Oklahoma City Barons Vs. Texas Stars Preview: It’s About A Battle (Then A War)

Texas In Black
Black gold. Photo by Steven Christy.

Texas. The state directly to our south that permeates bigger and better just by the mere mention of its name. Like so many in the state of Oklahoma, my thoughts on Texas are viewed through the rose-colored glasses of college football. I’ve lived in Oklahoma long enough that a Red River Rivalry mention instantly perks my ears towards the general direction of a corn dog at the State Fair. Outside of NCAA collegiate athletics, I think I like Texas. There some good folk down there. Chances are that you’ll find me making the three hour trip to Dallas at least a dozen times a year. I love the wild openness of the west plains. I admire the melting pot of diversity contained within its vast borders. I watch the Dallas Stars on Fox Sports SW from the comfort of my own home. I love the border towns neighboring on Mexico. I like their BBQ. I love their country/folk musicians. Generally speaking, Texas is a vast country adrift in the United States. It’s also a place I’m fond of.

John Steinbeck, the Pulitzer Prize winning author (Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Of Mice And Men, etc. etc.), wasn’t a Texan, but rather a California kid. He, like me, found the mystique of Texas to be fascinating. In his incredible road trip memoir that featured Steinbeck and his poodle Charley (Travels With Charley; read it, it’s fantastic), meandering through the back-roads of Texas in a travel camper, wrote an incredible summation of the state. He said:

“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.”

I admire his humble brag of a state that he was unfamiliar with in the early 60’s. I also admire his spot-on description that still rings true in 2013.

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What We Learned About The Barons In The Quarterfinals

Toni Rajala Anglin'
Toni Rajala, Anglin’. Photo by Steve Christy.
  • Yann Danis is pretty good, but he’s not great. Only three goaltenders in the quarterfinals played five games, two of them were Rob Madore of Charlotte, the other was Yann Danis. The Barons netminder has a goals against average just barely under three, but he’s also leading the entire league in the number of saves (157). His save percentage is .913, and is something that improved as the series went longer. He laid a few eggs in the five game series before finally hatching a golden one. I’m hoping he’s turned the corner, and ready to be the postseason Yann that steals games away.
  • Josh Green is one point shy of averaging two points a game. That’s unreal. So much so that it’s leading the entire AHL after the first round of games. What’s even more remarkable is that he’s doing all of this while on a third line centered by C.J. Stretch and featuring Tyler Pitlick. He’s finding ways to make others better, and push the offensive envelope wide open. My favorite moment had to be his final goal of the Charlotte series where he slightly hesitated on a wrap around behind the net, went for it, stayed tenacious, and punched it in. That’s the Josh Green we know and love.

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Curtis Hamilton To Have ACL Surgery, Nathan Deck To Stockton

AHL Hockey: Mar 20 Barons Buddies at Andy Alligator's
Any excuse to use this picture, right? Photo by Steven Christy.

It’s an odd time for some serious announcements from the Oklahoma City Barons given that the present focus is clearly on the upcoming semifinal match-up with the potent Texas Stars. Important news is important news, and even in a busy week’s worth of playoff prep, things happen that directly effect the team, and the not-to-distant future.

Curtis Hamilton, the winger with the world on his shoulders, has a torn ACL and will have surgery tomorrow morning.

This is a huge blow for Hamilton, in his second year as a pro, mainly because injuries have been a pretty big deal for the young Oilers prospect. A double-fractured collarbone prior to turning pro, a 2012 season where he missed a ton of games with an injury, and now an ACL situation – he just can’t get a break, and it comes as at a critical time in his young career. At just over one hundred professional games, he’s only mustered twenty points, and in limited minutes for much of the 2012-2013 campaign. That’s a brutal total for a kid who Oilers fans pegged as a potential to wear the NHL orange and blue.

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Oklahoma City Has Arrived! (Someone Tried To Steal Our Zamboni)

AHL Hockey: Mar 08 Barons vs IceHogs
NOTE: This is the only safe way to ride a Zam (and that’s definitely up for debate). Photo courtesy of Steven Christy.

You know you’ve arrived as a hockey town when someone has a little too much to drink, finds their way into your arena, gets to ice level, and attempts to steal one of your Zambonis  Now this might be a familiar story in mid-January somewhere just south of Churchill, Manitoba, but this version of the tale takes place right here in Oklahoma City. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of my city than I am right now. Someone tried to steal our Zamboni!

Every major news outlet in Oklahoma City broke the story this morning, and ironically has given more intentional press to this moment than any single Barons games, but I’ll take it (and likely so will you)

Here’s the breakdown:

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Oklahoma City (Again) Looks Impressive, Wins Game Five 6-2

Jared Staal
So long, Staal. Photo c/o Flickr.

