Charlotte & Justin Peters Outlast The Barons, Win 3-2

The Charlotte Checkers, second in the Western Conference standings, faced off against the Oklahoma City Barons on Sunday afternoon. The mid-section of a three-in-three for OKC saw the team play surprisingly well knowing that they didn’t arrive in Charlotte until 11:00am followed by the puck drop at 4:00pm. They’d out shoot the Checkers by fifteens shots, but eventually it was Charlotte that won out on the incredible play of Justin Peters in net. Olivier Roy wasn’t too shabby himself, but a late game “stinker” of a goal eventually led to a 3-2 victory by the Checkers.

The first period was surprisingly quick for OKC. Just as they had the night before in Cedar Park, the team really moved the puck well, and that gives any team the edge. But from the first shot to the final horn, it was apparent that Charlotte goaltender, Justin Peters, was going to be on point. Ten shots, all turned aside by Peters, forced Oklahoma City to get a little “clutchy and grabby”. Taylor Fedun was called for a hooking penalty with seven minutes left, and the Checkers took their chance perfectly and beat Olivier Roy. Matt Becca, positioning himself in front of Roy, received a great pass from Luke Pither, and nailed in a power play goal for a 1-0 victory. Despite only seeing six shots, Roy would let in the lone goal of the first twenty minutes.

The second period was a scoreless affair, but it was also when Justin Peters proved he was one of the elite goaltenders in the American Hockey League. Huge attempts by the first two scoring lines for the Barons stayed out of the net, and the Checkers continued to take their chances cautiously. The period ended with a 1-0 score, and no new goals to report.

After the Barons’ second liner, Eric Hunter, scored early in the third period, Charlotte would take a commanding 3-1 lead. The Checkers first goal of the period came again on the power play, but this time from David Rutherford. The second was an even strength stinker let in by Olivier Roy at the “under five” portion of the final period. The final goal by Charlotte was scored by Justin Shugg through Roy’s five hole that was launched from the left face off dot. In the waning moments of the game, Dane Byers would punch in a goal (somehow) as both teams dog piled in Peters’ crease. But the goal came too little too late, and the Barons would lose to the Charlotte Checkers, 3-2.

Random Thoughts

Justin Peters. Wow. He’s been hovering in the top ten in goaltenders in the AHL for nearly the entire season. After Sunday afternoon’s tangle with the Barons, it’s going to be hard to beat this guy down the stretch. BUT…Cam Ward is out for 6-8 weeks, with a sprained knee situation. That means Peters is likely gone for quite a long time from the Charlotte ice. Good news for the South Division and Western Conference, bad news for the Checkers.

But things aren’t entirely muddy for the Checkers. They continue to be a team that likes to take its chances perfectly. Unlike most of the South Division that likes to pepper the net with shots, the Checkers are content to wait for the offense to come. That sounds like a terrible game plan, but it works. And thus they’ll likely power through without their star goaltender.

Yes, Roy let in a stinker of a third goal. Yes, the Barons would have scored the equalizer late had he stopped that goal. But this felt like a doomed game for Oklahoma City. The good news is that they played a very good opponent on little to no rest, and looked really good for the most part.

The second line finally did some things after being virtually absent in Texas on Saturday night. I’d love to see a game where the Cheechoo line and the Rajala line really dominate. So far, one’s on the other’s off. Surging together, they’d be dangerous. Likewise, I think C.J. Strech is a fine centerman, but I’d like to see Eric Hunter down the middle with Stretch on the wing. That might allow for more puck driving on behalf of C.J. He’s a wheeler and dealer that could give some outside speed around the boards. Just a thought.

Look for Niko Hovinen to start tonight as the Barons again play the Charlotte Checkers. Game starts at 6CST.

Oklahoma City Beats Texas 5-4 In Shootout, A Wild Ride Indeed

It’s always a good game when Oklahoma City plays Texas. And in typical fashion, the game was anything but boring on Saturday night in Cedar Park. As both teams charge for April playoff spots, the Barons would sneak in, steal another two points, and begin their three-in-three this weekend in good shape.

