Oklahoma City Beats Rockford 4-3, Points Welcomed

After an 8-2 lambasting by the Milwaukee Admirals the night before, the Oklahoma City Barons needed to come out strong against the Rockford IceHogs. And they’d do just that. The Barons would beat the IceHogs 4-3 on Saturday night.

The first period was pretty solid for both goaltenders and both offensive units. Newcomers to the Barons, Brett Clark and Jonathan Cheechoo, seemed like they finally were getting into a rhythm with their new club. But Rockford would get an early lead care of top scorer Martin St. Pierre. And his mid-period goal would be the only tally in the first 20. Rockford ended the period with a 1-0 lead.

In the second period, the Barons would answer back quickly by scoring three goals including the first one on the power play from AHL All-Star, Mark Arcobello and helpers from Clark and Cheechoo. Rockford would again take the lead following Antti Tyrvainen being whistled for an iffy hooking penalty. But the Barons would round out the period by scoring two within a matter of two minutes towards the end of the frame. Philippe Cornet and Josh Green were credited with the goals, and the Barons flexed a bit of muscle in the second period. It would end with OKC on top 3-2.

It would take nearly fifteen minutes for Rockford to even things out, but the tied game would only last for ninety seconds or so as Colten Teubert unleashed a heavy shot that pinballed through traffic and into the net. The Barons would squeeze out a victory by scoring a power play goal, playing very well at 5 on 5, and killing four of five penalties. The final 4-3 score also earned OKC the much needed two points.

Barons Get Slammed By Admirals, 8-2

When a team loses 8-2 and your backup goaltender lets in two more goals than the starter, you know you’ve got some problems. The 8-2 spanking given to the Oklahoma City Barons by the Milwaukee Admirals was the perfect example of where the AHL is at these days. While most teams have begun to balance out their lineups, the Barons are grasping for any type of solid footing.

Olivier Roy got the start, gave up three goals in 31:00 of play, then Bunz came in to recover and gave up another five in 28:00. It was a bad night for prospect goaltenders unless your name is Jeremy Smith playing at the other end of the ice.

The Barons dropped 46 shots on the Admirals, and only had two goals to show for it. By comparison, the Ads only took 29. Remember the score?

Oklahoma City often doubles their opponents shots and seemingly continues to lose by two goals plus. That means this team isn’t getting high scoring chances, but rather long distance drop-ins that yield very few goals. That’s a problem. It may also point to some systematic issues within how the Barons play, but that’s likely for another post.

Toni Rajala had a goal and an assist on the night, Taylor Fedun had two assists, and Ryan Martindale had the other goal (now on a four game point streak). But even those who were able to score or produce offense were responsible for some really ugly defensive jockeying within the forward core. As a matter of fact, virtually every player on the team can shoulder the blame in this one. And that’s a tough situation to digest.

Jeremy Smith is a great goaltender, there’s no denying that, but this OKC team feels a bit messy. So messy in fact, that I’m not sure re-organizing will give you much of a different outcome. Nonetheless, the team soldiers on to their final game prior to AHL All-Star break. They’ll face the Rockford Ice Hogs this evening.

Niko Hovinen Claimed By Oilers, Sent To OKC

Niko Hovinen has been claimed from the Philadelphia Flyers by the Edmonton Oilers for the purpose of having the goaltender re-assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons. This points to Khabibulin being on the IR a bit longer, and thus Danis staying as the number two in Edmonton for a longer duration. But more than that, the Oilers want to protect their assets in Tyler Bunz and Olivier Roy who are going currently the go-to guys on the farm in Oklahoma City. This shuffles Bunz back to Stockton and likely keeps Roy number one with Hovinen as a backup.

Niko has spent most of his early career in SM-liiga where he’s put up decent numbers. Most recently, however, he’s spent time with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL where his save percentage is well below .900 (.889 to be exact). He’ll play a big role on the farm, and here’s hoping that he’s ready for the task.

Official Release:

General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have claimed goaltender Niko Hovinen off unconditional waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Hovinen, 24, spent the first part of the 2012-13 season with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL. The 6’7”, 214 pound netminder has played in 16 games, registering a 3.14 GAA and an .889 save percentage, with a record of 4-6-1-2.

The Helsinki, Finland native spent five seasons in the SM-liiga with Jokerit and Lahti (2005-2010).

Hovinen was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 5th round, 132nd overall in the 2006 NHL Draft. He signed a two year entry level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Midwesterly Ads & Hogs “Rebel Yell”

More! More! More!
More! More! More!

