Oklahoma City Beats Grand Rapids 4-3, Team Wins As Team

Grand Rapids vs. Oklahoma City Barons 2-8-13
Cheechoo. Gritty. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson.

This was a good win for the Barons. It could be considered great because the team dropped nearly 40 shots on net. Or it might be the sudden impact of a goal scorer named Jonathan Cheechoo. Or that the Barons only suffered 8 penalty minutes in the entire game. No, this was a good win for one reason, and one reason alone – the comeback.

The Barons, facing the Grand Rapids Griffins twice this weekend, dispatched the GRG 4-3 on Friday night.

Oklahoma City gave up the first goal of the game, as they have been prone to do over the last few weeks. That goal came in the early moments of the opening period, and it forced the Barons to really drive the puck hard for the next 15 minutes of the first frame. And it paid off as Ryan Martindale scored his fourth goal of the season with solid leg work by Curtis Hamilton, and a fantastic assist from Toni Rajala. The period would end with very little activity from the Griffins, and the Barons in double digit shots. 1-1 after 20 minutes.

As the second period began, it was clear that Grand Rapids was going to flip the script. Riding their early momentum, they’d again score early. However, this time they beat Hovinen twice at the under 6 minute mark, and putting OKC down by two goals. But the Barons would roar back thanks to Jonathan Cheechoo and his two goals in less than 3 minutes. And again the Barons would up the ante by shooting the puck 17 times. A later period kill by the home team would again end a period in a tie. After 40 minutes, the score was 3-3.

Grand Rapids vs. Oklahoma City Barons 2-8-13
Teubert. Fist pump. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson.

As each team matched goals scored in the first two periods, it would be the Barons that held their ground, and hammered the nail into the coffin care of Phlippe Cornet halfway through the final 20 minutes. Grand Rapids showed little fight, the Barons played smart hockey, and the final horn would sound with the Barons on top 4-3.

The same teams will face off Saturday night in Oklahoma City for round two.

Random Thoughts

Niko Hovinen, in his second straight start, still hasn’t shown us he’s capable of having a monster game when the stakes are high. More specifically, he’s not faced a lot of shots, and has let in quite a few considering how little he’s faced. Friday’s opening period, he let in 1 on 6 shots. In the second period, he let in 2 on 9. In the third, he let in 0, but only faced 4 shots. The victory is his, but it’s hard to call him successful.

Philippe Cornet has strung together a few games of late that are reminiscent of his games early into last season. He’s playing heads up hockey, and continues to be an overproductive underdog. Well done.

Brandon Davidson, returning to game day play for the first time since late October, was the story of the night. Cancer is gone. He was cleared to play. And he inspired those in attendance. Not only was he warmly welcomed by the fans, but he played forward for a “strained” Antti Tyrvainen. Talk about a return to the ice. Despite being forced to play on the offensive side of the puck, his presence on the ice was enough to celebrate. Welcome back, Brandon. Via the Daily Oklahoman:

“I felt like I had been out forever,” Davidson said. “I can’t describe how much I missed the game and how much this meant to me. It was definitely a stepping stone moving forward. I was very emotional with all the fans being very appreciative.”

Jonathan Cheechoo is becoming the guy we know he can be. It took him about five games last season to warm up in Peoria, and it took nearly that long in Oklahoma City. Either way, his scoring was/is needed, and he’s coming through. Still on a PTO, it will be interesting to see how the Barons handle him down the stretch. Signing him to another PTO might be the short term solution. But if he’s able to be snatched for a longer duration, it might be worth exploring.

Grand Rapids vs. Oklahoma City Barons 2-8-13
Cheechoo. Gritty. Again. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson.

Speaking of instant help, defenseman Brett Clark has been a perfect fit. Calm. Consistent. Smart. Sturdy. Brett Clark is Bryan Helmer+. He’s a capable defender that clearly has skills that are well beyond the American League. He’s an NHLer. He moves and skates well for an “older” player, but his intelligence give shim the edge. Plus, he’s a great leader on the ice. If he’s half the leader in the locker room that he is on the ice, he’s worth every penny.

Grand Rapids looked lethargic tonight. In a tie game they went to sleep in the third period.I realize they’ve been harvested by parent team, the Detroit Red Wings, but it’s rare that they take a night off. That wont’ happen two nights in a row, and if it does, there is likely something going on with this club. They are better than what they showed on Friday. This makes me afraid for round two.

No Yann? The Barons continue to hold on to all three goaltenders. Barons GM, Bill Scott, has eluded to many that the plan is to hang on to all of them for the near future. Yann not playing means they are saving him. Saving him for call ups. They are also trying to get the most out of Hovinen, who was claimed off waivers. How often and who moving forward will be interesting for the trio of pretty solid netminders.

He shouldn’t be a footnote because his long distance shot earned Cornet the “tipped in” game winning goal, but Theo Peckham played pretty well for a guy who hasn’t played in quite some time. He wasn’t dreadful, but wasn’t great. I’m curious to see how long he stays a Baron. It helps his cause that the team wins, and he looks good towards the end on the one shot he took all game. The jury is still out.

Randy Jones looked lost, but that’s expected. He’s not played meaninful minutes in almost an entire year. His movement alone, both north to south and east to west, demanded that you paid attention. He, like Clark, clearly has AHL or better potential. He’ll be a huge asset, I have no doubt.