moment where a momentum swing felt present. Inevitably it swung the way of the Monsters, and at full throttle.

Roy didn’t make the saves he needed to, and as many pointed out, he spent a lot of time on his knees. Stylistically speaking, that’s okay, but he seemed a bit over matched at times, as well as out hustled. He’ll be fine, but needs to adjust accordingly.

Lake Erie has surprised many, including the Barons. They are now 3 for 4, and will play both Texas and OKC in the coming half week. If they were to turn those two games into wins, I’ll not be the least bit surprised. New coach, Dean Chynoweth, has his boys ready and willing.

Tuesday the Barons again will play Lake Erie. Will Josh Green return? Seems unlikely given the injury to ribs, and the style of play that will be demanded of him.

There were a few inconclusive calls against both squads on Saturday night. The “checking to the head” committed by Kristians Pelss seemed the most over dramatic. But the ref clearly saw a forearm or elbow close in on the opposing players head, all while traveling through open ice. The league doesn’t smile on these types of situations, and typically punishes these youngsters early. Might we get a one-game suspension? I’d be north of a 50% chance if I were a bettor.

Barons Beat Rampage 5-2 In Home Opener

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

There wasn’t cause for concern following the game a piece split with Lake Erie a week ago, but judging solely by fan reaction, there was some disappointment. Even the coaching staff and players put themselves to task with the lack of full go, and using the words “we aren’t good enough”. So the team wanted to prove the hype of so many was due them, by kicking off the season of hockey in Oklahoma City, as well as a seven game home stand. First up, the San Antonio Rampage.

The Barons showed up, Justin Schultz continues to be red hot, and Jordan Eberle scored his first AHL goal of the season as the Barons beat the Rampage 5-2.

The first period was anything, but magical. However, it was efficient. The Rampage scored first when Chris Vande Velde and Curtis Hamilton didn’t collapse on James Wright behind the net. He received a pass from the wall, and skated right in front of Yann Danis for goal number one. Six minutes later, Teemu Hartikainen glided down the right wing, passed, and hit Martin Marincin mid stride. Marincin evens the game, and nets his second goal of the year. Justin Schultz did his typical “ease in” from the blue line, and scored a high shoulder shot on Jakob Markstrom that was deadly accurate. The Barons take the lead, 2-1, as the first period closes.

The second period featured a slightly altered top line, as Josh Green would not return to the game with what appeared to be a midsection injury (ribs/lower back). The new fangled scoring line was Hartikainen – Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle, and it sizzled. Greg Rallo evened the game for San Antonio, but then Hartikainen and Eberle scored a pair of goals that were eye poppingly exciting. Nugent-Hopkins assisted on both, and the top scoring line finally finishes on specific chances around the goalmouth. Two shots in the period for San Antonio didn’t help their chances. Sixteen for the entire game — again, not good. The Barons led 4-2 after the 2nd period, and seemed to be fully in command.

There were some fine scoring chances for both teams in the 3rd period, but the Barons defense tightened the screws, and finished strongly. Schultz would get his second of the game, again short-handed, but with an empty Rampage net. The game ended with a resounding home win for OKC. The 5-2 finish kicked things off in the right direction.

Random Thoughts

Schultz and Marincin were both +5 on the night. Marincin with a goal, Schultz with two goals and an assist. Something to consider is the fact that Justin Schultz makes others around him better. And when he’s playing good, so is the rest of the team. But don’t think that Martin is a goat. He’s gotten infinitely better in the offseason, and the twosome looks like the best in the league through three games.

Jordan Eberle finally scored a goal. This isn’t big news, but it’s worth noting how the goal was scored. Not with Magnus Paajarvi on the other wing or even Josh Green, but rather Teemu Hartikainen hanging around. In three games played, Teemu is clearly the best left winger to play with the NHL guys. Wish the best for Josh Green. Hope his injury isn’t serious. However, the line we saw for the last two periods against San Antonio is the line we should see for the remainder of the season.

Credit to San An for committing only one penalty last night. The Barons were unsuccessful on that power play opportunity, and are now a whopping 1-15 in three games. That’s under a 7% complete rate. Perhaps there is a philosophical problem here. Nelson needs to go back to the drawing board in this area. It has nothing to do with players or lineup, but rather execution. That’s not good.

Of teams playing three games in the AHL, the Barons rank 8th in penalty killing. They’ve not committed a ton of infractions (17), but it’s a mark of a good Todd Nelson team when they can kill with regularity. Also worth noting is the two short handers, both scored by Schultz.

