Bogdan Yakimov Shoulder Injury Update Coming Soon

Photo by Steven Christy

Bogdan Yakimov has been an interesting player to watch. Slow and chiseled, smart and curious – he is one entertaining not-so-little center prospect. Two points (a goal and an assist) in six games isn’t a huge journey for the kid drafted in the third round in 2013, but he is altogether a work in progress, and bettering himself on the defensive side.

In Wednesday’s game against the Texas Stars he was injured after a rough ride into the boards. He instantly needed help off the ice, and it appeared that he was favoring his right shoulder just a bit, while wiping the “woozies” from his eyes.

Shoulder injuries are the stuff of legend in the Oilers organization. Let’s hope this isn’t a major situation, and the team has promised an update in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled.

Richard Bachman Comes Home, Luke Gazdic Takes A Trip

The Edmonton Oilers announced today that Richard Bachman is headed back to Oklahoma City as Viktor Fasth returns to the NHL goaltending rotation. In addition, Luke Gazdic will return to Oklahoma City for the first time since playing in the Stars vs. Oilers preseason game over a year ago. On a conditioning stint, Gazdic will likely play a handful of games with the team, and return to the Oilers fourth line. Grind on, y’all. Grind on.

In other news, Tyler Bunz will be returning to the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL.

Texas Defeats OKC In Overtime, Goaltending Still Good

Two games, two consecutive overtime outcomes. The Stars and Barons historically play games at an excellent clip, and lately they have proven that point beautifully. On a rare Wednesday night game in Cedar Park, the Stars would take advantage of late period penalties committed by the Barons en route to a 5-4 victory against our squad from OKC.

Ten first period shots netted two goals for Oklahoma City, and an early lead in the game. Iiro Pakarinen would both add an assist and a goal in those opening scoring events, and it seemed that the Barons were going to roll up half a dozen on the stingy Stars. But Brett Ritchie and Maxime Fortunas each scored their first of the season across ten minutes of play and two periods.

Jack Campbell and Frans Tuohimaa seemed ready and willing. Both would be steady for the most part, but were prone to struggle when their defense challenged their intestinal fortitude. Yet on this night it would be Campbell that would face over forty shots, and survive accordingly.

With the game tied at two goals a piece, Ryan Hamilton would punch in a power play goal in the early portions of the second period. But the team’s would trade goals in ping-pong fashion including one from captain Anton Lander. In the end it was an goofy interference penalty by Anton Lander in the final five minutes of the third period that would allow a brief man advantage for the Texas Stars, and a huge goal from Curtis McKenzie. Jason Williams would take a two minute hooking penalty at the 19:00 mark of regulation that would come back to haunt his squad.

Indeed it took 45 seconds in to the overtime frame for Justin Downling to beat Tuohimaa and break the Barons back. After a very solid game from both teams, it came down to whom made the fewest mistakes. The 5-4 victory by the Stars keeps the Barons at .500 on the season, and heading towards opponents not from Texas.

Oklahoma City Barons Lineup:

R.Hamilton-Williams-Miller
Moroz-Lander-Pakarinen
C.Hamilton-Yakimov-Pinizzotto
Ewanyk-Khaira-Ford

Simpson-Oesterle
Klefbom-Musil
Aulie-Gernat

Tuohimaa

Scratches: Pitlick, Kessy, Ludwig (healthy); Brossoit (back; day-to-day)

Workin’ For The Weekend (Wednesday Edition): Stars Again “I Won’t Back Down”

Yawn. Stretch. Reach for your Starbucks Verona. Grab your high-falootin’ reading gadget, and join me for a game day preview from the friendly confines of Halloween week in Oklahoma City.

Sooner or later it was bound to happen. We would eventually use the Tom Petty classic “I Won’t Back Down” in a game preview. It sounds cliche, especially in hockey circles, to talk about standing your ground. The grandiose way in which hockey folk speak of their “warriors” simply demands that goofy statements be made. How many times have you seen Sid or Alex or Steven get pummeled only to have an announcer say something like, “his teammates won’t stand for that,” or “someone has to do something”? Too many times to recall, I’m sure. And when I hear the talking head utter those words, I begin humming Sir Petty.

