“Workin’ For The Weekend” : Oklahoma City Barons at Iowa Wild “Kundalini Express”

Love and Rockets were grunge before grunge was grunge. Alt rock for the Eskimo Joe’s tee wearing crowd. Angsty, guitar heavy, smart, potent – L&R remain a wildly under-rated band of the mid-80’s rock scene. Appreciated later on in their career for what they did early on, the psychedelic pop tendencies of this English trio remind me so much of collegiate themed 80’s movies that I want to wear Max Headroom shades while filling my mouth with grape flavored Big League Chew. That’s a good thing.

Released in early Fall, 1986, Express was the second album by Love and Rockets, and it is a fine example of the band safely riding the fence of pop and psychodelic rock, a mixture that would work well for the group. Guitar arrangements built into a sonic wall of mass proportions propel most of this 80’s classic with a warm fuzziness severely lacking in most albums of the time. Although retro in 2013, the sounds oozing from the eight tracks each form a masterpiece of a jigsaw puzzle.

One of my favorites is the chunky bass line heavy “Kundalini Express”. It is an unintentional rock anthem with a guitar riff for the ages. Equal parts Floyd and Zeppelin, L&R are at the top of their game in this under six minute electric landscape. The train motifs are there, and they really keep the song clickety-clacking through your mind. But what works great here is that the band can quickly shift to the pop sentiment as fast as they can return to rock gold – the mark of a great band.

“The song is in your heart. Your heart is in the song. The song is of this earth. The song is of the sky”, sings Daniel Ash and David J over a sweltering electric parade. But what does it all mean?

Kundalini energy is a yogic philosophy based on deep meditation. Freeing your mind from the world, from the thoughts that surround you, and enabling yourself to cultivate your own potential within. Through this, focus becomes the goal. A steely-eyed focus unlike any you have experienced before. This Hindu principle would hover around Love and Rockets’ record writing for many albums, and even if you think it is a bit bizarre, maybe you can understand the value of deep thoughts.

So, c’mon, you Barons, cultivate a world of focus and direction. Enable yourself to be a really good hockey playing team. We know it is there, channel the kundalini within. The fans need our first win.

Two games in, we know very little about the Oklahoma City Barons while also realizing so much. Knowing and realizing are two very different things.

We know that OKC faced a typical Charlotte Checkers team that is quick to the puck, able to shoot from nearly every corner of the ice, and willing to drop 15+ shots per period even if it costs them 15+ at the other end. They handed the Barons two opening weekend losses, with both games ending 3-2.

We know that eight Barons have notched at least a point in that span with two players recording two points a piece. That lists includes names like Martindale, Pitlick, Fedun, Lander, Jones, Hunt, and Larsen, with the final player being called up to Oklahoma City just a day ago.

We know that Richard Bachman started both games, gave up six goals, and ended the weekend under .900 in the save percentage department.

All these known things are fine and dandy, but what have we realized about the Barons?

First and foremost, we realize that they are a talented bunch. Defensively they are well -rounded, young, but ultimately capable. Goaltending seems a tad tepid early on, but those things aren’t uncommon in the early throws of professional hockey. Also remember, the Barons have never won the first game played of the season, so they were destined to be handed an opening weekend of trouble by the hockey gods.

We also realize that the roster is indeed going to be prospect heavy by default, and it won’t change positions on that cause even one iota. Why? Craig MacTavish sayeth what Craig MacTavish sayeth, so C.J. Stretch will play third line center minutes when he’s probably more suited for 1/2, and much will be asked of Anton Lander, Ryan Martindale, and Tyler Pitlick. It is now etched in stone. Same goes for the D core.

Todd Nelson is going to have to manage personnel within a situation that handcuffs his lineup almost nightly. Even if C.J. Stretch is a better first line candidate, he needs to play fewer minutes. Thus coaching becomes more about in-between the ears stuff than it does actual ice placement. Yet this squad if capable of looking good while also being inexperienced. Nelson is used to that.

That brings us to Saturday and Sunday and an Autumn trip to Des Moines, Iowa. The defunct Houston Aeros have been resurrected in Iowa, this time, as the Minnestoa Wild affiliate bearing the same team name. The Iowa Wild will play their first games of the season against the Oklahoma City Barons Saturday and Sunday nights, and that is going to be a tough set of circumstances for the good guys of OKC.

Despite the change in locale, the team contains familiar Aeros of old. Tyler Cuma, Jaso Zucker, Darcy Keumper (currently on recall to Minnesota), Brett Bulmer, Zack Phillips, and Chad Rau just to name a few. That is a strong core that remains, and one that has long been punishing on OKC. With the obvious move to the Midwest Division, Oklahoma City will only face them four times this season with the meetups being at polar opposite ends of the season. Enjoy them now, you won’t see them for a while.

Hockey Wilderness made mention of the opening night roster for the Iowa Wild, and even hinted at possible line combinations. Here is what they had to say:

The first Wild game is tomorrow night against the OKC Barons (0-2-0) and here’s how the roster will look like.

Forwards: Brett Bulmer (#17), Raphael Bussieres (#18), Jake Dowell (#11), Kris Foucault (#13), Tyler Graovac (#4), Erik Haula (#9), Taylor Matson (#38), Carson McMillan (#27), Warren Peters (#25), Zack Phillips (#51), Chad Rau (#20), David Steckel (#26), and Jason Zucker (#16).

Defensemen: Corbin Baldwin (#14), Jonathon Blum (#24), Brian Connelly (#10), Tyler Cuma (61), Steven Kampfer (#21), Jon Landry (#7), Kyle Medvec (#8) and Carl Sneep (#3).

As for goaltenders, with Darcy Kuemper being up with the Minnesota Wild, it’ll be interesting to see how Johan Gustafsson (#31) should handle a #1 job in the AHL for a little moment. John Curry (#33) will be the backup after being initially released from his PTO earlier this week. The team signed Curry to a standard player contract yesterday.

Some line combinations during an exhibition game were Dowell-Steckel-McMillan, Zucker-Haula-Matson, Bussieres-Graovac-Phillips and Foucault-Rau-Bulmer.

The potential for this team to be really good is there. It will take several games for them to get their sea legs, but they will come out swinging for the fences, no doubt.

Oklahoma City’s lineup will probably be another mishmash of players. Brandon Davidson returns in the wake of Larsen being sent to Edmonton. Also added to the roster is Denis Grebeshkov via a conditioning stint following a groin injury in preseason.

Here are the most recent lines and pairs for the Oklahoma City Barons:



Richard Bachman

Larsen is gone, Grebeshkov is in. Don’t assume that those two are interchangeable, but don’t expect Grebs to play large minutes in game one either. They’ll ease him in, but he will get a good assignment.

Olivier Roy probably gets the second of the two starts this weekend, and that could be interesting. Bachman has been good, not great, and the goaltending needs to improve quickly in the coming weeks. I think it will.

Patricia Teter is making the trip to Des Moines, so make sure you follow her on twitter (@Artful_Puck). She will share her thoughts on the experience in the coming days.

Check back following each game for a quick recap and some thoughts on what transpired. In the meantime, download a Love and Rockets album, you won’t be disappointed.

OKC at Iowa – Saturday, 7:05PM CDT
OKC at Iowa – Sunday, 4:05 CDT

Both games will likely be broadcast on KXXY 96.1 FM or via iHeartRadio (Oklahoma State game airs much earlier on Saturday; no conflict there)