Workin’ For The Weekend: South by Southwest “On The Road Again”

Honeysuckle_Rose_Soundtrack_Album_CoverI’ve disappointed myself by not having a Willie Nelson song (or any country song for that matter) featured in the weekly “Workin’ For The Weekend” game previews. It wasn’t on purpose, I swear. My love of “western” music runs deep. It just never felt like the right moment…until now.

“On The Road” again, the featured song from the Honeysuckle Rose soundtrack in which Willie made his lead acting debut, is a national treasure. Just barely making it into the 80’s, the song is easily one of the most recognizable Nelson tracks. It fits the movie in which it was spawned perfectly, but it also personifies the life of the Red-headed Stranger in the most precise way.

The road warrior who’s spent the majority of his life playing his beat up guitar, braiding his ancient locks, smoking his favorite wild seed, and performing some of the greatest Texas music the world has ever known. From ballads to barn burners, anthems to accessible solos — Willie has an all encompassing bag of musical tricks.

Yet the parts of “On The Road Again” are simple. Playing music, loving friends and family, being a soldier of the road; all things that Mr. Nelson grew to love, and made you love him in return. And the world embraces this mantra whenever it hits the open road for hours of American gazing.

The Oklahoma City Barons begin a March/April schedule that will test even the most sturdiest of road-worn travelers. And it really starts tonight in Cedar Park where the team faces the Texas Stars. Following the game, likely ending post-10pm, they’ll board a plane for Charlotte to play a game at 4pm the next day. The life of a minor leaguer is brutal, especially when you are a team in the South Division looking for points, and the schedule gives you absolutely no help. But Willie’s world collides with that of the a team from Oklahoma City. “Like a band of gypsies, we go down the highway” and let’s insist “that the world keep turning our way” as well as some standing points. Saddle up!

Texas on Saturday. Charlotte on Sunday. Charlotte on Monday.

That’s an interesting road trip for the Oklahoma City Barons. Interesting and important. Each team from the South Div, each team ahead of the Barons, each team wanting to lock down a playoff spot, and so we begin.

Your two Barons goaltenders are Niko Hovinen (1a) and Olivier Roy (1b). Both are fully capable of playing solid hockey between the pipes, and both will need to be in top form as both will likely play in a three-in-three situation. Roy, having been in Stockton since February 12th, returns to the Barons lineup as a top Oilers goaltending prospect who needs to be super good to not only prove his continued worth in the AHL, but perhaps in the NHL one day. This feels like a road trip where goaltending is key.

Offensively speaking the Barons now ice a team full of weapons. Jonathan Cheechoo and recent addition, CJ Stretch, are above average AHLer’s. Stretch, in particular, has been wasting away in the ECHL of late, but if he were to play in a similar mode to that on Tuesday, he’ll be a keeper. Cheechoo hasn’t had “huge” games in the last two, but he’s still a force. It’s a vet like he that teaches most by doing. And he’s done that to this point. The hope that he doesn’t fade down the stretch.

Randy Jones has been good. Brett Clark has been great. The two have really revived the Barons defensive core over the last two weeks, and that’s a nice thing to actually hear myself say. The team has needed that since mid-October. Along with Marincin, Fedun, Teubert, and Plante, the Barons defense has come along nicely, but climbing the ladder one more wrung would be welcomed.

Texas, on a two game losing streak that started in OKC Tuesday, looks to get back to their winning ways very soon. And nothing on this team leads us to believe they’ll do anything but. And in familiarity the Barons have to battle mediocrity – in net and on defense.

Nipping at the heels of the Stars are the Charlotte Checkers, who are as quick as they are unpredictable. If there were a team in the South that could make a run towards the end of the season, it’d be the Checkers. They’ve split the season series with OKC, and Arcobello, Cornet and Cheechoo have a combined fifteen points against Charlotte. The guns will need to be locked and loaded as the Checkers typically unleash a monumental gameplan against the Barons. I expect nothing different this weekend when they face-off on Sunday and Monday.

Likely Oklahoma City Barons Lineup:

Philippe Cornet – Mark Arcobello – Jonathan Cheechoo
Toni Rajala – C.J. Stretch – Josh Green
Eric Hunter – Ryan Martindale – Antti Tyrvainen
Darcy Hordichuk – Tanner House – Curtis Hamilton

Brett Clark – Taylor Fedun
Randy Jones – Andrew Hotham
Martin Marincin – Colten Teubert/Alex Plante

Niko Hovinen

Backup: Yann Danis