Released in 1989, “I Won’t Back Down” was Petty’s first solo single off his first solo album. The mid-tempo war cry would have a profound usefulness for years and decades to come. Sports teams, political campaigns, even commercials found the straight forward message immediately profound.

Despite its top twenty success back then, and it’s continued use today, the single remains a good bit of songwriting. Petty, known more for Americana/Jam Band romps, had a really keen ear for a sugary hook. Rumor has it that George Harrison sat in on the recording of the track, and that alone entices me.

The driving guitar low end, the slinky lead guitar riffs, and the wiry vocals of Petty have always done it for me. A rock/pop classic in my mind that would point to a great songwriter, and true 80’s and 90’s gem of a performer.

The Oklahoma City Barons tango with the Texas Stars on Wednesday evening for the fourth time in less than two weeks. Texas won the first outing with OKC roaring back to win the next two. With Travis Morin heating up, the Barons potentially having to make some goaltending decisions, and defenses for both teams starting to challenge competition better, Wednesday’s tilt will be a good one. But who backs down?

The Barons have received scoring from every line as well as a few defenders, and suddenly the season is beginning to take off. Scoring problems were so 2013.

In net Laurent Brossoit took a game and a half to really find his sea legs. Improving minute by minute, and then suffering a back issue, Frans Tuohimaa stepped in and had back-to-back monstrous games. Nearly 100 shots in two games only netted eight goals by the opposition, and it seemed like a goaltending controversy was bubbling to the surface. In all fairness, it has, but two games is such a tiny pool to be excited about. Nonetheless, Brossoit is listed day-to-day, but we now know that Tuohimaa is capable, and his North American debut at the end of the last season wasn’t a fluke. Kid is a talented goaltender.

The number of warm bodies continues to be something that Todd Nelson is trying to manage. Tyler Pitlick is likely one of the forwards healthy scratched on Wednesday, this on the wings of a six point tear in just five games played. It will continue to be a head-scratcher – why the Barons rotate whom they rotate – but we know that there is a method to the madness. Whether that’s the Oilers willing their opinion on the nightly roster or Todd Nelson legitimately squaring up bodies we might never know. We do know, however, that all will play, and all will sit. Guaranteed.

Oscar Klefbom continues to be the defensive standout, and that’s good news for him. He has made the case to be the next defensive call-up, and with the potential return of Brandon Davidson (hernia) soon, suddenly two extra defenders will be available. If Hunt and Klefbom were to switch places, perhaps C.J. Ludwig goes to Bakersfield. Either way, the defense is starting to congele, and remain consistent despite the forwards constantly changing.

Friday night Oklahoma City handed Texas their first and only loss of the season. As the teams have now had a few days to recover from the overtime thriller on Saturday night, each squad looks to gain ground on one another.

Travis Morin had a dazzling, hat-trick on Saturday despite a loss for his team. He has had some help in the scoring department from three standout rookies. Julius Honka, Derek Hulak, and John Klingberg have a combined sixteen points in five games. The success of youth has been an eye-opening experience for the Stars, and a sight to behond. These players are hard to beat, and hard to contain. This makes life difficult for Oklahoma City.

Lineup in practice for Oklahoma City:

Moroz-Lander-Pakarinen
R.Hamilton-Williams-Pitlick-Miller
C.Hamilton-Yakimov-Pinizzotto
Kessy-Ewanyk-Ford-Khaira

Simpson-Oesterle
Klefbom-Gernat
Aulie-Musil-Ludwig

Tuohimaa
Bunz

The game is 7:30 (CT) in Cedar Park, Texas. Check Live 365 (keyword: OKC Barons) for a great live stream of the game, and listen early for Jim and Todd’s wonderful pregame thoughts.

OKC Barons Practice 10/27 News and Notes

Steve Pinizzotto’s jersey at practice, “Please Do Not Touch”.

-Laurent Brossoit is still not practicing after suffering a back injury this past Friday during the morning skate. He was in the arena and walking around, but did not put on any gear.

-Also sighted today was defenseman Brandon Davidson. Davidson hasn’t seen any action so far this season, and was unable to participate in any training camps either while recovering from a hernia. Davidson started skating last week with the Edmonton Oilers, so hopefully we’ll see him soon with OKC.

