Glorious First Period Earns OKC A Victory Over Texas, 6-2

The Barons Beat The Stars, 6-2. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
The Barons Beat The Stars, 6-2. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

Like switching from caffeine free Dr. Pepper to an extra large Big Gulp of Mountain Dew Code Red, the Oklahoma City Barons roared back to defeat the Texas Stars 6-2 after being shutout and beaten 0-4 the night before. Thus adding to the questioning of how this team can be so dominate, and yet be so lethargic nearly in the same breath.

The first period for Oklahoma City on Saturday night was about as dominate as a team can be in the first 20 minutes. Which is a far cry from the non existent, six shot first period they had on Friday. Justin Schultz scored his 15th goal of the season when he carried the puck off the wall, and brought it towards the center of the ice, where he’d backhand a shot while between the face off dots. It would go in on Texas’ goaltender, Cristopher Nilstorp for a 1-0 lead. Less than two minutes later, Taylor Hall deflected a Jordan Eberle shot into the goal on the first power play opportunity of the game for OKC. Schultz would get his second of the game on a fantastic wing move by Tanner House with Nilstorp expecting a low shot. Then House would get a goal of his own in the final minute of the first period. House crept in on the goaltender while the Stars’ defender negated a centering pass. Tanner would arc one over Nilstorp. The period would end with an dynamo of a 4-0 lead by OKC.

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Stingy Nihlstorp Helps Texas Stars Beat Oklahoma City Barons, 3-0

Paajarvi vs. Nilstorp
Getting Nihlstorp’d isn’t a whole lotta fun. Just ask a Baron. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

There are losses where your team fights hard, and simply is bested by their opponent. No big deal. You win some, you lose some. Then there are losses where a last minute mistake costs your team dearly in the end. Kinda bad, but one play doesn’t win a game (think full game arc). Then there are losses where your team refuses to show up. These are the ones that sting the most. The ones that get under the skin of even the scaliest of epidermis. These are the ones that coaches hate, fans boo, and rivals embrace. For Oklahoma City, they had one of those games Friday night, on home ice, with two important points on the line.

The Texas Stars have become a legit contender for the best team in the Western Conference. Sure they have some work to do offensively and in penalty killing situations, but with Friday’s performance fresh in my mind – I can’t seem to fathom either one of those issues remaining issues much longer. The Stars of Texas defeated the Oklahoma City Barons in the Cox Center with a 3-0 victory. Cristopher Nihlstorp wasn’t tested early, finished strong, and improved the Texas shutout time over 147 minutes.

The Barons rarely play well in defensive battles, because they just aren’t built to be overly burly. Alex Plante was apparently ill, but I can’t imagine his presence would have made things better. Colten Teubert was there, but didn’t really do much. And the rest of the team did their best to move the puck quickly up ice, while protecting their own end, but they simply got pushed around. That plays right into the hands of the Stars whom will lean on their tender and rookie D stud, Jamie Oleksiak.

In the first period, the Barons barely mustered 6 shots. Maybe one (by Taylor Hall) or two of those were legit chances, but the rest were just desperate attempts at getting the puck towards the net. For the Stars, they reeled things in defensively which opened up a ton of space for them to pepper Danis with 15 first period shots. The opening 20 minutes belonged to Texas. 0-0 was how it finished.

Then suddenly Teubert gets nudge up the ice by Cody Eakin who shovels the puck towards net. Texas’ Reily Smith bats the puck out the air on a rebound, with the net off its stakes, but the goal is allowed. The Stars take a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the second. The shots for both teams were low, and the grind was on. The best power play team in the league (OKC) was given three chances off three Texas penalties in the second. The Barons couldn’t muster much off any of them, and eventually would end the game 0 for 5. The second period would end with a 1-0 lead for the visiting team.

In the third period, the Texas Stars would tack on two more goals. Luke Gazdic would strike from the left face-off dot well over the shoulder of Yann Danis to make it 2-0. As the under-one-minute moment came, Yann skated toward the bench for an extra OKC attacker. But quickly Brenden Dillon knuckled in the empty-netter.

