The second weekend where the Oklahoma City Barons played three games in three nights began on Thursday night and ended on Saturday (obviously). Three straight games, three loses, and only a single standing point earned – Oklahoma City is headed towards the worst pre-Christmas record in franchise history.
Thursday night in Milwaukee, the Barons welcomed back Richard Bachman after a lengthy stay in Edmonton due to an injured groin. He felt like one of the missing ingredients on a squad of otherwise developing players. Although his play was rusty, he still found himself in the midst of a few good moments despite his fellow teammates inability to put the puck in the net.
Forty shots, 31 across two periods, netted zero goals for the Oklahoma City Barons. Two power play goals, one at even strength, and one more empty netter put the Milwaukee Admirals on top. Magnus Hellberg would earn his first shutout on the season, and the Ads would leave fat and sassy.
The Barons really shot themselves in the foot in the first period with goofy penalties including a rough by Matt Ford and an unsportsmanlike by Steve MacIntyre (that also won him a five for fighting). Milwaukee is a team that breaks you when you give them the option, and that’s exactly what happened. The penalty kill was an ugly force, spurting out attempted block shots but not much more. Poor Richard Bachman gets saddled with the loss, and the Barons lose their second straight game.
Friday evening, the team moved to Rockford, Illinois where the offense would come to life, but not after again give away two early goals to the opposition. Two goals in the opening 3:31 from Rockford initially crippled the Barons defensive core. Yet with Laurent Brossoit helming the ship in net, the team found a way to resurrect themselves just a bit.
Andrew Miller scored his fourth goal of the season (now featured on the top line) with an assist to Linus Omark and Martin Gernat to help subside the defensive worries. But Rockford would notch one more before the period to take a commanding 3-1 lead. Just when all hope seemed lost, Ryan Hamilton punched in a late first period goal for OKC, and not all seemed lost.
Kale Kessy would earn his second goal of the season in the first three minutes of the second period, and suddenly we had a tie game. Rockford would nail the coffin door shut, ironically, in the eleventh minute of the second period for the final goal of the game. The 4-3 lead would carryover through the final period as both goaltenders stopped the puck very well.
It was a more intense game played by Oklahoma City where penalties were fewer, but the early deficit continues to plague the Barons.
Saturday night the team would round out their three games in three nights again facing the Rockford IceHogs.
Will Acton would score his first goal as a Baron, and although it ended the inability to score first for the team, the IceHogs would quickly answer back. An unassisted goal and another on the power play would nearly end the period at 2-1. Thanks to Roman Horak, in the waning minutes of the first twenty, the Barons were able to get the equalizer before the period ended. Only his seventh of the season, Horak would end the evening with a pretty solid offensive night despite a few defensive indiscretions.
In the final forty minutes of play Oklahoma City would score a power play goal, but Rockford would etch a pair of man advantage goals of their own. With two and a half minutes remaining, Martin Marincin would insert himself into the offense to tie the game at 4-4. The third period would end, and the overtime would begin. Barons needed a victory.
The team from OKC would play surprisingly well in the overtime frame, but they would again lose in a shootout, something that continues to haunt the young squad. Derek Nesbitt, Linus Omark, and Ryan Martindale were unable to score in the shootout, and the IceHogs would beat Richard Bachman once to seal the victory. The Barons would lose 5-4.
In all, the back-t0-back weekend three-in-threes was an awful example of what you would like to do on a road swing before Christmas. Four points out of twelve is a gift to opposing teams, even those that don’t land in your division. The penalty kill is awful, the power play is dipping, the goaltenders can’t steal games – does this sound familiar? The symptoms of sideways play continue to trickle down from the Oilers.
As it stands the Oklahoma City Barons are currently in third place in the five team West Division. But a glance at the winning percentage has them only eclipsing two other teams in the entire Western Conference – Utica and San Antonio. That means this team just doesn’t win games in regulation or with regularity. That’s a problem. At .431 the team heads home for two games against the Texas Stars, who are a mighty bunch who are currently riding a five game winning streak.
Consistency seems to be a problematic issue not just in terms of how often the team wins. Goaltending is good/bad in the same breathe, defenders are out of position more often than not, and goal scoring is spotty at best. Needless to say, the Barons are in trouble.