Barons Add Alaska Aces Defender To Roster

Barons GM, Bill Scott, announced today that the team has signed Alaska Aces left shooting defenseman, Kane Lafranchise to an AHL PTO. Lafranchise is an Edmonton born defender who spent three years with the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves where he’d play 30+ games a season. In that span, he’d earn 33 points. Since turning pro in the 2010-2011 season, Lafranchise has 60 points in the ECHL. This season, in particular, he’s played well against the Oilers affiliate in Stockton.

This is an interesting decision for OKC. Bill Scott has chosen to apparently upgrade the defensive side of the puck by adding a guy with virtually no AHL experience. But before we get too bent out of shape over this one, remember how well Scott has scouted, signed, and managed ECHL players that eventually land in OKC. Anthony Aiello, Dan Ringwald, and Dylan Yeo all spent time in the ECHL prior to coming to Oklahoma City. All were important parts of the Barons success in the seasons they were signed. Add to the fray, Bryan Helmer and Bryan Rodney, and Scott hasn’t done too badly in finding mid-season or late-season acquisitions that add key pieces that bettered Oklahoma City’s chances at the blue line (okay, Rodney may have been the one irksome signing, but the point remains). You could also make the case that the freshman season trade of Shawne Bell for Kevin Montgomery did aid the Barons for a duration, and gave the team more of what it needed in a consistent defender.

Over the last three seasons, I’ve given a lot of credit to Bill Scott. Rarely has he mangled the lineup when given a chance to improve it greatly. The diamond in the rough approach to scout and sign really good ingredients for success has me intrigued. Will the Barons and Scott strike icy gold with Lafranchise. I have no reason to think otherwise.

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Official Release:

The Oklahoma City Barons signed defenseman Kane Lafranchise to a Professional Tryout, General Manager Bill Scott announced today.

Lafranchise, a 6-1, 195-pounder from Edmonton, Alberta has played each of the last three seasons with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. In 121 games with the Aces, Lafranchise has scored 60 points (7-53-60) while serving 40 penalty minutes.

Prior to turning pro, Lafranchise played three seasons with the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Over those three seasons, he played in 97 games, scoring 33 points (9-24-33). He played two-plus seasons with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In 119 games, he scored 55 points (19-36-55).

The Houston Aeros Beat The Oklahoma City Barons…Again

There’s something about Houston. And no, it’s not the terrible traffic and the wonderful thought of attending Space Camp. No, there’s something about their minor league hockey team. They are giant killers. And they haven’t had a great December, but they remain a giant killer nonetheless. And more acutely, the Oklahoma City Baron giant with its highly entertaining top forward line. After beating the Barons 5 times this season (and only losing once), they’d do it again on New Year’s Day. They’d dispatch the Oklahoma City Barons with a final of 4-2, as they played a fantastic back-half of a hockey game.

Midway through the second period, the game was tied 2-2. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle had notched a power play goal a piece. Sandwiched in between were goals by consistent Aeros scorers, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle. Meanwhile both Yann Danis and Matt Hackett were playing well enough to keep the game tied. But it was the final period that pushed OKC over the cliff.

Jason Zucker, in unassisted fashion, netted a dandy of a goal on Yann Danis. Joha Larsson would send the puck into the empty net with Danis pulled to put the Aeros up 4-2 to end the game.

Jason Zucker stole the show tonight. Nearly had a wrap around goal in a semi-slow period for the Aeros (which they are prone to do), but would score a pair of really good goals and assist on the empty netter. This Aeros team continues to dominate the Barons, and tonight it was done at 5 on 5.

Random Thoughts

Tyler Pitlick only had one shot on the night, but he had flashes of being the prospect we saw in the playoffs last season. Strong to the net, unafraid to go to the boards, and skating hard through the offensive zone – we need more from Pitlick in all these areas in every game.

Defensively, this OKC team is terrible. Forget the loss of scoring if/when the NHL returns, this Barons team will continue to struggle on defense. Justin Schultz, who’s started to show some wounds to his defensive abilities, wasn’t solely responsible for both of the Aeros’ first two goals, but he didn’t make them more respectable. He finally has started to look like a pro rookie. Still capable of offensive firepower, but unable to consistently defend. THAT might be a problem.

OKC went 2 for 3 on the power play, but looked lost at times in even strength situations. For Houston, they committed few penalties, and thus kept OKC from additional power play opportunities. That’s tough to do when the Barons are speedy, but the most disciplined outfits can beat OKC with good goaltending and few mistakes.

In front of the net, the trend for the Barons has been to give up way too much space near Danis. Guys are wheeling and dealing in and out of the goal crease area, and that’s really ugly to watch. The Aeros have the Barons number, and a lot of it has to do with where they pick their skating spots. I’d like to see Teubert, Plante, Hendry, _______ name other sturdy defender here become smartly aggressive in this department.

Jason Zucker, a great scorer and equally as impressive setup man, has really come to life as a Minnesota Wild prospect. He’s hard to handle. And it doesn’t help much when opponents refuse or forget to shut him down.

January 4th, the Barons step out of the games against Texas and will face the stingy Grand Rapids Griffins.