-Today was the first chance I’ve gotten to see the team in practice this season, and I was pretty impressed with how much fun the guys looked like they were having. Not to say that past teams haven’t, but today stood out.

-Kale Kessy just seems to be looking better and better as the season has worn on. I’m very impressed with the strides he’s taken so far.

-When asked about the “nameplate” on Pinizzotto’s jersey,  Barons forward Matthew Ford replied with this:

Well played Matt!

-For some more news and notes about the team, be sure to check out my segment on Lowdown with Lowetide on Edmonton’s Team 1260. Many thanks to them for having me on today.

Barons take on the Texas Stars for the third game in a row on Wednesday night.

Barons Win The Weekend, Beat Texas Twice

Photo by Steven Christy

Robust. Full featured. Long suffering. After reaching the second weekend of games without a win, one could use many words to describe how the team needed to play to finally earn a “W”. “We have to play a full, complete game to compete against Texas,” said Todd Nelson on Friday, “We know we can do it, we just have to prove it.” And prove it they did, defeating the Texas Stars twice this weekend in a home-and-home format.

Friday it was the Oklahoma City offense, and surprise insertion of Frans Tuohimaa that landed the Barons in the win column. Jason Williams scored an early first period goal to get things rolling, but three unanswered from Iiro Pakarinen, Curtis Hamilton, and Tyler Pitlick would push the Stars towards the edge of the cliff in the second. Despite Steve Pinizzotto taking a mindless roughing/cross checking penalty of the five minute variety, the damage had been done for Texas, and a third period power play goal from Iiro Pakarinen gave OKC the eventual 5-3 victory.

Frans Tuohimaa was magnificent stopping 39 of 42.

The Barons and Stars would pack up their belongings, head to the bus, and prepare to play each other again in Cedar Park Saturday evening.

Saturday was nearly a parallel comparison to Friday – Tuohimaa good against stingy Stars, Barons stiff with the puck offensively – and thus the game was highly entertaining, and eventually favoring OKC.

Travis Morin would score for Texas after eight minutes of play, but Dillon Simpson, Andrew Miller, Bogdan Yakimov, and Kale Kessy would all score their first goals of the season. The switch from Jack Campbell in net to Jussi Rynnas had little impact on the Barons consternation with the puck. However, Travis Morin would score two more in the third period to collect the hat trick, inspire Greg Rallo to net one, and somehow push the game in to overtime. Matt Ford, a guy who a year ago was a huge part of the Barons late season success, would punch in the game winner over four and a half minutes into overtime to give OKC a 6-5 narrow victory.

Two wins against the Cup winners from a year ago is quite remarkable. It also hints that perhaps the Barons are rounding third base after a pretty sullied start to their 13-14 campaign.

Laurent Brossoit, battling a back situation that is still semi-undisclosed, watched as Frans Tuohimaa embraced 93 shots in just two games. Winning both of those games sounds impossible on paper, and it nearly became just that. But when the sticks get lucky, the defense gets good when needed, and you yourself find a way to overcome multiple goals, great things happen. The story of Tuohimaa vs. Brossoit now gets interesting, but the real story hear is health. Here’s hoping Brossoit is well soon.

Lots of “first goals” scored on Saturday – Simpson, Kessy, Miller, Lander, Ford, Yakimov – and that’s good news for a team that had relied on two or three to do the heavy lifting. It is also nice to see all lines contributing offensively. This is a huge statement from Nelson’s young Barons.

Defensively there are still some problems, and is is compounded by he fact that Tuohimaa can’t face a high number of shots, and be the savior of the team on a nightly basis. Is he good? Yes. Is he surprisingly good? Yes. But there are so many leaky gaps in the defense that things will need to be patched quickly or else. This same thing happened last season, yet the big difference is actually offense. A year ago this team had wonky defense and low-skill offense. Now they have wonky defense but highly skilled forwards. This means that on some nights, like Saturday, they can simply outscore opponents.

There are six players with a point per game or better through four to five games. The most interesting of the bunch being Iiro Pakarinen. Two power play goals on Friday earmarked his journey as one of the best AHL rookies to open the season. Not since Teemu Hartikainen, another Finn, have the Barons had a rookie with this much upside not just in the minors, but in terms of major league value. He might be the one wrinkle to the season that no one saw coming. Unless of course you read this site, in which case you’ve been cheering “Iiro The Hero” since mid-summer.