Rebel Yell from the album of the same name, remains an excessive example of perhaps the less than hard-rocking ways of rock music in the 80’s. Billy Idol claims that the song was inspired by a bottle of whiskey as opposed to the Civil War cry of the Confederate soldier, and former is probably a better reason. I don’t see Mr. Idol as much of a history buff. Although he ironically mentions slavery once in the song, but again, I’m not seeing a British punk rocker cracking a book, and writing about US history.

Nonetheless, knowing what we know about the origins of the song, it makes more sense that this is about a beverage and perhaps less about an icky late night relationship. But the gruff vocals, sing-alongy chorus, and Idol’s back ground – this is an 80’s rocker/romper that I enjoy greatly.

In 1983, the song wasn’t hugely successful, but it was the allure of Idol that eventually sold this as a “classic” track. I’ll not stake a claim that this track is deserving of “one of the best ever”, but as far as 80’s rock music goes, it’ll do just fine.

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Barons Lose To Griffins In Shootout, Still Lots Of Positives

The first period was another where the Oklahoma City Barons would out shoot their opponents, but end the 20 minutes down by two goals. Kristians Pelss had at least two really strong moments in front of the net, and Jonathan Cheechoo proved his step was still fresh and his stick still active. But it was the Griffins that would make the most of their opportunities. Tomas Jurco and Mitch Callahan each scored their sixth goals of the year to overtake the Barons on the scoreboard in the first frame. The opening goal came in the first five minutes, the second one in the last ten seconds. 2-0, Griffins after one.

The second period began with two early Barons goals. Mark Arcobello on the doorstep accepts a pass from Josh Green to net his 11th of the season in the first minute of the second 20 minutes. Two minutes later, Antti Tryvainen scores to even the game with an intense shot on net. With the two goal deficit erased, the Griffins would answer with a power play goal that came just seven seconds into the man advantage. Defenseman Adam Almquist took a long distance shot that was screened by two players, one a Baron. They’d take the lead momentarily. After a semi-lazy line change for the Griffins, Tanner House surged down the left wing and received a pass beautifully in stride. He’d wind up and net the third of the game for OKC. The game was again tied at 3 all. But quickly the Griffins did a give and go on the Barons defenders and snuck one behind Olivier Roy. Tomas Tatar made it 4-3 for the Griffins after two.

So the third period was to be another moment where the Barons crawl out of a goal deficit. Of all the people to push their way towards saving a game for his team, I’d not had picked Martin Marincin. Nonetheless, Marincin made a power play move down the right wing that makes minor league angels cry. After the Barons won the face off, he’d skillfully dance the puck down the right wing unmolested. His sneaky move would go in behind the rookie tender for the Griffins. The game was tied at 4-4. The final ten minutes of the period were strong for both teams, but each goaltender was willing to budge. The teams would head to a overtime.

Eight shots for Oklahoma City and three shots for Grand Rapids would end the overtime period still knotted at 4-4. The game was highly favoring Oklahoma City at that point, and to see it go down in a shootout was a bit off putting. Nonetheless, that’s where it would head.

Toni Rajala, Mark Arcobello, Jonathan Cheechoo and Martin Marincin all missed on their shootout opportunities. In that same four round stretch, the Griffins netted two goals. One from Chad Billins, the other a spectacular one from Gustav Nyquist. The Barons would lose 5-4 in a shootout, but really charged hard after falling down by two goals.

The line of Toni Rajala – Anton Lander – Kristians Pelss is steadily becoming my favorite. They are gruff and tough, and able to produce a scoring chance even more exhilarating than the line above them. And it’s young. So fun to watch, and very capable of unloading equal parts tenacity and offensive jockeying. Well done.

Likewise, Martin Marincin looked like Marin Marincin in November with Justin Schultz. He, at least for one game, gave us hope that he’d be a solid NHLer one day. Like.

Outside of the Arcobello goal to start the second period, the final three goals came from the second line on down. That hasn’t happened in ages; where secondary scoring outdoes the top line. Good sign.

Roy was good, but still not great. He seemed un-phased by the first two goals and really made some key stops to keep his team in the game. In the shootout, he was just terrible. As evidenced by the schooling he received from Gustav Nyquist. He’ll fix that, I have no doubt.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Wednesday In GR “Private Eyes”

private eyes
Private eyes, they’re watching you.

Listen. No, come closer, this is important. Daryl Hall and John Oates need little introduction. With the sweet sound of syrupy melodies and smoldering goofiness they are solely responsible for some of the greatest pop music now featured in your neighborhood dental office. Not to go all “Delilah” on you, but I find their cheesy brand of performance art compelling. And they certainly aren’t without an endearing catalog of familiar tracks for which picking a favorite is darn near impossible.