After a complete undressing of a team that looked superior only two games prior, the Oklahoma City Barons unfurled another night of impressive scoring, and semi-perfect defense. There weren’t eight goals scored by the Barons, but six would suffice, as they’d wallop the Checkers for the second straight night. This time in game five with a final score of 6-2.

Much like the night before, the Barons were in a must-win situation. Not unlike the night before, Charlotte was in the same boat. The storyline from day one of this quarterfinal matchup has been, “What is Charlotte going to do in net?”. For the most part that question was answered with two words, Rob and Madore, who really hasn’t been that bad for much of the post season (last night excluded, obviously). It seemed, though, that OKC might have cracked the door just a bit on Friday, and exposed enough of Madore’s tendencies to have figured out the thirty year old Pittsburgh native. That proved to be true. Mechanically speaking, Madore had become predictable. While most goaltenders can overcome this predictability with speed, he just isn’t built that way. Saturday night the Barons were hitting him high, and in awkward positions. Thus leading me to the conclusion that if that were Justin Peters in net for Charlotte, this series might have swung the other direction.

That wasn’t the case, and the rosters that both teams had to deal with scored at a pretty good clip. Oklahoma City just scored more, and at the right moment.

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Highly Motivated Barons Force Game Five, Lambast Checkers 8-1

Rob Madore
Has Rob Madore been shown the door? Photo c/o Flickr.

After being pushed to the brink of elimination, the Oklahoma City Barons played a highly motivated game that was as dominate as it was incredibly impressive. They’d score six straight goals across two straight periods before Charlotte even hinted at a whisper of life, and eventually OKC would win 8-1. That’s right, 8-1 on away ice. In the playoffs. With their backs against the wall.

Tyler Pitlick was the only multi-goal scorer for the Barons, which is impressive on its own. Secondary scoring has been non-existent with this team for much of the season, but it clicked on Friday night, and it was a welcome sight. Teemu Hartikainen, Josh Green, Philippe Cornet, Anton Lander, Martin Marincin, and Chris VandeVelde all pitched in on a wow evening. I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t see this coming, but I’m sure glad it did.

The games up to this point were won/lost by Rob Madore, a goaltender for Charlotte that we all assumed would struggle greatly. He hadn’t, the Checkers played solid, and it appeared that after game two, Charlotte might be the better team. Truthfully, they were every bit the better team except for one important spot – goaltending. Madore simply ran out of gas on Friday, John Muse came in, and even he couldn’t muster the strength to hang tight, giving up four goals of his own.

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Barons On The Brink Following 6-1 Smackdown By Checkers

Checkers Sticks up
This team is good, and they are letting OKC know it.

38 shots with double digit shot totals per period. Yann Danis stops 27. Nine power play chances. Only five penalty kill moments. Seven goals scored in the game. Surely the Oklahoma City Barons won game number three against the Charlotte Checkers, right? Wrong.

On Wednesday evening, as the Western Conference 4 vs. 5 Quarterfinal rolled on, things turned towards Charlotte, and it wasn’t just a geographical turn. The Oklahoma City Barons would be soundly defeated by the Charlotte Checkers, 6-1 in game three. The Checkers now take a commanding 2-1 lead in the series with the potential to wrap things up on Friday evening.

“Go do that voodoo that you do so well!” is the quote that most comes to mind, thanks to Blazing Saddles.

The Charlotte Checkers, coached very well by Jeff Daniels, had a plethora of weapons at their fingertips. Seventeen healthy forwards means that you have a bunch of options, and that’s not something this Charlotte team has been afforded for much of the season. So they began the game with a red hot pace.

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Oklahoma City Quarterfinal Shifts To Charlotte, Game #3 Tonight

Rochester Americans vs. Oklahoma City Barons 3-19-13
Let’s see more of this. Photo by Rob Ferguson.

It’s Wednesday and the Calder Cup Quarterfinals turn the page on their game threes, and the Oklahoma City Barons are in that special group. The teams split the first two games in Oklahoma City, but the momentum is slightly favoring the Barons after a 5-2 victory and a hat trick (in one period) by Mark Arcobello.

The concern for Charlotte to start the series was goaltending, and to me, through two games, Rob Madore is still the guy. That is unless Jeff Daniels and his gang of merry men find his latest performance worth of a switch. I don’t think so, but crazier things have happened. Likewise, a key positional change in a short, and right now tied, hockey series is dangerous territory to traverse.

Health remains the key ingredient for both groups. Alex Plante, having successful jaw surgery, will be replaced in the lineup (likely alongside Randy Jones) by Colten Teubert. As I wrote yesterday, this isn’t a solid lock for Colten, but rather the obvious choice to fill that role. I think we are surprised by how Mr. Teubert plays. In previous starts against the Checkers this season, Teubert was fairly consistent. In eight games he went +4 with a goal and an assist, and only recorded a minus in the +/- category once. Yet I’d argue there were at least two games where he was a complete non-factor, offensively or defensively. Maybe that’s a good thing.

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