AMAZING photo via Candace Riley
While the Edmonton Oilers tumbled down the staircase in the third period of last night’s game, the Oklahoma City Barons climbed the ladder back to the good graces of playoff contention. After three straight shootout appearances, the Oklahoma City Barons would again take a team deep into OT and the shootout. The skills competition has been relentless and unforgiving for the Barons who seemingly lack the creative arc to “get it done.” That was nearly the case on Wednesday night, but the home team would emerge with two points, and a much needed bump in the standings.
Before we get to the Jujhar & Greggy things of the evening, let us briefly pause to talk nuts and bolts. The lineup was bound to be shaken up just a bit with the continued absence of Arcobello and Horak. Add to that list Kessy and Hamilton whom are both injured, as well as Acton and Pinizzotto who’ve landed with the big squad in the NHL. Earlier in the day we knew that Jujhar Khaira and Greg Chase would make their debut within the organization that drafted them, and that was big news. We later learned that the other newcomers, Holmberg and Winquist, would sit at least this game. The same goes for defensive signees Oesterle and Craig.
Thus Nelson had some work to do. Here is how he crafted the roster:
Austin Fyten – C.J. Stretch – Andrew Miller
Ben Eager – Jujhar Khaira – Curtis Hamilton
Jack Combs – Alex Lavoie – Matt Ford
Greg Miller – Travis Ewanyk – Greg Chase
Defensively, nothing changed:
Martin Gernat – Taylor Fedun
Brandon Davidson – Brad Hunt
Joey Leach – David Musil
Craig, Winquist, R. Hamilton, Pinizzotto, Horak, Kessy, Arcobello, Holmberg, MacIntyre, Grebeshkov, Osterle
So we begin the glorious careers of Greg Chase and Jujhar Khaira with fourth and second line situations. Khaira centering Eager, and Hamilton (that nearly seems unfair, but surprisingly logical). Chase on the fourth line would be the revelation.
It was the defense that would struggle against the higher end goal scorers of the Hamilton Bulldogs. Matt Ford scored his 22nd goal of the season on the power play that was QB’d by Brad Hunt (a mainstay on the PP). Yet Hamilton would get two of their own in the period, including a power play goal, to round out the first period with a 2-1 lead. Even a Curtis Hamilton penalty shot halfway through the first period was swallowed up, and it seemed that the Barons were headed towards some darkness. Only facing ten shots, Richard Bachman was a rusty fence gate in the first twenty, but he would prove valuable down the stretch.
Oklahoma City would earn back the lead in the first ten minutes of the second period. Brandon Davidson, easing himself into the offense, notched his fourth of the year, and is seemingly finding an offensive niche that was previously absent. Travis Ewanyk would make it 3-2 on one heckuva fourth line shift with some really solid passing courtesy of Greg Miller. Minus a goofy cross-check from Eager, the Oklahoma City Barons were relatively careful to give away any advantages on the power play even to a so-so team like Hamilton (who’ve played at .500 for a ten game stretch). Although they gave up one early PP goal, the Barons would only allow two advantages all night.
In the third period the wheels nearly came off as Hamilton scored a pair of even strength goals. The Barons pair of Joey Leach and David Musil would have a pretty huge gaff that forced the Bulldogs into a one goal lead. Then, like it was ripped from a Hollywood script, Greg Chase scooped up a slightly misguided pass from Greg Miller and potted his first pro goal. His excitement was oozing.
The fourth line would generate the final two regulation goals for the Barons, and thanks to newcomer Greg Chase, the game would head into OT.
Like most recent Barons overtime games, they took the slow and easy approach to offense relying heavily on their defense. As scary as that sounds, the Bulldogs didn’t muster one scoring chance. The Barons barely had one, and it nearly tipped the scales in their favor. In the end, the game would head to a shootout.
Here are the results:
40 Gabriel Dumont No Goal
27 Sven Andrighetto Goal
37 Patrick Holland No Goal
8 Nathan Beaulieu No Goal
14 Mike Blunden No Goal
93 Martin St. Pierre No Goal
92 Christian Thomas No Goal
Oklahoma City Shootout
23 Jack Combs No Goal
29 Brad Hunt No Goal
21 Travis Ewanyk No Goal
36 Greg Chase No Goal
17 Alex Lavoie Goal
18 Andrew Miller No Goal
20 C.J. Stretch Goal
Stretch and Lavoie netted two for the Barons as the team would come away with two key standing points, and a chance to catch Charlotte for the 8th seed in the West this weekend. Good news.
Greg Chase would end his night with a goal on three shots towards net. He was on the ice for two Barons goals for, none against. His big frame enthused that fourth line centered by Travis Ewanyk, and gave a back-end skill that has been lacking for much of the season of farm play. Regardless of age, he’s a gamer. The big frame is quick, aware of angles, and unafraid to be in front of the net. For a beefy winger he has legit handles, his footwork is crisp. Keep in mind they played the Hamilton Bulldogs, whom are prone to messy defense, but on this night, his first pro game, Chase seems like a legit prospect.
Jujhar Khaira struggled a bit, but that probably is expected. Centering Ben Eager and Curtis Hamilton ain’t easy. No shots, and on the ice for two goals, he seemed to be a product of some defensive pairs that were rather unsightly at times. Eric Rodgers tracked his face off performance and he tracked wins at 5 of 15 with 7 total lost in the neutral zone. Ouch, not a great start. He did, however, earn some 2nd unit power play time with Greg Chase, and this is where you see the smarts. I tweeted the following picture depicting his Teemu Hartikianen-like placement on the ice. Beautiful.
— Neal (@tweetneal) April 3, 2014
In most cases a bad start in a victory is sort of a bummer, but in the case of Khaira there are enough good things here to assume he is a quality 1C/2C on the farm next season. When the high-compete this weekend emerges, THAT’S when we get a good look at a player like Jujhar. I’m all in with this kid.
As the games disappear from the calendar, keep in mind that the Barons are in a playoff hunt. Prospects runneth over, but a push is still on. To most teams adding players this late causes heartburn, but not for OKC who desperately need higher skill, higher chance players not just now but in the immediate future. This is the brand of hockey I like on the farm – capable of winning, but young / prospect-ee. MacTavish has found a balance here, along with the cooperation of Barons GM Bill Scott. That’s great news.