Tanner House Injury, Triston Grant Not Suspended, Martindale In

Barons Griffins Conference
Pepperoni or Canadian Bacon? Photo by Rob Ferguson.

Game four is tonight between the Oklahoma City Barons and the Grand Rapids Griffins. Things got heated in the second and third periods of game three, and with it came great conversation on suspensions and severity of injury. Former Baron, Triston Grant, boarded Tanner House hard resulting in a momentary black out on the ice, and an appearance of the stretch. All reports point to him being okay at this time, suffering from a concussion.

Video evidence was made available to the league via Todd Nelson and the Barons. They’ve reviewed the video, and the AHL has chosen not to suspend Triston Grant for the hit.

Those that have glanced at the video have said that the bulk of the injury occurred when House fell backwards to the ice after hitting Grant squarely with his head down. Grateful the injury wasn’t any worse.

In his place comes Ryan Martindale, who’s not seen any postseason play in 2013. This is an interesting move, but entirely necessary. House had been a fabulous addition to the Barons penalty kill in the last two series, and his worth is hard to discount. It’s going to be hard to see Martindale having the same success in the fourth line role. He’s capable, but he could be shaky. Remember, Martindale is a dandy of a face-off winner. That might be a huge asset if things get tight down the stretch.

Hoping for a speedy recovery from Tanner House, and praying that things don’t continue to head south in this series. These teams are too entertaining without the rough shenanigans. Keep it clean, please.

Andersson, Nyquist, Points…Oh My!

Watch out, this kid can play. Photo by Steven Christy.

The Chicago Blackhawks were able to put the Detroit Red Wings away in the West quarters of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Although I’d normally be ecstatic about the outcome of that series, I find my stomach turning just a bit knowing that a few key pieces might be returning to the Grand Rapids Griffins now that Detroit is done for the season.

Those few pieces account for ten points in the postseason for one of the most notoriously potent postseason teams in the last twenty years. Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist (along with goaltender Jordan Pearce; via ECHL Toledo) have arrived in Oklahoma City to play alongside their Grand Rapids cohorts, and it will instantly make that team much better.

Oklahoma City has had great success against the most successful of the Griffins in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. Tomas Tatar, Luke Glendening, Jane Mursak, and Francis Pare are just a few players who traditionally have had high success in scoring points. They’ve all struggled in three games against Oklahoma City, and credit that team for really putting the screws to an otherwise stellar cast of scoring players.

Yet Andersson and Nyquist are different animals. Nyquist, for one, has a bit of a Datsyukian tendency in the way that he plays. Those hands, they are just so refined. Those skates, they are so silky. Those brains, just so prepared. He’s a player that you don’t stop, you just slow down (if you can). This poses a serious threat to the Barons defense and mainly Yann Danis. But is it enough to help?

Game four is Friday evening, and we’ll get our first glimpse of Andersson and Nyquist in the AHL postseason. Their playoff run continues, and maybe they can extend it just a bit more. Watch. And. See.

Oklahoma City Comes Out Swinging, Beats Grand Rapids 4-1

Jubilant Barons. Photo by Rob Ferguson.

It was inevitable that things would get persnickety in the Western Conference Finals of the American Hockey League, and indeed they did on Wednesday night. The Oklahoma City Barons would come out swinging for the fences as they’d unload three straight goals in the first period to stun a Grand Rapids team headed towards frustration. Winning 4-1, the Oklahoma City Barons were clearly the better team, in spite of some nasty play by both squads.

Taylor Fedun would have an incredible shift early in the game, as he’d carry the puck through center ice from blue line to blue line, shoot the puck, only to have it blocked by Petr Mrazek. He then whacked at his own rebound, and it entered the net. It was immediately ruled a high stick and the goal was waved off, but it primed the pump for the Barons on the offensive side of their game.