On the flip side of the roster is a guy like Mitch Moroz, who was supposed to dominate offensively, but has received interestingly low TOI. That’s not because he’s played bad, but because there are just so many bodies to insert in the lineup, that he gets the short straw some nights. But I must admit, there are times he does seem to be a bit like a “fish out of water” which is probably a result of facing some really challenging competition in a “man’s league”. He will be fine, but as is the case with a lot of prospects, it’s gonna take some time.

Friday’s Lineup:

R.Hamilton-Williams-Pitlick
Moroz-Lander-Pakarinen
C.Hamilton-Yakimov-Pinizzotto
Ewanyk-Khaira-Kessy

Simpson-Oesterle
Klefbom-Gernat
Aulie-Ludwig

Tuohimaa

Scratched: Brossoit (injured); Musil, Ford and Miller (all healthy)

Saturday Lineup:

R. Hamilton-Lander-Pakarinen
Moroz-Yakimov-Miller
C. Hamilton-Khaira-Pitlick
Kessy-Ewanyk-Ford

Simpson-Oesterle
Klefbom-Gernat
Aulie-Ludwig

Tuohimaa

Scratched: Brossoit (day-to-day); Pinizzotto, Williams & Musil (all healthy)

The Barons play Texas again on Wednesday in Cedar Park before returning home Saturday and Sunday to play Iowa.

By The Numbers Game 71: Texas at Oklahoma City

TEXAS AT OKLAHOMA CITY
STARS BARONS
 
3-0-0-0 RECORD 0-2-1-0
1-0-0-0 VS. 0-1-0-0
3-0-0-0 LAST 10 0-2-1-0
3-0-0-0 STREAK 0-2-1-0
1-0 W VS. UTI LAST GAME 4-5 L VS. SA
RANKS
12TH LEAGUE 29TH
17TH OFFENSE 16TH
3RD DEFENSE 27TH
10TH PP% 3RD
13TH PK% 28TH
TEX OVERALL STATS OKC
6 POINTS 1
1.000 RECORD % .167
1.000 HOME WINNING % 0.000
1.000 AWAY WINNING % 0.500
0.000 SHOOTOUT WINNING % 0.000
1.33 GOAL DIFFERENTIAL PER GAME -1.00
1.67 SHOT DIFFERENTIAL PER GAME 0.00
11.3 PIM PER GAME 10.3
10.7 OPPONENT PIM PER GAME 17.0
TEX OFFENSIVE STATS OKC
2.67 GOALS PER GAME 2.67
1.67 ES GOALS PER GAME 1.00
1.00 PP GOALS PER GAME 1.67
31.67 SHOTS PER GAME 30.00
11.88 SHOTS PER GOAL 11.25
8.42% TEAM SHOOTING % 8.89%
18.8% POWER PLAY % 29.4%
TEX DEFENSIVE STATS OKC
1.33 GOALS AGAINST PER GAME 3.67
0.67 ES GOALS AGAINST PER GAME 2.67
0.67 PP GOALS AGAINST PER GAME 1.00
30.00 SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME 30.00
22.50 SHOTS AGAINST PER GOAL 8.18
4.44% OPP TEAM SHOOTING % 12.22%
88.2% PENALTY KILL % 72.7%
TEX GOALIE STATS OKC
.956 SAVE % .900
1.33 GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE 2.92
1 SHUTOUTS 0
GOALIE RECORD GAA SV%
Jack Campbell 1-0-0 2.00 .949
Jussi Rynnas 2-0-0 1.00 .961
Maxime Lagace 0-0-0 0.00 .000
Laurent Brossoit 0-2-0 4.07 .867
Frans Tuohimaa 0-0-0 0.00 0.000

Workin’ For The Weekend: Texas Twice, Sorta Nice “Don’t Believe The Hype”

Oh man, Public Enemy was a scary good outfit. Long before Flavor Flav was a running gag, and Chuck D was doing voice-overs for Grand Theft Auto, PE was one of the most culturally significant, and socially braggadocios hip-hop groups of any decade. The 1980’s had seen the birth of rap music through the lens of previous “passing trends” like disco and such. However, Public Enemy, and their spastic beats, were enunciated by the politically charged content of their lyrics, and this made them great. Chuck D remains one of the greatest lyrical poets of that era, musically or otherwise, and the balance of Flavor Flav’s good-hearted Jerry Lewis jabs continue to be dynamic nearly thirty years later. Despite where the band evolved from in the late-80’s to now (and the controversy that came along with it), there’s no denying the importance of Public Enemy. Go ahead, I dare ya.

