Whew! That was close. On a Friday night in Peoria where goaltender Brian Elliott was taking a leave of absence from the St. Louis Blues to condition his game, the Barons looked to spoil his parade. Indeed, Oklahoma City would dominate the scoring for a full forty minutes, and narrowly escape with a closer 4-2 victory than the final score might suggest. Two points are two points. No points deducted for style either.
The first period was a good one for Yann Danis, who hadn’t been all that good to start games in recent memory. The official stat sheet reads twelve shots stopped on twelve attempts for Yann, and for Peoria that’s a pretty good number. For Oklahoma City, things were a bit slower. Two chances on the power play were ended quickly by the Rivermen, and somehow the team only rifled seven shots on net. But it was a late period goal by Tanner House, with a strong setup by Curtis Hamilton, that finally broke the scoring dam for OKC. With one minute and eleven seconds remaining in the first period, the Barons would score that goal to round out the twenty minutes with a 1-0 lead.
Brian Elliott would take some heat. Wearing number one, he’d be anything but for quite some time. A beauty of a goal by Toni Rajala which earned Kendall McFaull his first pro point, placed the Barons in a two goal lead. Later, Mark Arcobello would make good on a power play opportunity for his squad, and further move the Barons away from Peoria. From the third goal forward, the Rivs became very careful in terms of committing penalties. Despite the Barons only going 1/3 on the night, Peoria realized the need to play smart hockey that depended on five on five play more than anything else. That gameplan would pay off.
In the third period, the Barons nearly gave the game away. Two even strength goals by the Rivermen caught OKC on their heels a bit. In the end, the Rivs just had too little too late, and Brandon Davidson would score his first professional goal into an empty net. The Barons would beat Peoria, 4-2, on Friday night.
The Barons roster was a tad interesting tonight. No Ben Eager. No Darcy Hordichuk. The return of Tyler Pitlick. Newcomer Kendall McFaull making his debut. Colten Teubert scratched; healthy, but likely still bothered by a “rolled” ankle. To say it was interesting means that it’s different. And different, for this team at this moment, might not be a bad thing. Keep in mind, since coming to OKC, the team is 2-0 when Eager and Hordichuk are both out of the lineup. Coincidence?
Toni Rajala continues to get better with each week that passes. Tonight, his goal faked out a solid NHL goaltender in Brian Elliott. He had no idea the shot wasn’t coming from the first “fake out”. The hands on this kid are unreal. I’ve made the comparison to Martin St. Louis, another guy that spent time in the AHL, in the past and I’ll continue to do so. His size no longer needs to be a part of the discussion. He’s a pure goal scorer and impressive play maker.
The Barons face the IceHogs on Saturday night. The win in Peoria was great. A win in Rockford would be better. Anxious to see what the lineup looks like. Does it go unchanged from the night before?