So I’ll go with Private Eyes. You can thank me later.

For a song that so clearly defines the career of these two men and their one mustache, the thought of a private eye watching you always seemed a bit creepy. But in actuality, the songwriter (which was neither Hall nor Oates) intended this to be an I got you, you got me, we got each other kinda vibe. To humble brag about knowing your significant other better than they known themselves is exactly what they are trying to communicate. Trench coats, mustaches, and hand claps included.

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Who’s The Best Oilers Prospect In OKC

Toni Rajala Bend
Bend it like Toni. Photo courtesy of Steven Christy.

Hockey prospecting is a funny business. Players from all over the globe can be claimed by teams in the National Hockey League, and play years in other parts of the globe until they call said pro team home. As a fan of all other professional sports, it’s confusing. As a fan of hockey, it’s a juicy wrinkle to the sport that emphasizes the global nature of it all.

The Edmonton Oilers, no stranger to a good/sour prospect, have leaned less heavily on their nurturing of prospects and more so on drafting high end talent able to play in the moment. And perhaps this is a double-edged sword. Perhaps Tambellini and company approached things differently in the later rounds because the need wasn’t so great. That sounds stupid, but given the current state of prospects already playing pro hockey, it wouldn’t surprise me if this subconsciously took place. DISCLAIMER: I’m not passing judgement on the Oilers’ scouts, just making an opinionated guesstimate of the situation. 

As a Barons writer, of course my time is spent watching developing prospects in the AHL. In the three years of existence as the farm club of the Edmonton Oilers, it appears that OKC has groomed maybe two players for the big time. Defenseman, Jeff Petry was the first. After 41 games in 2010-11, his days as a farm hand ended, and he’d earn a promotion to the big club. Teemu Hartikainen is likely the second. And his story is nearly two and a half years in the making, in which he’s fixed, tweaked, and changed portions of his game that have now nudged him more towards being a full time NHLer. Sandwiched between those two should have been Linus Omark, but that ship has sailed.

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Tyler Pitlick Injured, Clark With Fedun, Cheechoo At Top And More

AHL Hockey: Dec 31 Barons vs Stars
Tyler Pitlick in the “third”. Photo courtesy of Steven Christy.

For those that were at Oklahoma City Barons practice today, they were privy to the first viewing of Jonathan Cheechoo and Brett Clark. Both were signed to AHL type contracts (one PTO, the other a SPC) this weekend and look to travel with the team this week for a three game road swing.

Todd Nelson, via the Oilers Now radio show on CHED 630, made mention of where these guys will squeeze into the lineup in the next week or so.

First, Jonathan Cheechoo will instantly hit the top line. That’s not surprising. He’ll play on a line with Josh Green and Mark Arcobello, and there’s not reason that line shouldn’t produce a goal a night (or more) moving forward. Arcobello seems the most likely to benefit from Cheechoo as he likes the fast, quick, and reckless style of hockey that he hasn’t had since playing center for Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. That line, if it remains in tact, will be a dandy in the coming months.

Second, Brett Clark will help shoulder some of the burden of a rookie prospect on defense that the Oilers seem keen on. Practicing today alongside Taylor Fedun, coach Nelson wants to give some sturdy structure to the up-and-comer who needs some strong tutelage. Those two should make for a solid pairing. Also look for Clark to be a heavy presence on both the power play and the penalty kill. He’ll get heavy minutes despite being the oldest member of the Barons.

For more on both of these players, meander over to the OKC Barons YouTube page. Some good stuff there. (CLICK HERE)

Here’s the full practice forward lineup:

Josh Green – Mark Arcobello – Jonathan Cheechoo
Toni Rajala – Anton Lander – Philippe Cornet
Kristians Pelss – Ryan Martindale – Dane Byers
Curtis Hamilton – Chris VandeVelde – Tanner House

Extras: Antti Tyrvainen, Erick Lizon

And in a bit of news that causes me great heartburn is that Tyler Pitlick is having an MRI done today on his right knee. Coach Nelson, again via Oilers Now this morning, suggests that it might be severe enough that Tyler misses six weeks of play. In his second year as a pro, an injury like this is brutal to his experience. His struggles this season are well known, and there’s no denying that he was looking forward to “turning the page” post-January. Instead he’ll likely sit and watch for an extended period of time. Here’s hoping the MRI proves the speculation false.