Schultz has five points in three games, Teemu has three in three. There are four players with two points in three games, and one player with two points in two games. That’s a pretty solid start despite losing a bad one on October 12 in Cleveland. Those numbers go up quickly, one has to think.

Yann Danis is doing what I thought he might — taking a dip. Last night he let in two goals on only sixteen shots. He’s made two starts gone one for one, but Olivier Roy has looked the most mechanically sound of the two. He’ll get the start in OKC tonight against the familiar Erie Monsters. If the trend continues, we might find Roy ending the season with more starts than Yann. For now, they’ll still go 50/50 for a while.

Lake Erie plays tonight in OKC. It’s the third meet up between the two in the last four games. The Barons are hoping to put them away early, and help the home record get off on the right foot.

Last nights attendance was 6,323. Not franchise opening numbers, but still really good. Can they equal that tonight? Will be interesting to see how it pans out. It’s also early in Thunder preseason, so the Barons front office is trying to hook fans early. Winning always makes for good attendance as well.

Workin’ For The Weekend – Barons Home Opener Friday & Saturday – “Relax”


Frankie Goes To Hollywood might be the worst band name of the 80’s, but they somehow managed to write, produce, record, promote, and scandalize one of the most iconic songs of the decade. “Relax”, a Euro-dance-pop classic, is as noticeable as it is suggestive. It’s a track that boisterously demands that you sing along whether you like it or not. Compiled, remixed, and re-issued numerous times over the years, the song still holds up.

Strange is the double entendre going on in this song, so I’ll take the high road. Because when Frankie says, “Live those dreams, scheme those schemes. Got to hit me. Hit me with those laser beams,” I’m going to assume they had the Barons power play in mind. And despite the fact that OKC didn’t absolutely dominate their opening games, always remember that Frankie Says Relax.

It’s been approximately a week since the Barons split a pair of games with the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland, Ohio. The power play was terrible, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t score, and neither did Jordan Eberle. Yann Danis gave up a bunch of goals, but wasn’t bailed out often by his defense. Not a ton of scoring was had. The penalties were abundant. It’s sounds awful, but it was a pretty solid start for a young team with a ton of potential greatness.

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Taylor Hall Skates In OKC, Home Opener Prep, & Media Day Quotes

Photo courtesy of Neal Livingston. All rights reserved.

As we embark on the final practice before opening night of AHL play in Oklahoma City, the roster seems to do the impossible — it gets better. Taylor Hall, now skating with a yellow no contact jersey, is quite the impressive skater when viewed live. He’s a phenom; doing hockey things that only a few hockey guys can do. He’s a wonder talent that does make the Barons lineup infinitely more dangerous. Not officially a Baron (considered on a conditioning stint), he’ll need to sign a minor league contract to actually be a part of the team; something that will likely happen in the next two weeks.

And what a day for Taylor to make it to OKC, for the annual media day (which is really for the few television outlets that attend out of duty). Nonetheless, it’s an important day. It means that hockey, real hockey, begins soon in the metro.

Here are the highlights from Coach Nelson, captain Josh Green, The Nuge, and reigning AHL Goaltender of the Year, Yann Danis.

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Rumors Of Taylor Hall Timetable; November 2nd AHL Debut Target Date

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. All rights reserved.
The rumors of Taylor Hall heading to OKC bubbled over last week when it was all but confirmed that he’d arrive in the coming days. What was yet to be determined was the exact date of his arrival as well as a timetable for full shoulder recovery to play in the American Hockey League with fellow line mates, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It appears that both of these are forthcoming.

Jason Gregor, radio host and OilersNation.com contributor, had this to say via his weekend wrap up:

Taylor Hall will head to OKC tomorrow for a two-week conditioning stint. He will practice with the team for a few weeks before returning to Edmonton to see his doctor. If all goes well he will be cleared and is hoping to play Friday November 2nd v. the Houston Aeros.

It’s nice to finally be privy to the plan for Hall in the coming weeks. I’ll assume by tomorrow he means Tuesday of this week. And indeed a two-week conditioning stint would have him starting the weekend of three games in three days – in OKC against Houston Friday and Saturday, in San Antonio Sunday.

Where he fits in this lineup is not in the least bit problematic at the top. Most likely he’ll play with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, the way they’ve played in the NHL in the most recent season. And that’s going to be very entertaining.

