Oklahoma City Barons Vs. Texas Stars Game Three Live Blog

Photo by Rob Ferguson

Regardless of tonight’s outcome, this has been a truly remarkable season of Oklahoma City Barons hockey. The tears flowed when our team was awful. Then they flowed again when the team rose victorious. Now we sit back, a goblet of our favorite beverage in hand (Coke Zero for me, of course), and we reminisce fondly of the season gone by. The tears flowing again.

BUT WAIT! The season is yet to be undone because the Barons play game three in a fight for survival against the 2-0 leading Texas Stars. In Cedar Park, where the skies are sunny and the temp is a fine 73 degrees, Oklahoma City will try to do exactly what they have done for 60+ minutes of play across two games – stay even w/ Texas.

However, the precipice of tonight’s game is indeed high, but it is where it has been for much of the season. The team has to have a complete game, and if they do, they’ll outlast the Stars which is something they’ve rarely done in the last week.

Brace yourselves for a good one. Desperate fowl like to flap their wings, and the Barons are desperate. To the live blog!

Lines:

Horak-Lander-Pitlick
Fyten-Stretch-Miller
Eager-Acton-C. Hamilton
Ewanyk-Khaira-Combs

Pairs:

Nurse-Fedun
Davidson-Hunt
Klefbom-Musil

Richard Bachman

Pregame

https://twitter.com/ae_westendorf/status/461647731417554944

Period One

A one goal lead was had by the Texas Stars in the first twenty minutes of play. The Oklahoma City Barons looked a bit “soft” and maybe a bit “unprepared” for what the Stars were bringing. Richard Bachman made huge save after huge save, but in the end the Stars would emerge victorious.

Period Two

A short-hander from Anton Lander forced the Barons out of hibernation, and into a 2-1 game. The PK continued to be magical, which was good, because the defense gave up a truckload of chances. Now 5 for 5 on the PK, the Barons have life, but Texas looks prepped and ready to retaliate. Brace yourself.

Period Three

Oklahoma City To Use Similar Roster In Tonight’s Game Three In Texas

Photo by Rob Ferguson

In college I ate the same thing for breakfast for nearly four years. Each and ever day began with a bowl of Cheerios, 2% milk, a banana and two cups of coffee. In the routine I found freedom from decision, and you know what – it paid off. I was a relatively good student, one with whom my professors were entirely pleased. Removing that one decision daily, at least for this college student, allowed me to focus on everything else coming at me that day. For me it worked.

Todd Neslon, head coach of the Oklahoma City Barons, didn’t earn a cross-cultural studies degree in four years time (that I’m aware of), but he understands the desire to fuss less, eat Cheerios more.

Via team spokespeople on the ground in Cedar Park for tonight’s game:

So the one change is on defense, and Arcobello / Ford still remains on the “gimpy” list. In addition, Steve Pinizzotto is serving the final game of his two-game suspension.

Tonight’s likely lines and pairs:

Horak-Lander-Pitlick
Fyten-Stretch-Miller
Eager-Acton-Hamilton
Ewanyk-Khaira-Combs

Nurse-Fedun
Davidson-Hunt
Klefbom-Musil

With Klefbom in and Gernat out, that probably puts Nurse back on the top pairing with Taylor Fedun. This scares me. Then again, Oscar could easily seal up that spot. Regardless, Nelson will have to go with young or younger. Decisions, decisions. Cheerios.

Texas at Oklahoma City Game Two (GR)(M)umblings

The Oklahoma wind has done a number on my nasal passages so gird your loins for some epic grumble / mumbles on all things Tejas vs. Land Runners. But as I take my 24-hour Claritin about three hours to late, I’m suddenly calmed, my heart rate dipping towards normalcy, I’m reminded that things really aren’t all that bad. The Barons are on the ropes, down two games to nil in a best-of-five series, but they’ve taken the best team in the AHL (according to the standings) twice to OT. That’s good news. Great news even. Yet, I’m still not entirely hopeful. C’mon allergy medicine, make me feel better.

The gameplan is magical for Todd Nelson, but perhaps to a fault. Several of the Texas writers (all are fabulous, by the way) mentioned the decision to roll Ben Eager, Will Acton, and Curtis Hamilton against the heaviest offensive force which has been Curtis McKenzie, Travis Morin, and Brendan Ranford.

