Photo Courtesy of Steven Christy. All Rights Reserved.
The season opener can mean a lot of different things for different people. For players, it may be a new start, a new chance, a new career. Tonight for a lot of people in the Cox Convention Center, it was about reflecting while also looking ahead to the future. Tonight was the first game for the Oklahoma City Barons in OKC since the tragedy that befell Kristians Pelss this past summer.
There were many players in the lineup tonight that were directly affected by it, while others became affected by association. The Barons have added stickers with the initials “K.P.” to the player’s helmets, but besides a moment of silence before the game, there was barely a whisper about the subject. That’s something I would have liked to have seen more from. A photo dedication, a patch, a banner, something more. But alas, that’s just my gripe, and not the subject of the post. The Charlotte Checkers were in town and looking to put a damper on Oklahoma City’s home opener.
The first period began on a sour note for the new Barons’ season, as just 49 seconds into the contest it was Chris Terry going stick side and putting the Checkers up by a goal, with assists from Justin Shugg and Matt Corrente. Eleven minutes later, the Barons were put into an even deeper hole as a shot from the halfboards by Mark Flood made it’s way towards Richard Bachman and his blocker. The result became a fluke goal as the puck bounced off the blocker and was re-directed into the net to make it the 2-0 score. It was a dominant period by the Checkers, as they out-shot the Barons 15-6 through 20 minutes.
Renewed life was the theme of the second period for the Barons. A chance came early in the period as Ryan Jones rushed towards the net and made contact with Justin Peters in net as the puck rolled over the line. The referee was quick to raise the arm on the goalie interference call, despite Jones feeling that he was pushed into Peters. A gathering and roughing calls later to Ford and Corrente, the Barons came out of the play without a goal and on the penalty kill. One of the highest points of the game was the penalty kill from the team. Rolling three groups out, the Barons didn’t give up many chances, but stood tall on the ones that did come Charlotte’s way.
It was fitting that later in the period, Jones got his chance at redemption. A Ryan Martindale shot rebounded off of Peters’ pads to Jones, and he potted the rebound that trimmed the Checkers lead to 2-1, and Matt Ford picking up the second assist. The chances kept coming for the Barons in the second period, but none of them were able to find twine as they outshot the Checkers 18-5 in the period.
Trying to win their first season opener in team history, the Barons began the third with a bit of urgency. A Rasmus Rissanen boarding call extended a power play opportunity for the Barons and they finally cashed in on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play from Brad Hunt to Anton Lander and across the crease to Philip Larsen for the tying goal at 6:42 of the period. The Checkers put away the game at the 14:44 though, as Rissanen wrapped around behind the goal and found Brody Sutter in front for the game-winning goal as the Barons were unable to convert with the extra attacker in the final minute.
If you throw out the first period, this was an exceptional game for the Barons. High marks for Jones, Ford, and Hunt. The play that I saw from all of them in this game, Ford will be the number one PKer, and Hunt has a vision on defense that I think few people have yet to realize. Tyler Pitlick was getting double-shifted in the third period as Erick Lizon stayed on the bench for the final frame. Things to keep an eye on tomorrow though, Lander got hurt towards the end of the game and went to the locker room right after the hit, slamming and breaking his stick on the way. Worries are that it’s his ankle, but we’ve yet to see. Martin Marincin was benched towards the end of the game too, with coach Todd Nelson opting to try Martin Gernat in his place. I thought both were fighting the puck a bit tonight, but Marincin is past the point that he can blame it on rookie nerves.
The Barons lost their fourth season opener in four seasons, but it hasn’t set a trend for any of the earlier three seasons at all, with the team making the playoffs all three years. A quick rebound for tomorrow’s rematch, and I think they’ll have a great shot at going .500 on the weekend.
Linus Omark – Anton Lander – Derek Nesbitt
Ryan Jones – Ryan Martindale – Matthew Ford
Nicholas Tremblay – C.J. Stretch – Tyler Pitlick
Kale Kessy – Travis Ewanyk – Erick Lizon
Martin Marincin – Taylor Fedun
Brandon Davidson – Philip Larsen
Martin Gernat – Brad Hunt