Photo courtesy of Steven Christy
On Tuesday evening the Texas Stars entered the Cox Center knowing that they had gotten the best of Oklahoma City this season. They are a far superior team in just about every category. The power play, the prospects, the puck protection – they are a sturdy squad. Even without Travis Morin, their leading scoring, they are still minor league potent. And again the Barons would concede a game that they were entirely capable of winning. The 5-4 defeat of the Oklahoma City Barons by the Texas Stars also meant that winter was coming, and that the Barons wouldn’t head back home until December 20th.
The first period was exceptional by both squads, and it was Martin Marincin that would rifle a shot past starting Texas netminder Cristopher Nilstorp. With assists given to Fedun and Omark, it would be the first of two helpers for both players. Less than two minutes later, the Barons would gift the Stars their first opportunity on the power play which, it’s important to note, would come back to bite them. The best PP completion rate in the AHL would quickly even the game when Curtis McKenzie scored his first of two of the evening. When the first twenty minutes came to an end, Laurent Brossoit had faced ten shots, stopped all but one, and Nilstorp eight, letting in one. The 1-1 first period would also feature really strong performances from both defensive cores, something that the Barons couldn’t manage through the back half of the game.
The second period began with a Derek Nesbitt power play goal, his sixth of the season, with additional assists again to Omark and Fedun. The Barons appeared to be in control. Matt Ford would get whistled for an errant cross-check, and again the Stars would make good on the power play chance as Colton Sceviour would score his first of two goals en route to a four point night. Less than a minute later, the fourth line of Oklahoma City would score while featuring returnee to the lineup Kale Kessy, alongside Travis Ewanyk and C.J. Stretch. Ewanyk, scoring his third of the season, tied the game just past the mid-way point. Then things got dicey for the Barons defense. McKenzie, on a helper from Sceviour, would net the go ahead goal in the final minutes of the second period to again end the period with a tied game.
Knotted at three goals a piece, the Stars would outrun and outgun the Barons for the remainder of the game. Martin Gernat, having a pretty solid game up until this point, would be benched for much of the third period after an awful giveaway that led to a goal. Marincin looked lost at times, as did the remainder of the OKC defensive core. This led to a Fortunas goal, and the first lead of the game for the Stars. C.J. Stretch would even the game up four minutes later, but it was pretty apparent that the Stars had tilted the ice in their favor. Scoring his second of the game, Sceviour whistled a goal around Lareunt Brossoit, and the Barons would lose to the Texas Stars 5-4 on home ice.
Despite letting in five goals, Brossoit looked pretty solid. Any time you give the stoutest power play in the entire league four chances, and they convert on half of those, you know you are in for some trouble. Although only facing 27 shots, Brossoit was rarely caught out of position. The defense in front of him was sloppy enough to make the entire squad look bad post-30 minutes of game time. He’s not seasoned enough to steal one for your team, but this could have been a game where the final was 7-4. He kept his squad in it.
The Barons begin a road swing that includes six games taking place in Chicago, Rockford, and Milwaukee before returning to the Cox Center on December 20th. This will be an interesting trip for OKC. All non division games, all very important to win prior to Christmas. Can they win 50%? Right now, with the team being under .500, that’s a tall task. Capable, yes. Probable, no.