100 Degree Hockey made the point here:

Coach Todd Nelson played the line of Will Acton, Ben Eager and Curtis Hamilton straight up against the Stars’ top line of Travis Morin, Curtis McKenzie and Brendan Ranford. It was effective lineup management for the Barons’ bench boss. They frustrated the AHL Rookie of the Year and MVP, limiting them to just one shot and taking Ranford off the ice with matching minors in the first.

With Pinizzotto serving a two-game suspension it was Ben Eager that got the agitation role, as we have seen for much of the season. Nelson has long been a fan of having a third line dibble and dabble in consternation when necessary. This is an intelligent gameplan.

Yet drink the Kool-Aid slowly because what worked so beautifully in the first one-half of two games ending in the same 3-2 final in OT, was also what seemingly crippled the home team down the stretch. One word – “depth”.

The Barons are playing well above their averages in terms of completeness. Shots are similar. Keeping the Stars PP at 29%. Really grinding the tires on the team’s leading scorers. Giving Nilstorp and Campbell everything plus the kitchen sink. But in game two, in particular, the skillfulness of the Stars was just that much better than the goaltending of Richard Bachman who continues to make impressive save after impressive save in spite of his defensive help-meets.

Here were the defensive pairs in game two:

Gernat – Fedun
Davidson – Hunt
Nurse – Musil

And let me tell you, given full on green tendencies of just about every Barons defender, these guys were pretty quality in the back half of the game when things got dicey. Yet good defenders help protect a lead, and in two games of the postseason they’ve been unable to do that despite my googley-eyed praise of them only one sentence prior. There is real skill on this Stars squad, and that skill took over when Morin potted his second of the game.

In the end, I like the defensive pairs in game two much more than game one. Klefbom would be my only late addition if I had my druthers, and I’m hoping he returns (not entirely convinced) by game three.

To the offensive side of things:

Horak – Lander – Pitlick
Fyten – Stretch – Miller
Eager-Acton-C. Hamilton
Ewanyk-Khaira-Combs

Jujhar Khaira scored his first pro goal to give the Oklahoma City Barons a one-goal lead just over mid-way through the third period. It was a dazzler, and one that we’ve been waiting to see. Roman Horak, welcoming the return of Tyler Pitlick on his line more than anyone else, was sharp in the opening minutes scoring the game’s first goal.

As I’ve now written nearly 600 words above I suddenly realize that grumbling isn’t an option here. This Barons team is really churning out its full potential plus an extra sized set of heart. I hate saying heart like it is an actual intangible, but good coaching, good goaltending, smart line matching have all been stated. And that may make this the most impressive OKC outfit to date because they are challenging the brick wall, razor wired fence that has contained them for most of the season.

As we turn towards game three, don’t hold your breath that they’ll be resurrected in this series. Do, however, enjoy the remarkable consistency that is emerging. Them’s, we’s, us’s all are better for it.

Dallas Might Be Done, But Texas Is Just Warming Up


Dallas, giving up three straight goals including the OT game winner on Sunday night, has officially been scrubbed from the postseason existence of 2014. That’s a bummer too. We watched a so-so team emerge as a squad that could contend with the Anaheim Ducks in a fight nearly to the death. Like every playoff run that comes to an end, you quickly look at the positives, negatives, and consequences of bowing out before the Cup has been raised. For Dallas, the positives immediately come to mind, and that’s the possibility of a few players, really good players, returning to the American Hockey League for another version of a postseason run.

Slated to make returns to the Texas Stars to stitch up their first round winning ways are defenseman Patrick Nemeth, forward Chris Mueller, and Dustin Jeffrey. Not eligible (and thank goodness for Barons fans and anyone else the team will face) is Colton Sceviour. Much like Martin Marincin being absent from the Barons “eligible” roster on trade deadline day, Sceviour was not paper transacted at that time, and will not return to Texas for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.

Via Sean Shapiro at ‘Wrong Side Of The Red Line’:

Chris Mueller, Colton Sceviour, Dustin Jeffrey, and Patrik Nemeth are the only current Dallas players eligible for the AHL playoffs.

If, or when, Dallas is eliminated from the playoffs before its AHL affiliate Mueller, Sceviour and Jeffrey would have to pass through waivers to join the Texas Stars. Nemeth is waiver exempt, so he could be sent down immediately.

His immediate thoughts following last night’s Texas Stars OT defeat:

Even without Sceviour, the Texas Stars get much better. Nemeth is another cannon in the blue line arsenal, Mueller a tricky forward with some age, and Jeffrey’s yeoman like tendencies – this just makes the Western Conference juggernaut a bit more frightening.