After some really terrible puck moving by the Griffins, Ben Eager would intercept an errant pass, lumber down the ice, and take a hard shot of desperation at Mrazek. It would go in, and in the first seven minutes of the game, the Barons would own a 1-0 lead. It was another poor pass by a Grand Rapids defender that earned Josh Green his fourth goal of the postseason a minute after the first, and before the halfway mark of the first period, the Barons had a nice 2-0 lead. Grand Rapids caught a break when Antti Tyrvainen committed a high sticking penalty. However, it would quickly be negated as Riley Sheahan gave up an interference penalty, and the teams were to play around eighty seconds of four on four hockey. In the final four minutes of the period, Brandon Davidson would make one heckuva pass to Philippe Cornet who danced free of a defender and parked himself to Mrazek’s left. He’d punch in a goal, and the Barons would take a commanding 3-0 lead to  the endfirst twenty minutes of play.

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Nathan Deck & Olivier Roy Re-Assigned To Oklahoma City

Martin Gernat, released from his PTO this week to finish school in Slovakia, got the looksee around professional hockey in Oklahoma City. And the looksee continues, but from two players who have been around OKC in moments throughout 2012-13. Defenseman Nathan Deck and goaltender Olivier Roy have now been re-assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons following a postseason run with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL.

You’ll recall that Nathan Deck had an impressive run with the Barons towards the beginning of the season. Yet the Oilers moved him on to the ECHL for more playing time. His run with the Stockton Thunder ran parallel with that of goaltender Olivier Roy, another guy who’s played valuable minutes with the OKC Barons.

Both guys played deep into the ECHL Kelly Cup run, but came up just short. Roy, injured in game four of the series with Reading, appears to be well enough to be re-assigned. Will either play? Probably not. But don’t rule out Deck, he’s a gamer. He may be one injury away from hitting the lineup.

Stretch Pass, Un-Cheechoo, Not That Jones & Game Three Tonight

Game three…tonight! Photo by Mark Newman.

Game three of the American Hockey League Western Conference Finals is tonight in Oklahoma City. Amid a week and then some of a high-focus on tornado recover and cleanup, the beginning of normal life (as normal as it can be) is a welcome sight. Barons, fans, and the entire city have focused on Wednesday, May 29th for many reasons, but mainly because serving those ravaged by destruction has become the Oklahoma thing to do (how fantastic is that).

Tonight, in downtown Oklahoma City, with Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert hosting a sold out Chesapeake Arena a stones throw from the Cox Center, the Barons will host the Grand Rapids Griffins for a night of momentum seizing fun. Here are the nuts and bolts of that game.

First off, let me declare my love for the stretch pass. Headmanning the puck, long bomb, outlet pass – call it what you like, just don’t call it unsuccessful for the OKC Barons. In an attempt to move the puck very quickly, Coach Todd Nelson has been very high on the need to stretch the pass up the ice. This has done two things. One – it’s caused speedy teams to be caught off guard when they over commit offensively. Guys like Taylor Fedun and Martin Marincin have made it their mission from God to push that puck up the ice quickly. Akin to the outlet pass in basketball, when a Baron gets the puck (moving from defense to offense) they are instantly looking for an outlet on the boards. It’s worked, the Griffins have been the most successful team in the postseason in thwarting it, yet it continues to be something that has given opponents fits.

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Gladiator Hockey Tournament Created To Help Families In Need

Gladiator Hockey
Gladiator Hockey, having fun while doing good.

Update from Nick:

I am so proud of the hockey players …. my friends in Oklahoma City. A couple days after the disaster hit Moore, Oklahoma the Gladiators learned that a couple teammates had been affected by it. They Gladiators decided to try to do help our teammates by having a small charity fundraiser. We had 3 days to plan it , get players, get food , and to top it off it was the first long holiday weekend of the summer. With the time frame and the holiday we figured we would maybe get 30-40 guys out and we would have a good time, play some hockey, eat some burgers, drink some beer and raise a lil bit of money to help our teammates and friends. Little did we know how big of a turnout and how much money we would raise for them. I just finished counting the money and I want to say that this passed anything we thought we would raise. I had to count it twice just to confirm this. Today the Gladiators, The OKC hockey community, their friends, families, and even some random strangers came together to raise 3,597.00 for our friends. I am so proud to be part of this small hockey community. Thank you guys for your support and help.

