Klefbom Better, Pickard Does Garth, Utica Rescheduled

Photo by Steven Christy

‘Twas a big day in Oklahoma City Barons news in ways that only seem big when your beloved AHL team is far from the good graces of being the minor league power house we’ve known them to be in recent seasons. So we grasp for goodness whenever and from wherever it may come.

Today, via Oilers Now, Todd Nelson confirmed that Oscar Klefbom is dealing with a nagging upper body injury that remains stiff following practices. However, coach is hopeful he will play Thursday, but even more hopeful he dresses by the weekend.

This is huge for Oscar after a pretty average first three months of hockey. The young defender has been challenged to do a lot of things, but mainly to get more hungry on the boards, in deep, and on the wall. He’s done that very thing in brief hiccups, but not enough to warrant a call up nor any high praise from NHL GM Craig MacTavish.

The fear was that the injury was a continuation from previous shoulder malfunctions, and for now we will have to be content with the upper body injury report. More to come, I’m sure, but the hope is that Klefbom has had time to watch/listen/think about his game while healing that injury.

We’ve yet to have a Barons contracted goaltender who really embraced the city of OKC. That is until Chet Pickard got his lid painted. Have you seen this glorious, country music lovin’, baseball legend honoring display of awesomeness? Don’t worry, I’ve embedded it below for your enjoyment.

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Garth Brooks, the Yukon, Oklahoma native is seen in all his glory. Probably singing “Rodeo” or “Papa Loved Mama” or something like that. And the subtle Mickey Mantle tribute brings its “Oklahominess” into the next frontier. Well done, Chet, well done.

And finally, the Utica Comets are struggling to leave the Northeast and thus their tango with the Barons originally scheduled for Wednesday has been moved to Thursday. Good, I guess? The issue, as pointed out by @SoonerPenguin, is the Barons now play a home three-in-three (Utica, Charlotte, Charlotte). With those two squads just a smidge worse than OKC in the standing points, there was a legit shot that the Barons could extend their two game winning streak to five. The loss of a day isn’t difficult to overcome, but it would have been nice to have a 24 hour cushion.

Pickard Starts, Gernat Surprises, Hamilton Stays Good, Barons Win Twice

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.

OKC December 2013 Transactions

| Linus Omark. Photo courtesy Steven Christy. All Rights Reserved.

At the end of December the OKC Barons have listed 24 transactions for the month. The total through January 4th is now at 92 for the season: October = 28 transactions, November = 37, December = 24.

For the full 2010-11 season there were 94 transactions; for 2011-12 – 118; and 2012-13 – 96.

DECEMBER

12/30/2013 Erik Burgdoerfer (D) ADD Recalled from loan to Bakersfield (ECHL)
12/28/2013 Austin Fyten (LW) ADD Returned on loan from Idaho (ECHL)
12/26/2013 Roman Horak (C) DEL Returned from loan by Edmonton (NHL)
12/26/2013 Martin Marincin (D) DEL Returned from loan by Edmonton (NHL)
12/19/2013 Linus Omark (LW) DEL Returned from loan by Edmonton (NHL) (Trade to Buffalo Sabres)
12/17/2013 Chet Pickard (G) ADD Recalled from loan to Bakersfield (ECHL)
12/17/2013 Laurent Brossoit (G) DEL Reassigned by Edmonton (NHL) to Bakersfield (ECHL)
12/14/2013 Jason LaBarbera (G) DEL Recalled from loan by Edmonton (NHL) (Traded to Chicago Blackhawks)
12/14/2013 Jason LaBarbera (G) ADD Returned on loan from Edmonton (NHL)
12/12/2013 Martin Marincin (D) Add Returned on loan from Edmonton (NHL)
12/10/2013 Ty Rimmer (G) DEL Returned on loan to Quad City (CHL)
12/10/2013 Richard Bachman (G) Add Returned on loan from Edmonton (NHL)
12/9/2013 Tyler Pitlick (RW) ADD Returned on loan from Edmonton (NHL)
12/6/2013 Anton Belov (D) DEL Recalled from loan by Edmonton (NHL)
12/5/2013 Anton Belov (D) ADD Loaned from Edmonton (NHL)
12/4/2013 Anton Lander (C) DEL Recalled from loan by Edmonton (NHL)
12/4/2013 Corey Potter (D) DEL Recalled from loan by Edmonton (NHL)
12/4/2013 Denis Grebeshkov (D) ADD Returned on loan from Edmonton (NHL)
12/4/2013 Martin Marincin (D) DEL Recalled from loan by Edmonton (NHL)
12/4/2013 Will Acton (C) ADD Loaned from Edmonton (NHL)
12/2/2013 Corey Potter (D) ADD Returned on loan from Edmonton (NHL)
12/2/2013 Jason LaBarbera (G) DEL Recalled from loan by Edmonton (NHL)
12/2/2013 Kale Kessy (LW) ADD Reassigned by Edmonton (NHL) from Bakersfield (ECHL)
12/2/2013 Ty Rimmer (G) ADD Recalled from loan to Quad City (CHL)

How Did the Stars Dismantle The Barons?

Do me a huge favor, won’t you? Go pull up the score sheet from the Texas Stars at Oklahoma City Barons game from New Year’s Eve. Just look at the first period stats, and tell me you aren’t smiling. Curtis Hamilton and Will Acton score a goal a piece. The Barons take a total of twelve shots, and Richard Bachman blocks all seven on the other end. The only real hiccup is the attempted double-spearing penalty by Ben Eager that gave the best power play unit in the AHL a four minute man advantage. It ended well, though, because the Barons killed it. You are probably saying to yourself, “Way to go Barons!”. I know that I was.