Jordan Eberle Gets Three In The First, Barons Get NYE Victory

Stars vs. Oklahoma City Barons 12-31-12
Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

In their magical blue and orange thirds on a magical New Year’s Eve in downtown Oklahoma City, Jordan Eberle ripped off three first period goals in a span of three minutes to decimate any type of chutzpah that the Texas Stars had going. The Oklahoma City Barons would eventually defeat the Texas Stars, 5-2, and secure the temporary runner up spot in the South Division of the Western Conference.

The euphoric nature of getting a hat trick is something that Jordan Eberle hadn’t experienced in the pro ranks until this season. His first, was a glorious endeavor. His second, was a ride on a roller coaster with no seat belt.

With the game newly underway the Stars seemed in full control of the puck, the action in their offensive zone, and the battles along the boards. The Barons, on the other hand, seemed a bit off. Nothing overtly bothersome, but off enough to cause only 7 shots in the first period on the steel curtain of Cristopher Nilstorp. On the other end, Yann Danis was as good in an opening frame as he’s been in a few weeks. Poised, determined, an asset – and this made things much easier on Oklahoma City. After the Barons killed off the first infraction of the game (Alex Plante, interference), Jordan Eberle would find another gear. Scoring goals at will at the 15:44, 15:53, and 18:27 marks were enough to earn him a hat trick in one period in a span of just 2:43. The first goal was care of a great pass to center from Taylor Hall. The second came care of a defensive blunder by Stars defender, Patrick Nemeth. The third, on the power play, with an assist to Justin Schultz. The period would end with the Barons on top 3-0, and Mr. Eberle with another hat trick notched in his belt.

The second period resulted in a johnny-on-the-spot goal for Colton Sceviour who jabbed in a rebounded shot that Danis just couldn’t cover up. Texas showed some life on the scoreboard. But two minutes later, Justin Schultz would put the Barons back up by three on the second power play goal of the game for OKC. Despite a handful of really careless penalties by OKC including a late period cross check by Alex Plante and an even later double-high stick by Colten Teubert, and 21 shots taken by the Stars, the Barons kept the score at 4-1.

With a carryover penalty from the second period in tow, Oklahoma City would give up a power play goal to Matt Fraser as the score now would stand at 4-2. Without slowing the pace, the home team played smarter hockey than it had in the second period. No penalties, and double-digit shot totals kept the Barons in front. They weren’t forced to play a shut down game, but were quick to make smart defensive plays when needed. With Nilstorp pulled, and 6 seconds left on the clock, Josh Green would net the empty netter and place the Barons in a position to beat the Texas Stars, 5-2.

Random Thoughts

Lots to discuss in this one, but let’s start with Jordan Eberle. Three goals in about three minutes. Two of those scored in a nine second timeframe. That’s just ridiculous. He’s starting to do things that make AHL players (and some future NHL players) look silly. If he were a basketball player he’d be “breakin’ kneecaps”. Even the sturdiest of defenders doesn’t have the necessary footspeed or awareness to shut him down. Ebs is a closer of the finest caliber. He made Nilstorp look silly on the first goal. Just magically forced him out of position. The second goal caused more than a few players to look silly. And that’s a good thing. As Jordan progresses, even in the minors during the lockout, he’s doing great things with his feet, great things with his hands, and great things with his skates. You can’t expect him to force opponents to make mistakes all the time in the NHL, but he’s reassuring the world that perhaps he’s worth his price tag by simply being the best player in the league below the one he’s supposed to play in. Well done kid, and congrats.

Lizon and Gazdic. The goon patrol was bound to take a turn towards reality soon, and tonight it did just that. Here’s my problem with icing Lizon for OKC (not so much Gazdic whom is capable of doing more than punching things) – he’s a one trick pony. Disagree with the need that the Barons have for a tough guy all you want, but he has one goal and that is to be the big heavy. That’s okay in most circumstances, but this is a guy who plays primarily in the CHL stealing so-so ice time from a real(?) Oilers prospect like Cam Abney (again, ?) or Philippe Cornet or Toni Rajala for heavens sake. Now I know that they are trying to give high end minutes to these guys in Stockton, but the quality of compete is much higher in the AHL, thus we get a better picture of how they fare in a comparable league to the NHL. I’d prefer to see as many Oilers propsects in OKC as possible, and when the roster is already so NHL heavy, those spaces are few and far between. Giving Lizon that extra wing spot for more than one game bothers me, and hopefully it doesn’t continue.

Attendance for a 6:00pm start time on New Year’s Eve with the Thunder playing across the street — was pretty good. Just shy of 5,000 at 4,976, the Cox Center was fuller than most nights. Several groups. Several military outfits. It was a good night for hockey in OKC. Man, the AHL is a tough sell.

Tanner House continues to be my underdog pick to click. His passing has gotten better since last season, and he’s become a really solid defensive forward. Those don’t grow on trees. He shows much of the promise that Chris VandeVelde has shown in spurts throughout his career. I like that.

Danis will be overshadowed by Jordan Eberle’s performance, but his 42 blocked shots is impressive. Texas took a ton of shots from the point, and through thick traffic. He seemed to view the puck well, and covered up quickly (for the most part). I’d love for the Barons to get a really good on/off/on/off system of play over the next couple of months. This, of course, requires Olivier Roy to be good more than just on a rare occasion.

The Barons head to Houston tomorrow morning for another early evening start. This one, in the Toyota Center, starts at 5:00pm. See you then and Happy New Year from Oklahoma City!