I love my community. Something that few folks can actually say, and quite frankly, believe with their whole heart. The resilient spirit of Oklahomans has been on grand display this week, and it reveals what we all know is there regardless of tragedy or not. A great example of this in action is the Gladiator Hockey Tournament that will be played Monday to benefit two individuals who lost so much in the tornadoes earlier this week.

“The sole purpose of this event is to give monetary support to help these players and their families be able to cope with having to replace all they have lost,” says Nick Fleehart, the event coordinator.

And by families he means two that Nick himself knows very well.

“Travis has a wife named Mandi, a beautiful 7 year old daughter named Harlie, and an 8 week old son name Hudson,” explains Fleehart. “They also have a small puppy. They lived over in the neighborhood by Plaza Towers Elementary. Their daughter Harlie was actually in Plaza Towers Elementary School when the tornado hit. Luckily Harlie made it out safe and everyone is ok. Their house was all but completely gone. There might be a few walls standing but not much was recoverable.”

But there was another family with a similar story.

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Oklahoma City Beats Grand Rapids By Two Goals, Series Now Tied

Photo by Michael Corn. All rights reserved.

After a low scoring, but high energy game the night before, the Oklahoma City Barons and the Grand Rapids Griffins turned their eyes towards game number two on Saturday night. The Griffs dominated the play early in game one, and the Barons were determined to not let that happen again.

In the first period Oklahoma City owned much of the offensive play, but it was the “tough” mentality that surprised the most. Jonathan Cheechoo, Josh Green, and a few others were really going to the body of Grand Rapids players. Unfortunately for OKC, when you dish it out, you get it in return. Hits aside, it was a really good period for Oklahoma City. Yann looked sharp. Defense looked poised. Offense was smart, and quick. But again, it was the Griffins who’d score first. Late in the first, Tomas Tatar would net the games first goal. The period would end with the Griffs on top, 1-0.

To start the second, Triston Grant became both a blessing and a curse for his team. He’d start with the blessing by leveling a Baron around the boards. Moments later, he’d be whistled for hooking. Immediately the Barons would strike on the power play, something they were unable to do in game one. C.J. Stretch, off a rebounded shot from Josh Green at the point, beat Mrazek to make it 1-1.

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AHL, PHPA, & Barons Donate Game Revenue To United Way

Photo by Mark Newman. All rights reserved.

Announced today, the American Hockey League and the Professional Hockey Players Association have partnered with the Oklahoma City Barons to donate ticket revenue from the May 29th game in Oklahoma City to the United Way’s OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund. The revenue will be removed from the league-wide revenue sharing program.

The game, played on Wednesday, May 29th, is the first home game the Barons will play in their West Final showdown with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“Through the generosity of the members of the Professional Hockey Players’ Association and its executive director Larry Landon, the American Hockey League is proud to be able to support the tornado relief efforts in Oklahoma,” said David Andrews, AHL President and CEO. “This week’s tragedy brings our tight-knit hockey community even closer, and our thoughts remain with everyone in the Oklahoma City region.”

Before last night’s game in Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retail store, Meijer donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross. Likewise, Van Andel Arena has become a collection point for donated goods that will go directly to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Well done everyone. Grand Rapids Griffins fans, Mejier, theAHL, and the PHPA – Thank you!

Grand Rapids Takes Game One, 2-1, Oklahoma City Looks Solid

Photo by Mark Newman. All rights reserved.

I, you, we all assumed that there would be some hangover by the Oklahoma City Barons after the roller coaster the month of May has been. They put away two really good teams in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, lived through a massive tornado nearby amid a seven week break, awaited their appointment in the West Finals, and then traveled to Grand Rapids. But if we’ve learned one thing about this team in the last six weeks, it’s that they are resilient and steady.

Game one arrived, and the Barons would play surprisingly well, and hang on to that resilient spirit. However, it was the Grand Rapids Griffins that would take the first game of the series on their home ice in a 2-1 close fought battle.

It was clear from the start that Grand Rapids was a unique beast. In their first shift, it was as if a bucket of cold water hit the Barons in the face. Martin Marincin made a horrific pass that was intercepted by a rushing Griffin. Danis makes the save, and Marincin takes a deep breathe. Not a great way to start a period, a game, or a series.

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