Photo by Steven Christy
The Oklahoma City Barons played back-to-back games this weekend. The games were separated by only 22 hours and over 450 miles. The trip to San Antonio for a post-Christmas tilt with the Rampage was seen through the filter of the impending trip back north to face the Charlotte Checkers on home ice the following day. But like the best teams do, the Barons were prepared for both games, and while they played “extra hockey” both nights, each win was exceptional. Welcome to the (young gun) show.
We will dive in to each game in just a bit, but before we do that let me share with you the goodness that is the Oklahoma City Barons in its current form. Having dipped very little with Todd Nelson exiting and Gerry Fleming taking over, the Barons actually look more fine-tuned than they did a month ago. The system has changed very little, and neither has the nightly lineup. In fact, the Barons have been one of the five best teams in the league over the last ten games (7-3-0-0). The great news is detailed in this info graphic provided by the AHL:
Nearly twice as many goals in overtime as any team in the league. This is big news for the Barons who began October struggling to score late in games. Eleven games have been decided in OT this season, and they have won nine straight overtime games stretching back to October 25th. That’s just a crazy number. It is also a record.
— Carter Baum (@CarterBaum) December 28, 2014
The Barons can win when they have the lead, and they can win when they are behind. The remarkable nature of this phenomena is so un-Oilers-like that it gives me heart palpitations. Are the Barons really this good? Really this clutch?
Again, welcome to the (young gun) show.
Saturday night the Oklahoma City Barons wouldn’t score a goal until the 45th minute of the game. Up until that point, Laurent Brossoit had struck gold only allowing a single goal by way of the San Antonio Rampage whom are highly skilled, and highly prone to pressure the puck. A rough and tough game, in typical West Div fashion, gave way to some good defense. It was Connor Jones that would score for OKC (assisted by brother Kellen) to knot the game at one. Connor’s first AHL goal couldn’t have come at a better time. With the game ending with a healthy scrap, and some rough business, the game would head to OT. Nearing the 6:00 mark of the OT frame, while in a 3-on-3 situation, Brandon Davidson would laser the game winner from a healthy distance at the top of the key. The Barons would win, and quickly jump a bus to head back to OKC for a Sunday afternoon start.
The Charlotte Checkers are struggling to gain momentum leading up to 2015. That doesn’t mean they aren’t a healthy opponent. Sunday night would prove just that. Like the night before, the Barons opponent would score the games first goal in the second period. OKC would score in the third period to tie it up, and thus sending it to OT. Again, Brossoit would make multiple “heckuva” saves to keep his team alive late in the game. About sixty shots in two games, and only two goals allowed – I approve. Unlike the game prior, the Barons would score at 4 on 4 prior to moving to 3 on 3. Andrew Miller, his ninth of the season, would put his team past a good opponent, one they’d see again on New Year’s Eve. The PK was strong through the entire weeken. The PP was scoreless. But in all, the team played good 5 on 5 hockey, and ultimately fantastic late game hockey.
Part good luck, part good coaching, the Barons have turned in to one “can’t quite team”. They are overcoming obstacles much larger than themselves, and that is how the best teams historically win seasons.