The series heads to Cedar Park for the final three games (if necessary, please be necessary), and the Barons have some work to do. It’s going to be an uphill battle, in a blinding snowstorm with two left feet. More analysis on walking with two left feet coming soon…

Texas Stars Vs. Oklahoma City Barons Game Two Live Blog

After suffering an OT victory on Wednesday night, the Oklahoma City Barons attempt to leave the confines of the Cox Center this evening with a 50/50 split of the opening games.

It’s gonna be tough, and Texas is still big, nasty, smart, and deep. Oklahoma City is likely going to ice a tweaked lineup that favors speed if they have even a faint chance at redemption.

Steve Pinizzotto was suspended for a boarding incident in game one. Likewise, Scott Glennie is out for the same infraction. However, Pinizzotto gets two games while Glennie gets one. The repeat offender blowback if you will.

Confirmed in the lineup tonight is Martin Gernat, David Musil, and forward Ben Eager. None of the three dressed in the opening game, and there’s a bit of security knowing these guys, who’ve played down the stretch, will be back in.

Oscar Klefbom is battling an undisclosed injury, Jordan Oesterle an upper body situation, and Mark Arcobello still making his way back to you babe. Tyler Pitlick, however, is a game time decision. Great news.

The puck drops at 8:00pm as a result of the packer pickup for the Memorial Marathon which takes place bright and early tomorrow morning. Should be a late nighter, and another close game.

Lines & Pairs

Horak-Lander-Pitlick
Fyten-Stretch-Miller
Eager-Acton-C. Hamilton
Ewanyk-Khaira-Combs

Gernat-Fedun
Davidson-Hunt
Nurse-Musil

Bachman

Pregame

In the pregame Jim Byers mentions that the approximate start time is 8 15 as a result of the ice not being prepared by 8. Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon packet pickup ended at 6 and it took 2 hours to change to ice.

Period One

https://twitter.com/seanshapiro/status/460228532929449984k

Roman Horak would net the only goal of the first twenty minutes with an assist by captain Anton Lander. Texas had a strong push to start the game, but the Stars top line was thwarted by the greasy play of Ben Eager and Co. PK was solid for OKC, and despite some really rough and tumble no calls, the game would favor the Barons in the first twenty minutes. 1-0 after the first.

Period Two

Period Three

Overtime

Oklahoma City is a team unprepared to protect a lead. The Stars haven’t just gotten lucky by winning two games in a row in the first round, they are just deep. The staying power of a team that is deep, even in an even matchup like this, propels a team a long way.

The series is best of five and it is highly unlikely the Barons can win three straight with all bring played in Cedar Park.

A team that is well coached, well goaltended, but defensively young – you get protection that’s a leaky boat. Still, incredible how they’ve managed to shut down Texas for most of the game. Incredible.

Tend The Farm Calder Cup Picks: First Round Edition (via the writing team)

Your trusty Tend the Farm experts have spoken yet again! The Calder Cup first round has already started and in honor of Mr. Frank Calder and his sparkly Cup, the farmhands at TTF have picked the winners using coin flips, drawing straws and pure old guesswork with a bit of heart. Yes, we failed miserably with our Stanley Cup 1st Round pick of Tampa Bay over the Canadiens, but hey, we have a compulsion for warm sunny Florida beaches, seafood and who can forget Walt Disney World!

(The Small Tiny Print: TTF and its writers are not responsible for any harm that might come to your bank account if you take our picks to heart. We do, however, believe that the first moon walk took place on a soundstage in Hollywood, and that eating Pop Rocks with soda will cause your head to explode. Thus proving…we are experts!)

Eric Rodgers Picks:
[bra_border_divider top=’10’ bottom=’10’]

 – Western Conference: 1st Round (Best of 5)

Texas Stars vs. Oklahoma City Barons – Oklahoma City in 5

Chicago Wolves vs. Rochester Americans – Chicago in 4

Toronto Marlies vs. Milwaukee Admirals – Toronto in 5

Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Abbotsford Head – Abbotsford in 5

 – Eastern Conference1st Round (Best of 5)

Manchester Monarchs vs. Norfolk Admirals – Manchester in 4

Springfield Falcons vs. Providence Bruins – Springfield in 4

Binghamton Senators vs. Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins – WBS in 5

St. John’s IceCaps vs. Albany Devils – St. John’s in 3

Patricia Teter’s Picks:
[bra_border_divider top=’10’ bottom=’10’]

 – Western Conference:  1st Round (Best of 5)

Texas Stars vs. Oklahoma City Barons – Oklahoma City in 5 (I prefer 7, but 5 it must be!)