That likely means that someone drops off the roster, and packs their bags for Stockton. Tanner House, Kristians Pelss, and maybe even Cameron Abney are all candidates for the reshuffle.

More details posted here as the info becomes available.

Monday Mumble: The Season Worth Watching

In a few days, the Barons will play on home ice in downtown Oklahoma City. And when they do, it will feature one of the most glamorous sports teams in the cities history. Not in terms of where they will end the season do we rate them historically, but how deeply loaded they are from top to bottom. High draft picks into the NHL are rare for the really good teams in the NHL. But when you’re an Oilers fan, the picks are a plenty. Three of them, to be exact, in the last three years. It’s entirely possible that two of those will be donning the baby orange and blue this season even if only for a couple dozen games. That’s a remarkable feat. One that shows the doldrums of a rebuild, and the good fortune of its minor league affiliate.

The Nuge, Ebs, Schultz, Hall — had you asked me about these names 6 months ago, I would’ve told you how excited I was to watch them on Center Ice, and talk about them in the blogosphere the next morning. Unaware that I’d be meeting them face to face. Contemplating asking for an autograph. Posing with them in pictures. And wearing their names on a jersey with a Barons oil drop logo to the right. It’s still an unbelievable scenario.

Push those things aside for just a few moments if you can. There are some other important issues to consider this season.

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Barons Rusty, But Good Enough To Beat Erie 3-2

Oh how the wicked infraction can turn the tides. Sounds poetically beautiful, but is painfully commonplace. The rust is evident in most hockey teams when they begin the AHL march towards greatness or utter defeat. And quickly you realize where and how often to apply the WD-40 to knock loose the gunk from a four month off season. For Oklahoma City, the buildup has been two-fold — in the box and on the man advantage.

Saturday night, the Oklahoma City Barons tangled with the Lake Erie Monsters at high noon. After a nonchalant performance the night before, the team got the lucky bounces that it hadn’t in the previous outing. Yet the rusty wheel creaked and moaned as the Barons narrowly pulled of a 3-2 victory in Cleveland.

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Barons Lose To Monsters In Season Opener

It’s wasn’t a home ice 6-3 beating by Houston. Nor was it 7-0 shellacking by Texas on southern soil. It was, however, a loss by the Oklahoma City Barons to kick off a season. The Barons have yet to win an opening night game in their existence. In a tightly fought game that was highly energetic on both sides, the Lake Erie Monsters defeated the OKC Barons, 2-1 in Cleveland.

Huge attaboy to the Monsters, who had everything against them in their home opener. A new coach in Dean Chynoweth who altered the charge of the team to be more offensively chancey, two North American rookie goaltenders, and no Gabriel Landeskog likely equaled a tough season. But they came out prepared, sturdy, smart, and just good enough to beat the heavily favored Barons.

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Workin’ For The Weekend – Season Begins In Erie “Start Me Up”

Keep in mind that I was born in 1980. The following a year, a band you may have heard of, called the Rolling Stones released a track entitled “Start Me Up”. It was originally crafted 6 years earlier, scrapped twice from subsequent Stones albums, and added as a late set filler for their live show. Little did Keith Richards and crew realize, but that opening lick would become a rock classic. One that makes me want to full body dry heave my way around a stage as only the real Jagger could do.

It’s a track featured in Microsoft commercials, episodes of the Simpsons, and various sporting events. It’s a familiar classic that kicked off the 80’s, and perhaps trumped the death of fabulous rock music in one fell swoop.

But it’s a song that we channel often for beginning things. Sometimes we use it to motivate a long jog or a marathon vacuuming session. Regardless, it gets you moving even when you don’t want to.

The glorious Oklahoma City Barons are a good team. I don’t have to see the first game to realize this cold hard fact. The roster alone proves to be one that is lethal from all angles. But being good and winning are two very different things. As we’ve seen with the Oilers, and even with the players that are now in OKC for however long, young stars can’t polish broken brass no matter how hard you try (and your GM throws you to the wolves). But that won’t happen in OKC, will it? It can’t! Or can it? Like the great lyric says the goal is to “Start me up. If you start me up I’ll never stop” — let’s start the season, and hope we never stop.

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A Closer Look At The New Barons Third Jersey

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

Big thanks to Rob Ferguson (www.okchockeyphotos.com) and Steven Christy (www.stevenchristyphotography.com) for the photos. Well done guys!