The Oklahoma City Barons would be shutout, and the Stars would score thrice en route to a victory for the team from the south.

Random Thoughts

Cristopher Nihlstorp was pretty solid in this one. In the final leg of the game, he was kinda forced to be good as the Barons pressed things quite a bit more. The final ten minutes, in particular, were trying for him, and he answered the dinner bell. The third best SV% in the league, this is the goaltender the Stars needed from the beginning. He’s going to be dangerous in the coming months.

Taylor Hall and Mark Arcobello combined for 9 shots. The rest of the team gave us 12 combined. Not surprising, the lack of solid play beyond the top line (or so) continues to be a problem. For a team like this to disappear quickly is absolutely insane. Then again, the defense on this squad will and always will be it’s downfall. You get into a grinder situation like they did Friday and things get ugly.

Remember the good ‘ole days? When the Barons had moments of 10-12 minutes of fading? Appropriately called the fade, those days seem like a warm memory compared to how often this version of the Barons squad disappears for entire games. That just shouldn’t happen. Like ever.

A chance at redemption comes quickly. These two lace them up again on Saturday evening. No doubt we see a different Barons team, but we likely will see the same Stars team. Meaning that OKC will need to be great to solve Nihlstorp.

The Barons were set to unveil a new goal horn tonight in the arena. Of course, that didn’t happen. So I imagine it sounded like this (click here) after such a bad performance.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Stars at Barons “Last Christmas”

Last Christmas I gave you my heart...
Last Christmas I gave you my heart…

There are fewer modern day Christmas songs that I love more than Wham!’s “Last Christmas”The holiday equivalent of a Rick-rolleverything about this song is fantastic. Let’s start with the video, which featured great hair, a snowy chalet, and heartfelt glances that occasionally meander towards the camera lens. George Michael, at the peak of his smarm, is charming and breathy and almost cutesy creepy (as only he could pull off). There is a fuzzy glow to the whole thing which was pretty common amongst video’s of that era. This only adds to the melodrama. Released the same year as Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, 1984 was quickly becoming a year of excessively memorable Christmas pop tracks. It’s also a year in which both Band Aid and Wham! donated much of the proceeds from their singles to various famine relief projects. But do-gooding aside, it’s a track about being sad at the holidays, looking forward to new things, being sad again, but always always relishing in the smiley happy synthesized beat. Glamorous and instantly recognizable, “Last Christmas” has been covered hundreds of times since 1984. From Richard Cheese to Jimmy Eat World, from the Violet Burning to the xx – it’s a song that’s equally as loved as it is despised. And that alone places it high in the pantheon of holiday season pop culture.

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The Curious Case Of Cam Barker

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

Friday night, following the Texas Stars 3-1 victory over a really good Abbotsford Heat team, Cam Barker was released from his player tryout contract or PTO as it’s known to us AHL blokes. This makes him a free agent. It’s a curious situation for Barker and the Stars for a couple of reasons. First, he ran through nearly an entire PTO (23 of 25 games) and could have been signed to another one. The consecutive 25 game contract would have been the most logical thing to do both for the team, and for the player. Frankly, I’m surprised that this didn’t happen. Barker, a regular on the power play unit for Texas, wasn’t having a terrible season. As a matter of fact, he was a shot monster. 3 goals, 5 assists, 66 shots, -5. Not dazzling stats, but then again, the Stars have struggled early this season.

Friend of this blog, One Hundred Degree Hockey, had this to say on the matter:

The former first round pick Barker had 23 games of work for the Stars, scoring three goals and five helpers and earning a minus-5 rating. He got a lot of work on the powerplay and shot the puck a lot for Texas. He is second in shots on the team at 66, just three behind leading goal scorer Matt Fraser.

With the NHL lockout facing an impending do-or-die moment, Barker may have felt that he should make himself ready to start up an NHL contract. However, it seems odd that he would not consider playing in the AHL to be an excellent conditioning stint and something that would show he is ready to play at the highest level in the world.