Chicago Wolves vs. Rochester Americans – Chicago in 4

Toronto Marlies vs. Milwaukee Admirals – Toronto in 5

Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Abbotsford Head – Grand Rapids in 5

 – Eastern Conference: 1st Round (Best of 5)

Manchester Monarchs vs. Norfolk Admirals – Manchester in 4

Springfield Falcons vs. Providence Bruins – Springfield in 4

Binghamton Senators vs. Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins – WBS in 5

St. John’s IceCaps vs. Albany Devils – St. John’s  in 4

Nelson On Arcobello, “I’m Not Saying It’s A Good Chance, But It’s A Chance”

Following a game one defeat in overtime, the Oklahoma City media (one strong) asked the obvious question of the night, “When will Mark Arcobello return?” It’s an obvious question because Arco is a scoring beast, and a skillful fella that the Barons desperately need if they are going to outscore Western Conference opponents at any reasonably sound clip.

Here is what Todd Nelson told the Daily Oklahoman:

“Arco pretty much is day to day,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said after a 3-2 overtime loss to Texas on Wednesday night. “He has a chance to play in this series. I’m not saying it’s a good chance, but it’s a chance.”

So you’re saying there’s a chance? A slim one, but a chance, and that’s good news. I think.

Texas At Oklahoma City Game One (Gr)(M)umblings

Photo by Rob Ferguson

Man, that was a close one. The Barons owned a two spot lead thanks to goals by Austin Fyten and Curtis Hamilton, and it seemed that they would again solve a problem like Cristopher Nilstorp. Then the tides shifted, Mike Hedden scored a pair including the overtime game winner, and the Barons lose game one at home in a quickened best-of-five first round.

My excitement quickly turned to fear as those three straight goals came pouring from the Texas-sized juggernaut that is offensive glory. A 2-0 lead felt nice, but once the game inched to a 2-1 lead it seemed impossible to see a scenario where the Oklahoma City Barons could protect a one goal lead with a lot of time on the clock. Of course they wouldn’t be able to, the defense faltered, and the offense seemed gobsmacked by the whole endeavor. The raucous start for Oklahoma City would, in the end, come petering to a halt. A 3-2 loss was afoot.

Depth is going to be an issue for Oklahoma City. Scratch that, QUALITY depth is going to be an issue for Oklahoma City. As you can tell from the lineup last night, there are bodies here, they are just young and incomplete.

Josh Winquist, slotting in on the top line with Matt Ford scratched, was well over his head in terms of what he saw taking place in front of him. He’s a sharp kid, no doubt, with some upsides that make me really anxious to project his value. However, he was thrown in the deep end of the pool, expected to do really good things, sorta struggled, and in the end was not the champion of the offense we needed him to be. Nelson will adjust, no doubt.

Darnell Nurse, paired with Klefbom, wasn’t entirely eye gouge worthy. The two, as a pair, played some quality minutes both early and late. Nurse had his shifts cut just short at times, most likely due to lingering illness, but he still lacks the pristine facade of a grizzled professional defender. That will come, but the raw nature of his game doesn’t bode well for the OKC Barons immediate future. Add Jordan Oesterle to the list of fish out of water in game one as well.

Richard Bachman was really solid. He’s learned how to recover rebounds fairly well, and he’s a goaltender, that given the right defense, could be a dandy. Struggling to protect your net with no blue line support is rough. His 30 of 33 night was highlighted by a 15 shot second period. This thing could have and should have been worse. Thanks Richie.

Any time you keep the Stars at a quarter pace on the power play you can call it a victory. On the flip side, the Stars really jabbed the Barons momentum on their own power play. Nilstorp was a clever gent when the Barons came knocking in the brief scoring chances on the power play. Desjardins decision to play Nilstorp over Campbell might have been the “x” factor of the night. All that to say this – the power play for OKC needs to get much better against Texas.

The game Saturday is a must win as they all tend to be in April. Yet this one feels important, and perhaps the last time we see the 13-14 Barons on home ice. I think Nelson prays vigilantly for an Arcobello return, and a Matt Ford “go ahead” status update. Those two things will help. I also think we might see some slight tweaks to the defensive lineup. Musil? Gernat? Both? Not sure they will make much difference, but when the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’. Right? RIGHT!?!?!

Game two is Saturday night, 8:00CT (adjusted for marathon weekend activities). Get your tickets.