Don't Believe the Hype by Public Enemy on Grooveshark

Growing up in the Midwest and eventually the Southwest, Public Enemy wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. But I vividly remember hearing “Don’t Believe The Hype” when I was nine or ten years old, and thus bouncing around my room, microphone to the mirror, like any good-natured elementary kid might be want to do in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Back when radio was fresh, and televised music videos were finally hitting their stride, there was a sense of newness to this group that instantly perked your attention. The accessibility of the trio was rare for a group that challenged folks socially. In short, the significance of this track wouldn’t fully be realized in my mind until much later in life, but that’s the greatness of Public Enemy. They eased you into their thought process via hypnotic, vibrant beats, and dropped the hammer on your brain much later. That’s true genius, and it also stamped legitimacy on PE’s career.

It seems stupid to compare such a legendary and socially important track to a local pro hockey team, but bear with me for a moment.

While the team called the Oklahoma City Barons seemingly struggled out of the gate, losing three straight, let’s peel back the layers of where they are as we near the final weekend of October.

Despite being 29th in overall points the team only has a goal differential of -3. That means the opposition has scored three more goals than the OKC Barons, and that’s not too shabby. By comparison only two or three teams in the bottom ten league-wide have a similar differential. That means games have been close, and scoring hasn’t been too difficult.

The power play is near 30% completion with seventeen attempts on the season. That means that OKC is capitalizing when necessary. And despite the penalty kill being awful, they’ve only allowed eleven short-handed chances. For a young team, both of these accomplishments are welcomed.

Iiro Pakarinen is off to a hot start. Jason Williams and Ryan Hamilton never met a shot they wouldn’t take. Laurent Brossoit seems to be settling. Coach Nelson is tinkering less with defensive pairings. Forward lines are still rotating in and out on a nightly basis. All things considered, don’t believe the hype – it’s not all that bad.

This weekend the Barons play two games. One against the Texas Stars, the other against the Texas Stars. The wrinkle of craziness is that the Friday game is in Oklahoma City, the Saturday game is in Cedar Park. The goofy scheduling of the AHL continues to reveal itself, and the Barons will have to claim some points this weekend to genuinely feel better about the month of October. There’s no denying that.

With the Edmonton Oilers on a two-game win streak it feels as if the farm team is due a good game, even against a heavy opponent like Texas. The Barons are healthy, no injuries to report at the time of this post, and the lines will look similar to what Oklahoma City unfurled in the home opener nearly a week ago.

Meanwhile Texas is healthy (Wrenn and Rallo still on the IR, however), and they look poised to again dominate the West as they have gone unbeaten in three to start the season. Yet they’ve done so by only scoring eight goals, and relying heavily upon good goaltending from Jack Campbell and Jussi Rynnas. Tell me if you have heard this story before. The Stars are good at defending, and keeping chances at bay. This gives team’s like OKC absolute nightmares. So the journey continues…

No news is good news for Oklahoma City. Meaning that a week-full of practice, a pig roast with Todd Nelson, and a few rides on the back of Doug Sauter’s horses can cure what ails a young hockey club. Recently Eric made a trip to visit with Oilers goaltender Tyler Bunz now in Wichita, and in the meantime Laurent Brossoit continues to man the Barons goaltending ship with Frans Tuohimaa his slightly lesser. That’s been a huge story line for Oklahoma City. With Richard Bachman earning NHL dollars these days (filling in for Fasth in Edmonton) we knew that eventually the prospects would take over. That’s not a bad thing, organizationally speaking, but it certainly might be if your a minor league fan. Yet Brossoit has been good, and increasingly better as the games soldier on.