I tend the agree with the statement above. Playing in the AHL is better than not playing at all. It would also be curious for Barker to playfully assume that there will be an NHL season soon or that he’d actually get an NHL contract. I also tend to lean towards the fact that this was Cam’s decision rather than the Stars. Mainly because they need warm bodies on defense (upon release of Barker, Hubert Labrie was recalled from ECHL Idaho). Either way, where does the former Oiler go from here? Some have mentioned perhaps he heads to Europe. That’s totally possible. It’s also totally possible that we don’t see Cam Barker pop up for a while. Thus adding to the curious nature of it all.

Yann Danis Is Good. Needed Help. Barons Lose In SO To Houston

When you’re a fan, it’s hard to complain when you beg your team to win and they do. As if they needed my pleas to awaken to ways of winning. Yet still, winning is so much better than losing. The Barons, with back-to-back victories against San Antonio at home, turned their diesel bus towards Houston for an early Sunday evening game. The team would lose in a shootout, Yann Danis would be really good, but not good enough to overcome some discrepancies from other members of the Barons. OKC would lose to Houston, 4-3 to complete the three-in-three with 5 out of 6 points. I’ll take it.

The short story of a 60+ minute hockey game is that penalties matter and goaltending is key. For the most part, Oklahoma City conquered both. They simply ran out of gas.

Yann Danis in net for the Barons. Matt Hackett for Houston. This is a duel we’ve seen before, but it tends to be one-sided, at least this season. With OKC being unable to beat Hackett over the early parts of the season, it would seemingly be a similar sensation on Sunday night.

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The Ebs Show Gives The Barons Another Victory Over The Rampage

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.

The Barons played a complete game on Friday night against San Antonio that resulted in a resounding victory. The team did so many things right. But for every thing that the Barons did right, the Rampage did equally as wrong. Just atrocious for a San Antonio team that was on the up. So it was inevitable that we’d see a more determined Rampage squad, and more in step with their “strong and sturdy” motif. And, for the most part, we saw that team. But the Barons were, again, laser focused and determined to turn things around.

Jordan Eberle, a guy who’s had 11 professional 2 goal games would notch his first ever hat trick as a paid employee of the Edmonton Oilers. He’d also tack on an empty netter for good measure, as the Barons defeated the San Antonio Rampage, 5-3 on Saturday night. Teddy Bear Toss, Christmas tree bidding, and car giveaways were all on tap, but the real show was Mr. Ebs.

Olivier Roy, having a below average AHL season, would get the start, look really good at times, and really bad at others. In all, he needed a win and his team gave him the help he hadn’t received in previous starts. The timing was perfect, and Roy would stop 23 of 26.

Ironically, the Rampage would score first. In the first 3:30, Jon Sim would score his second goal of the season and his second in two days as San Antonio would take an early 1-0 lead. Sim would prove to be the only source of offense for his squad, and in a big way. But quickly, Schultz would give us a beautiful creeping in power play move that netted the late period equalizer for OKC. Only six shots for OKC in that first period was quite remarkable given the opening frame score.

The next two goals came in the fist period c/o some really great moments between Jordan Eberle and Mark Arcobello. The first was a dynamite move from Ebs who was able to ward off three different Rampage players and wrist a shot past San Antonio goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris. Seven minutes later, Eberle would get his second of the night off a fantastic give and go from Arcobello that was spine tingly. With a 3-1 lead, Jon Sim would strike back for his second of the game and inch the Rampage just one goal closer to the Barons. The second period would end with a 3-2 OKC lead.

A carryover Nolan Yonkman penalty put the Barons on the power play for nearly the first two minutes of the third period. And, of course, Jordan Eberle would score his third of the game. This time, Arcobello whistled the puck onto the stick of Ebs whom was hanging out in front of the net. Hat trick complet, and the Barons improve their lead to 4-2. But Jon Sim, who hadn’t scored the entire season until Friday night, would roar back with another goal of his own equaling Eberle’s three goal night and placing the Rampage within shouting distance of a win. 4-3 was the score. Oklahoma City would go into protect-a-lead mode in the last ten minutes of the game, and there were some scary moments for both sides. But Roy, the Barons defense, and some smart thinking forwards would hang on to the victory. Jordan Eberle would seal the deal with a long empty netter, his fourth of the game, and OKC would defeat the San Antonio Rampage for a second straight night with a score of 5-3.

