Photo by Steven Christy
With a bit of momentum, some good luck, and some really good play with an extra skater, the Oklahoma City Barons boldly marched into the second weekend of November with a pair of games. The first against the unfamiliar Toronto Marlies, whom only play the Barons twice this season, and the second against the all-too-familiar San Antonio Rampage. The ironic twist is that the gameplan against the unfamiliar foe was perfect, one of the most complete games of the season, while the familiar adversary got the hangover treatment. Thus the weekend would end with a two game split.
On Saturday night the Toronto Marlies would continue their jaunt through the West Division geography after playing games against the Rampage and Stars. Like many teams in the month of November, the Marlies are likely better than they appear on paper. Up and down, back and forth type of games have brought Toronto equal amounts of good and bad luck. As they would face the Barons it was clear that they are a team that has the skill, has the depth, and ultimately has the potential to be better than they have shown early on in the AHL season.
Despite a 2-1 deficit for Oklahoma City after the first period, it was the high and mighty power play that would again rear its nastiness upon a formidable opponent. Ryan Hamilton scored his fifth of the season sandwiched around two Marlies goals in the first twenty minutes of play. The power play would eventually snag another goal mid-way through the second period care of Brad Hunt (he’d score two goals on the night), and the Barons would go 50% on the evening with an extra skater. This is good news. Yet the great news is that the Barons were able to seal up gaps, and draw the play away from their own zone on the penalty kill – something that hasn’t happened this season on the farm. The team would perfectly, and I mean perfectly, kill all four Marlies chances, and special teams would live luxuriously.
The team would take 52 shots at temporary Marlie Cal Heeter on Saturday night. A 21 shot second period, would make the difference on the night as the Barons kept the play mostly in the Marlies zone for the second twenty. Leading 3-2 heading into the third period, it seemed that the Barons had finally taken things into their own hands.
Although Oklahoma City would allow the Marlies two power play chances in the third, it was the even strength scoring that would tie the game. Tyler Biggs, only recently exiled to Orlando, would score his first AHL goal of the season nearing the halfway point of the third period for Toronto. The teams would shuck and jive for positioning, but both Heeter and Bachman would come up big in the closing moments. Oklahoma City would take fourteen shots in total (this with at least four minutes on the PK), and nearly sealed the deal multiple times. But the horn would take us to overtime tied 3-3.
The new overtime rules insist that some if it be played 3 on 3, and what a glorious sight it was to behold. Curtis Hamilton would knock in a rebounded shot on Cal Heeter to tip over the Marlies apple cart, and earn his team two points in a hotly contested battle. The one thing I’ll say about 3 on 3 hockey (Nelson went two forwards, one defender) is that it makes goaltenders look goofy, forwards look like god-men, and is more fun than any one fan should have watching it unfold.
The win was well earned despite Cal Heeter being an absolute solider. As Brad Hunt scored a pair, and the Barons won a sizzler, the two points would put Oklahoma City in a good position in the conference standings at least for a day.
Oklahoma City Barons Lineup Against Toronto:
R.Hamilton – Williams – Miller
C.Hamilton – Lander – Kessy
Moroz – Acton – Ford
Gazdic – Khaira – Ewanyk
Scratches: Pitlick (concussion), Pinizzotto (healthy), Yakimov (shoulder), Gernat (woozy)
Some overnight travel to San Antonio led to a bit of a lazy game for Oklahoma City, and an atypical response against a team that pours on the pressure.
Seemingly realizing the Barons were gassed, the Rampage came out swinging for the fences. Laurent Brossoit would return to action, and subtly let in a goal in the first minute of play after the Barons defenders couldn’t contain the puck. San Antonio would steamroll the Barons from this point forward. With fifteen seconds remaining in the game, the Barons would score on the power play to give us the “of course they did” shoulder shrug we had been waiting for.
Sixty minutes of play, and the return of Bogdan Yakimov weren’t enough to get the team over the hump in this one. 3-1 would be your final tally against a Dan Ellis goaltending performance that barely rubbed out twenty shots on the night.
Oklahoma City Barons Lineup Against San Antonio:
R. Hamilton – Williams – Miller
C. Hamilton – Lander – Kessy
Moroz – Yakimov – Acton
Gazdic – Khaira – Ewanyk
Davidson – Hunt
Simpson – Oesterle
Musil – Gernat
Scratches: Tyler Pitlick (concussion), Matt Ford (healthy), Steve Pinizzotto (maybe not healthy), C.J. Ludwig (healthy)
– Indeed the things that the Oilers initially loved about Brad Hunt are the things that the Barons love too. A thick shot from the point, useful as a fourth forward, and a steadying point fella on the PP – yes, Hunt is good at the AHL level. He is, however, still lacking defensively, and although he had no glaring missteps in the two games he played paired with Brandon Davidson, Sunday’s game was a bit dicey at best. Watch this in the coming days.
– Indeed Brandon Davidson returned to the Barons after recovering from a sports hernia procedure. In typical Nelson form, he gave both Hunt and Davidson high minutes. This was good news for Davidson who has yet to suit up this season. In all, they looked fine, and the stat line will tell you they were better than they actually were. Remember, though, defense is a fickle beast in the AHL. Team’s with good goaltending and good forward play – like the Barons own – can sort of favorably tip the scales of the game. Yet defense ultimately wins championships, and we want to see Davidson (especially) begin to emerge as a legit D prospect.
– Bogdan Yakimov returned on Sunday night and looked about as rusty as the rest of the team despite not having played the night before. There was at least one good chance he had directly in front of the net, but his linemates (Acton and Moroz) didn’t really win him any good lookin’ contests. He will be fine, and his shoulder seemed to hold up well in action, so there is plenty to rejoice about.
– Will Acton looks a bit timid on the ice, and is probably in big trouble if he doesn’t ramp it up quickly.
– Steve Pinizzotto appeared to be a healthy scratch on Saturday, but was again out on Sunday. Perhaps there is a bit more to the story than we think. Here’s hoping he’s fine.
– Brossoit gets the start on Sunday, and instantly looks awkward/clumsy. He is a goaltender that still needs about 15:00 of game action to really find his sea legs. In division rivalries you don’t get 15:00, and you barely get 1:00 as he fond out quickly.
– Luke Gazdic went after a player that took a shot at Mitch Moroz on Saturday evening. Ironically enough, Moroz would have a fight standing up for himself on Sunday and get beat down. Fin.