Defensively C.J. Ludwig is set to finally crack the roster this weekend per Todd Nelson’s comments on Monday evening. That’s good, but it also means someone sits. Assume that it is someone on the right as Ludwig is the only right-handed defender the Barons currently have. I’ll go ahead and suggest Musil, although Gernat has been every bit problematic. This doesn’t increase the goodness of the defense, just adds another rested and motivated body. As a whole Jordan Oesterle and Dillon Simpson have played the best minutes to my eye, and that shocks me. With Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, Martin Gernat, and to a less prospect-driven extent Keith Aulie, being the “highly watched” defenders on this team, the fact that two are spoiling the party is really good news. They need to be good, have been, and thus the hope is the others follow suit.

Offensively things seem okay, and comfortable. All four lines are producing scoring and chances and opportunities to not lose. The team has an offensive identity early on, and that’s not necessarily something that came about until January a year ago. This is good news, and I only anticipate great things from the forwards this weekend.

For Texas, Travis Morin continues to be a back-bone of offense while newcomer Julius Honka shows great promise. The Stars do, however, miss the effectiveness of Curtis McKenzie whom is a player not easily replaced. When all is said and done you’ll notice that in three straight wins at least fourteen active roster players have etched a point. That means only three players (excluding goaltenders and the injured Rallo) haven’t earned at least a scoring point in three games. This is important, and it is significant. If the Barons are going to outlast the Stars they’ll need to challenge all four lines defensively, and look to flat out score more goals. Trying to out muscle this team ends badly.

Previous Oklahoma City Barons Roster:

Pakarinen-Williams-Pitlick
Moroz-Lander-Miller
C. Hamilton-Yakimov-Pinizzotto
Kessy-Ewanyk-Ford

Simpson-Oesterle
Klefbom-Gernat
Aulie-Musil

Brossoit/Tuohimaa

Scratched: R. Hamilton, Khaira, Ludwig

The games can be heard via the Barons iHeart radio position on your mobile device dial or via a Live365 search for “OKC Barons”. Both games begin at 7:00pm CT with pregame beginning about fifteen minutes prior.

Tyler Bunz Looks Forward To Season With Wichita

Photo courtesy Steven Christy Photography. All Rights Reserved.

The Edmonton Oilers had an interesting situation developing in net for their prospects this season. Signing Ty Rimmer to an AHL deal, the Oilers gave themselves seven total goaltenders signed, and only a limited number of spots to play them. Last season, the Oilers had the same situation, but Rimmer was already committed to playing for the Quad City Mallards of the then-CHL, allowing them to spread their goaltenders out among their affiliations. This season, the Oilers had to decide which goaltenders went where, and find another team for their extra goalie.

When training camps began, I had figured that the Oilers would loan a goalie to an outside team, but I had no idea who or where. Laurent Brossoit was obviously moving up to the Oklahoma City Barons full-time, but that left two spots in Bakersfield for Rimmer, Frans Tuohimaa, and Tyler Bunz. Clues started to surface when it was stated in different interviews that the organization was wanting to get Bunz some prime ice time, following the injury last season that saw him take a puck to the throat and ending his season.

Sure enough, the Oilers ended up sending Rimmer and Tuohimaa to the Bakersfield Condors, and a couple days later sent Bunz to the Wichita Thunder of the now-ECHL. A little odd, being outside of the organization, but the ties between Wichita and Oklahoma City are there. In the past, the Barons have called up defenseman Andrew Martens and forward Erick Lizon, signing the latter to an AHL contract last season. By extension, the current coach of the Thunder is former Edmonton Oilers forward Kevin McClelland.

Getting a chance today to see Bunz practicing with the Thunder, he’s obviously determined to have a good season this year. Coming off of the injury last season, Bunz is feeling pretty good and is fully recovered. Being able to get back on the ice, and train, he’s looking forward to getting into his first game. He’ll have a small change in his equipment this season, now wearing the throat protector full time.

On playing with Wichita this season, Bunz said “It’s different. Obviously you want to be with the guys and be a part of it, but it’s a business, so I understand that. It’s nice to come here and meet new guys, join another team. Hopefully we can do well and make the playoffs. It’s a good league, there’s a lot of good players on our squad, we’ve got a good looking team so I’m pretty excited about it.”