Now take a look at the second period stats. Will Acton would get his second of the night, but the Stars would quickly get on the scoreboard via a power play opportunity. And just when it seemed that the Stars would again score with an extra skater, Curtis Hamilton earns a short hander for his second goal of the night. The Barons, leading 4-1 at this point, seemed in control. At the mid-period section, Derek Nesbitt would put the Barons on top 5-1. A great total against a really good team. A comfortable lead, and in a position to win.

The final thirty minutes of the game tell a completely different story.

Five straight goals, yes five, from the 12:34 mark of the second period through the :46 mark of the overtime frame resulted in one of the greatest unravelings of a Barons squad in recent memory. The collapse was so tremendously unbelievable that at one point I thought maybe the Barons were missing a few bodies.

A whopping 34 shots were taken in the combined span of the final two periods plus overtime. Richard Bachman, who looked absolutely fabulous for the largest portion of the game would end the NYE beatdown facing 41 shots, stopping 35, and an .854 save percentage.

Thirteen shots – the number taken by the Barons in the same span – was not nearly enough to beat Cristopher Nilstorp. Five power play opportunities given. Poor defending. Suffocating defense by the Stars. This game pointed out the junk yard dog in the room, he’s from Cedar Park, Texas.

More than anything, the complete dismantling of the Barons pointed to several problems for the Barons. Let’s take a look at a couple, if you dare join me.

First, this is not an elite team of prospects. Acton and Hamilton both scored twice, and that’s incredible. It was also Curtis Hamilton’s second game in a row where he scored a pair of goals. That’s incredible. Having never scored multiple goals in a single game before, this was a breakout weekend for young Hamilton. Not to devalue this moment, nor Acton’s scoring ways, but no one is calling this bunch of forwards “elite”. The loss of Omark was rough, we knew it would be, but imagine if you had Toni Rajala and Teemu Hartikainen hanging around. That might be an additional 30+ goals (players combined) in the first three months of the season. What’s left isn’t awful, it just isn’t elite.

Second, goaltending isn’t to blame. Whether it is Brossoit or Bachman (or any one else who has suited as a Baron in net) the defensive awareness of a young prospect team is still maturing. The final goal in OT by Sceviour, for instance, was basically a forward holding to the puck while the defense refused to attack him thus forcing him further away from the net or making another pass (hopefully a bad one). Positioning, awareness, and overall decision making continue to be problems. In open ice, the players are moving the puck, but in the defensive zone it remains hit or miss.

Finally, the power play is sorta wanky. The loss of Taylor Fedun to injury hasn’t helped he case, and it has put a ton of pressure on Brad Hunt to quarterback the man advantage time. He has done well, but he needs help. For all the puck moving that the Oilers supposedly drafted, many have struggled in that regard is season.

There are other issues at work here, and we will uncover those in the future. For now, watch and pray. Pray hard.

Happy New Year! We All Hate Change

Photo by Rob Ferguson

Four years ago, a blog editor at Copper & Blue named Derek Zona, reached out to the masses on Twitter simply proclaiming, “What’s it going to take to find an Oklahoma City Barons writer?” I inquired, was instantly encouraged to join the writing team, and churned out mediocre stabs at sharing the world of Barons hockey with Edmonton fans. As they say, the rest is history.

Since that time, I’ve migrated to this blog, Tend The Farm, where the finite focus gets right to the heartbeat of hockey in the city I call home. It’s been a magical trip to say the least. Good seasons, lockout seasons, awards, highs, very few lows, gifs, wallpapers, and honest-to-goodness writing has hopefully entertained those that have stumbled onto this site. If nothing else, my grandmother has enjoyed reading. Mission accomplished.

As we reach 2014, there are some changes coming at Tend the Farm, and although we (me) hate change, this is really a good thing. Trust me.

I hate beat writing. I don’t like reading it, and I don’t like writing it. However, it’s necessary to the sports world, and thus it exists. We need folk, with much more intestinal fortitude than I, to dig in for the quotes, the nitty, the gritty, and gift the world with the necessary details that help us better frame our perspective of an organization. Yes, even in the minors.

I write about a local hockey team, and that team hasn’t been able to accommodate my needs as a writer. Meaning, the only access afforded to me is on their terms, inflexible, and not accommodating. That’s fine. They make the rules. I wouldn’t ask them to bend them. Although it would be nice to have a one-on-one phone interview when I simply can’t drive 20 minutes to practice everyday or attend every home game. I digress, this isn’t one of those posts. To the point.

Through the grind of weekly writes I began to notice a trend in traffic to this site. The posts I like writing weren’t necessarily the one’s you liked reading. Okay. Not only were they specific posts that you liked, but they had a very specific tone. They were the writing that were deeply personal. That blurred lines between fan and critic. They were little pieces of my life infused with hockey. Those posts are hard to write because they demand me. Because this phenomena has occurred, I, the founder/editor/bafoon, have elected to end beat writing at Tend the Farm.

Game previews and game recaps will go away. Instead we will focus on the prospects, the overall health of the team, the coaching decisions, and anything else that might be worthy of “featured” space. Don’t think for one moment that this means the writing gets sparse or patchy, because I think this style of writing demands more time, and more time more often.

I hope that you like the changes, and that you keep reading. The goal has always been for me to share a little slice of the pie with you, the reader. As you digest each slice it gets better, more full bodied, more incredibly rich. I just don’t want you to have to binge eat the pie, and spend all morning questioning whether or not your stomach will ever stop blenderizing itself. Rather indulge slowly, and at your own pace. Through the changes taking place in 2014, I think that very thing will happen.

P.S. I love key line pie, for the record.