Jonathan Cheechoo would have a three point night (two goals, one assist), the Barons defense would overcome some adversity, and Oklahoma City would beat Texas 5-4 in a shootout. It was a wild ride indeed.

In the first ten minutes, the Oklahoma City Barons were streaking hard with the puck. They had a handful of shots before the Stars could even muster one. C.J. Stretch with a hard shot on Cristopher Nilstorp’s right side. Colten Teubert with a long distance wrister. Just lots of really strong offensive positioning. Then the penalties came. Finally, as the Stars were gaining some momentum, Curtis Hamilton was whistled for an infraction, and Stars’ right winger, Doug Jones, scored the first goal of the game. As the period wore on, both teams would shoot the puck under ten times. The Stars would end the first twenty 1-0.

The second period began much as the first – with Oklahoma City at a white hot pace. They’d score two goals in the first five minutes. The first from Jonathan Cheechoo from Philippe Cornet, the second from Martin Marincin as he had just left the penalty box after committing a high sticking penalty. They’d continue to push hard, but would take a couple of wonky shifts that resulted in the Stars pushing back. Matt Fraser and Justin Dowling scored goals less than two minutes apart at even strength to take a 3-2 lead. With time expiring, Colten Teubert snagged a long distance goal to again even the game for OKC. The period would end with a 3-3 tie.

In the third period, the Stars would again go up a goal. Mid-way through the period, Matt Fraser earned his second of the night. But less than two minutes later, Jonathan Cheechoo did the same during the only successful power play endeavor from OKC. A 4-4 tie was carried through the entire third period.

In the overtime period it appeared that Matt Fraser earned a hat trick and the hero tag for the night. But upon further investigation, the referee blew the play dead as Jace Coyle inadvertently slashed a Baron. This negated the goal, and put the Barons on the man advantage instead of sealing the victory for the Stars. Despite a solid full throttle performance by OKC, the extra hockey ended with a tie. Shootout forthcoming.

Josh Green and Mark Arcobello scored in overtime for OKC while Niko Hovinen stopped Fraser, Sceviour, Wandell and Vincour for the Stars. The Oklahoma City Barons begin the month of March and their first of two three-in-threes with two points. That’s two victories against the Stars in less than a week. Meanwhile, Texas is on a three game losing streak.

Random Notes

The line of Hordichuk-House-Hamilton saw it’s ice time dwindle as the game went on. Even the broadcast team noticed it, and unofficially calculated :90 of ice time for Curtis Hamilton. If he played that much in the third period, I’ll be shocked. This left Cheechoo, in particular, to double-shift his way to glory. And the gamble for Coach Nelson paid off. It was nice to see the Barons live in the moment for a change, winning THIS ONE as opposed to future casting the next couple of games. Will the team be gassed? Likely. But that’s life in the AHL in March. Go hard or go home.

Niko Hovinen hasn’t been great (something I keep saying), but he’s been good enough. Finishing strong is the key for him, and not allowing a single shootout goal is a sweet sweet sight to behold.

Charlotte on Sunday and Monday means that this team will probably play at least one uninspired game where you roll your eyes. But the two points earned in Cedar Park were impressive. Can they keep it up on the back half of the three-in-three? Fingers crossed.

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.

Read More

A Rare Friday Off For OKC, Still Plenty To Watch

Admirals vs. Oklahoma City Barons 11-16-12
Trust me, you want to cheer for chaos (outside of your division). Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson.

The AHL is a weekenders league like most minor hockey leagues. And thus it’s rare when your team doesn’t play on a Friday night. And that’s where the Oklahoma City Barons find themselves today – no Friday game, but a brutal schedule forthcoming.

As they wait for back to back weekends of three-in-threes with four of six on the road, there are some important games to keep your eye on around the Western Conference that have a direct correlation to OKC’s playoff run.

Read More