Photo by Rob Ferguson
It’s been a while since Oklahoma City won back-to-back games. The last time it occurred, Halloween was two weeks away, Fall was only three weeks old, and the Oilers were still in playoff contention. October 15th, the Barons beat the Texas Stars at home to win two games in a row (eventually three). Many transactions and changes later, the Oklahoma City Barons finally etched a weekend of double victories.
It came at the expense of the sorrowful San Antonio Rampage who are in the same boat rowing the same direction as the sorrowful Oklahoma City Barons. 27 points in 35 games has the Rampage second to last in the entire Western Conference. And because of this, the desperate need for standing points can sometimes bring out the junkyard dog in even the lowliest of teams.
The Barons are right there with the Rampage. They too might have to take a snarled approach to the back half of the season, or else. So the team shored the lineup to look a bit more head strong. The team would travel to San Antonio on Friday and then make the return trip to OKC to face the same San Antonio team on Saturday. The results were welcomed.
Chet Pickard began the goaltending over the weekend facing the familiar foe, Jacob Markstrom, at the other end. The Rampage would get on the scoreboard first after David Musil and Will Acton gifted the Rampage a two man advantage. But surprisingly it was the Barons that would have a whale of a game on the power play. OKC would score three straight power play goals, yes three straight, across roughly twelve minutes of play to demoralize San Antonio. Roman Horak, Derek Nesbitt, and Taylor Fedun all tallied goals across two periods with C.J. Stretch and Matt Ford scoring the final two for the Barons in the third period.
The 5-2 final was bolstered by the good play of AHL contracted goaltender, Chet Pickard, who made his first start as a Baron on Friday. He would stop 32 of 35, and be exceptionally sharp in the first two periods of play.
Four Barons had multi-point nights including Stretch would tallied three. The team looked good, at least for one night, and beating the Rampage was satisfying in many ways.
Saturday the two would have a rematch, and it appeared that early on the tides had changed in favor of San Antonio.
The Rampage would rip open the scoring with three straight goals on Barons goaltender, Richard Bachman, who has had a string of bad luck in net lately. All even strength goals, all coming in the first thirty minutes of play, it appeared that Bachman would need a new rabbits foot. However, Todd Nelson encouraged a strong forecheck (to which Andrew Miller looked accustomed to), and the Barons were able to quickly chip away at the lead.
Curtis Hamilton would score his fifth goal of the season, and equal a season high in that department, as the Barons would roar to life. They had the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire…and so forth and so on. From the Hamilton goal onward the Barons would notch five straight including two by Martin Gernat, his first two goals as a pro, with Nesbitt and Lander adding one a piece.
To go from 3-0 to 5-3 in just about a period and a half is pretty impressive. However most impressive was the Barons forecheck, which we hadn’t seen full tilt in quite some time. The line of Hamilton-Martindale-Pitlick was sensational when it was asked to be highly “chancy”. Andrew Miller was chasing down defensive puck movers like they were gold at the end of the rainbow, and in all, it was a good back half at home.
Richard Bachman would get a victory, but the Barons crushed the Rampage defenders in their own end with the forecheck that they were only able to muster eight shots in the final period. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, punished Markstrom with 40 shots. And despite the Barons inability to score on the power play, it was their own penalty taking ways that might have given them the best opportunity to crawl out of a 3-0 deficit. Two penalties, all game, that’s it. A good sign from a team that was formerly one of the least penalized squads in the league. More of that.
As the Barons roll up two victories on the Rampage, they hit a nice stride in the schedule with inferior teams. Wednesday they’ll play the Utica Comets, the worst team in the AHL, followed by the Charlotte Checkers, a team one standing point away from tying OKC. So we have a bit of a sunny disposition as the team soldiers through what will eventually be a seven game home stand. Win now. It’s important.