There are times, over the last two years, when our beloved Oklahoma City Barons introduced fans to “the fade”. This was a phenomena that occurred about 3/4ths of the way through the game, usually when the team had a nice lead, and when the other team would get desperate. Forwards stopped moving the puck quickly, defenders got sloppy, goaltenders fell asleep, and on occasion the team couldn’t rise from the doldrums to hang on to a lead. They simply faded away from the game plan. Ironically, it reared its ugly head last night as the Barons scored the first three goals, then proceeded to give up the last three goals as the team eventually was defeated by the Houston Aeros in a shootout, 4-3.
I don’t think it was a full view of “the fade”, that has marked Todd Nelson teams for two years, but it was the closest thing we’ve seen this season (maybe Friday too).
The first period was quick, back-and-forth hockey. Despite both teams shooting under 10 shots, it appeared that goaltending, as is so common in the minors, would be the deciding factor. Yann Danis, in the first period alone, looked again like the Yann of last season. But you immediately got a feeling that he couldn’t do it for three consecutive periods. He just needed a helping hand. Matt Hackett at the other end was a little less dynamic, but efficient enough in the first period to help kill off a double dose of Barons power plays. The first period ended 0-0.
The second period was where the scoring began. In the first 57 seconds, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dealt with a great receiving pass from Justin Schultz on the left wing, and then lifted the puck over Matt Hackett. OKC takes a second period 1-0 lead. The shots slowed, both defenses buckled down, and the period would end with the Barons holding on to a one goal lead. But 1-0 heading into the third felt nothing like a victory, and the final frame proved to be devastating.
As was the case in the second , another goal was scored in under a minute to start a period. This time it was Jordan Eberle picking the pocket of Aeros’ defender Tyler Cuma. His stand alone breakaway would lead to a Barons lead of 2-0. About 6 minutes later, this time on the power play, Eberle scores after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dislodges the puck from Tyler Cuma along the boards. Oklahoma City would take a commanding 3-0 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the game. The Barons defense would get buttery soft. David McIntyre kicked things off as he picked up a right wing rebound, and put it quickly past Danis. Alex Plante and Taylor Fedun closed in too narrowly on net, and the Aeros moved in close. Two minutes later, following a Tanner House interference penalty, Chay Genoway scored for Houston on a streaking right side. The Aeros were now closing in. They’d tie the game when Joel Broda notched his first goal of the season at the 12:28 mark of the third. The final minutes would be spent in wait, and the game ends with a 3-3 tie.
The overtime period was the definition of tame. OKC with two shots. Houston with four. Neither goaltender gave up any rebounds, and the fate of this game would be sealed in a shootout.
Here’s the results of the shootout:
Jordan Eberle – NO GOAL
Zack Phillips – GOAL
Justin Schultz – NO GOAL
Kris Foucault – NO GOAL
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – NO GOAL
Justin Fontaine – GOAL
Magnus Paajarvi – NO GOAL
Yann Danis bit hard on the Zack Phillips shootout goal as he pushed it just past the left side of Danis. Same goes for the Fontaine goal, you just knew Danis would get beat.
The Aeros would defeat the Barons in a shootout, 4-3, as they complete the third period comeback.
There are no words to describe that third period meltdown. It nearly happened the night before, but Jordan Eberle bailed his team out by scoring. Tonight, it was bound to catch up with them. Over the course of the season, finishing strong is going to be difficult for the Barons. Young or not, they aren’t build to protect a lead like you’d like them to be. And that has to be disconcerting for Todd Nelson, whom loves a protect-a-puck session and lock down defense like many coaches do. Dealing with a lumpy third period defensive core will be bothersome. Perhaps he considers a stronger third period forecheck, or rolling the lines differently in the third to keep pressure on the opposition. Regardless, let’s hope “the fade” doesn’t rear its ugly head.
Nuge with a goal and an assist. Eberle with two goals and an assist. Schultz with two assists. These guys continue to produce. With Hall returning to the lineup today, it appears that Eberle will sit. He’s been so good with the puck, in and around the goaltender, that I’m anxious to see how his absence disturbs things. Hall needs to be better than his debut on Friday.
The team immediately hit the road following this game, as they play in San Antonio (8 hours south of OKC) at 4:30pm. The quick turn around, coupled with the strangely putrid third period performance, it will be difficult for OKC to roar back. Those Sunday games aren’t friendly to the weary.
Aeros goaltender, Matt Hackett, took some liberties with several Barons players in front of the net. Magnus Paajarvi was the victim of a slash that was dangerously close to the groin, if not a direct shot. He’s chippy when he wants to be. Tonight included.
Although he didn’t score tonight, I’m becoming a big Charlie Coyle fan. He’s so smart and able to dominate the important spaces in the scoring areas. Without Granlund in the lineup, it will be important for Coyle to be one of the “good ones” for the Aeros.
Corbin Baldwin, of the Orlando Solar Bears, was called up to Houston to prevent any liberties being taken by the Barons with any more players. Granlund and Brodin were out after things got rough the night before, and the team wasn’t taking an chances. But, in the end, all it earned us was an Abney vs Baldwin grab fest. Some chippyness after the whistle. But very little retribution. Yawn.
Tune in to the game tonight. Time change is brutal. The Barons might be equally as brutal. But this is where seasons are won – when you don’t feel like losing.