Last season, Bunz battled with Laurent Brossoit for the number one spot in Bakersfield, but this season, he’ll have a different dynamic to the battle. The Wichita Thunder recently acquired long time CHL/ECHL player Tim Boron in free agency from the Rapid City Rush. Last season with the Rush, Boron finished with 30 wins on the season and finished fifth in the CHL in save percentage. Bunz said that either way, it pushes him to be better and work a little harder. “But Borsy (Boron) out here, he’s a veteran guy and a real good goalie, he pushes me to be good in practice, he’s someone that I can look up to.”

“To have that here, instead of having two younger goalies and not really knowing what to do when you get into trouble, Boron’s seen it all, he’s been around a lot, so if I ever have any questions, he’s a guy I can go to and ask. He’s a smart guy, he knows his position well, and I look forward to working with him this year.”

Coming off the injury, Bunz expects himself and Boron to split the start of the season and see how they perform, and after that it’s all about performance knowing that nothing is given out in the league. Projected to start Sunday against the Tulsa Oilers in Tulsa’s home opener, Bunz hopes to start the season off right.

And to end, I asked Bunz if he’d like to relay any message to the fans in Oklahoma City.

“I want to thank them for the support,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but good comments since I’ve been sent here, I know a lot of people want to come out and watch some games. To get that kind of feedback even though I’m not there, it’s pretty special. So, a good thank you.”

Hopefully we’ll see Tyler back in OKC sometime this season, but we’ll certainly be watching him in Wichita.

The Origin Of Iiro The Hero (And Other Finnish Things)

There is a lack of Finnish things on the Edmonton Oilers these days. In fact there was a lack of Finnish things on the Oklahoma City Barons roster since the departure of Teemu Hartikainen. The grand five years that the Barons have been in existence they have managed to position seven Baltic Sea lovers in the lineup, and seven has always been God’s perfect number. Toni Rajala, Antti Tyrvainen, Teemu Hartikainen, and to a lesser extent Lennart Petrell, Niko Hovinen, and Frans Tuohimaa have given opponents Helsinki Hell and caused a frenzied hot flash to Barons fans far and wide. The swoon-worthy-ness of Finnish hockey players has always been a tiny obsession of mine, and it only grows as the days go by.

This year the Oklahoma City Barons have introduced their latest Finnish Phenom and his name is Iiro, Iiro the Hero.

There is a “clutch” mentality built up in the skillset of players from the Nordic Country – luck, strength, tenacity, good genes, angry/kind glances – and they are heralded on the ice for their triumphant skating and hard-edged ferocity. Iiro Pakarinen is poised to be no different.

Around mid-June when the Oilers heralded his two-way contract, I immediately went to the comparison to Hartikainen, my favorite Baron to date. Now with three N. American games under his belt (five with preseason), he has emerged as a legitimate winger threat to one day crack the Edmonton Oilers.

Iiro Pakarinen is a forward, wide-shouldered and gruff, but boy does he have skill. If you thought Hartikainen had skating problems, Pakarinen clearly doesn’t. He has a thick shot, is highly energized to buzz the net, and has the ability to know exactly where to stand in front of opposing goaltenders. This season he already has two goals, an assist, and is one of only three players in the positives in terms of plus/minus (which means nothing, but you already knew that). His defensive game is probably my favorite talking point, however. He is the definition of “defensive responsibility”, and is eager to quickly pump his legs the other direction to hornswoggle a forward or two. This might be the one thing that sets Iiro apart from previous Finns, and certainly from Teemu Hartikainen. Better player? To be triumphantly stated at a later date, but I think we are on to something.

His name is Iiro, he could be is a hero, thus we have given him the name Iiro the Hero. Not only that, but he has a nice knack for scoring when you need to the most. I like players that find another gear when their team is in dire straits. This could be huge for Iiro the Hero as he attempts to make a NHL roster on a full-time basis.

Like the Cult of Hartikainen (a term coined by the folks at Copper & Blue), the nickname Iiro the Hero brings with it a fictional mystique that crosses over the glass and into our hearts (or is that just me). Iiro is a player easy to love, easy to cheer, and easy to see landing in a good/decent/well-managed NHL spot.

Quick question. If these were actual shirts, would you buy one? Details coming soon…

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In the meantime, cheer on Iiro the Hero. Read my thoughts on him at the time of his signing here.