Oklahoma City Barons Do Things Right, Beat San Antonio 5-1

Barons doing things right. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
Barons doing things right (I see you Teemu). Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

The Barons couldn’t lose 6 games in a row. Not with this lineup. Not with the team getting healthier. Or could they? This rhetorical question with two not-so rhetorical answers ran rough shod in mind throughout the day. Reconfigured lines and all, this didn’t seem like a game that Oklahoma City would win handily. The Rampage had the momentum, the want-to, the goaltending, but it was Oklahoma City that did the most things right on a chilly Friday night “in the big town”.

It began, as a lot of Oklahoma City Barons games have done recently, with a magical Jordan Eberle goal. When Rampage defender, Michael Caruso turned the puck up the ice to create some offense, Ebs intercepted the pass and wheeled in to score the opening goal of the game. Some will call this play instinctual for Jordan, but it was really more about vision. He had a bead on how that play was developing long before anyone else on the ice even knew what was happening. This, along with a host of other things, is what makes Ebs an NHL All-Star.

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Workin’ For The Weekend: Hello, Texas “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”

TURNAROUNDDDDD!
TURNAROUNDDDDD!

Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you’re never coming round
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by

Oh Bonnie Tyler, your time was eventually going to come when you’d get a mention in an obscure, minor league, Oklahoma hockey blog. For you, that day is today. And for us, the inspiration for this week’s game comes at the expense of our ears and brains that will be humming your glorious work for the next few days. Of course I’m speaking of the raspy voiced power ballad that was a mainstay on the pop charts in a plethora of countries. “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” is not only a great song, it’s a great anthem. The song is a two-way conversation between what could be a live-and-well woman, and her dead love’s ghost – spooky. At least that’s how some interpret it. But others, including the songs writer, assumed a more timely sentiment. Based on the love between Catherine and Heathcliff in the novel Wuthering Heights, the toxic nature of some relationships, between some people, in some places can cause an eclipse of the heart.

History lesson over. My mind hurts.

Bonnie Tyler could sell this song better than the greatest rock opera specialist. I mean, it’s the voice, the dedication, the melodrama – it  is meant to be sung A) in the shower at the top of your lungs, and B) in the car when no one else can hear your tone deaf dedication to really giving the turnarounddddd, bright eyes portion the oomph it deserves.

I don’t need to further discuss this matter…this song is a classic.

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Pelssian Suspension Clarification

The American Hockey League felt the need to clarify a few things recently. After the Stockton Thunder reported that the Oilers/Barons were sending the suspended Kristians Pelss to Oklahoma City, twitter took a turn towards the skeptical. Even I was caught in the wave of speculation on how a 21-game suspended ECHL player could possibly play immediately for an AHL team. That same night of the announcement, Coach Nelson confirmed that Pelss presence was merely for practice reasons. The team would honor the suspension, and his eligibility to play would be in-step with the ECHL’s ruling. That’s fine. It’s weird to recall him for practice purposes only, but to each his own.

The AHL PR twitter account trolled the chatter of fans, both of OKC and Edmonton and said this:

Then, yesterday, we get an official statement from the AHL offices via email:

The American Hockey League today announced that Oklahoma City Barons left wing Kristians Pelss has been ruled ineligible to play in the AHL until Jan. 11, 2013.

Pelss was suspended by the ECHL for 21 games as a result of a slashing incident during a game on Dec. 1.

Per the American Hockey League’s by-laws, a player who is under suspension in another league or organization who seeks to play in the AHL while under that suspension will have the relevant disciplinary matter independently reviewed by the President of the American Hockey League, who may in his discretion deem the player ineligible.

Pelss will be eligible to play for Oklahoma City beginning with their game on Jan. 11 vs. Charlotte.

I’m flattered that the league would feel this was an important bit of rules to clarify. But it highlights another problem, and that’s the availability of by-laws that have big implications within season rulings — including suspensions.

Nonetheless, the best explanation of this can be found over at Patricia Teter’s site. Bookmark it for future reference.