OKC Has A Big Weekend, Begin To Eyeball AHL Beauty Contest

Photo by Steven Christy

With 32 points in 22 games the Oklahoma City Barons are looking mighty fine these days. The funny thing about this pretty lady is that she hasn’t always been pretty. Sometimes she is unsightly, withered, unhinged, complacent, and timid. But she always has a great mind, incredibly bright for the most part, and seemingly relishes in her transformation to a beautiful creature. That’s the beauty of this thing we call the Oklahoma City Barons.

This past weekend they dismantled two very good teams in Grand Rapids and Milwaukee.

The Griffins have had a bumpy start to the season, but had entertained the notion of getting better recently. The Barons scored three straight including one on the power play, and the defense handcuffed a dandy of a prospect in Teemu Pulkkinen (who scored the only goal for the Griffs). They killed all three penalties, got good work out of Richard Bachman, and Brandon Davidson found another really good gear in his game. Overall it was the crippling of a quality opponent that impressed me the most. The well-rounded feeling you get from this squad gives me chills.

The Ads are a burly joint in the same vein as their parent club in Nashville. Although this game wasn’t the stuff of legend, it pointed to the continuing ability to rattle off scoring after the halfway point of the game. With four goals coming past the 15:00 mark of the second period (including a PP goal and an empty netter) this is a Barons squad that can play deep, protect a lead, bend, not break, and manage to come out on top. Again good defense was the key in this one, and although it looked like they were going the way of the awful for a half-period, they roared back to life. Brossoit would face 9 then 12 then 15 shots over three periods, only letting in three, while the PK would finish the weekend perfect in thirteen chances. That’s right 0/13 went the opposition with an extra skater.

So here we are, the 8th day of December, and the Oklahoma City Barons head to Cedar Park, Texas for a Wednesday handshake with a frequently visited opponent. I don’t know about you, but 9-0-0-1 rumble over the last ten games has me thinking that this might be the best first half to the season that the Barons have ever played. That’s saying something.

As they ride high on an eight game win streak they continue to be the polar opposite version of the Edmonton Oilers in every possible way. High-achieving, high-shot-taking power play. Smart, agile penalty kill using 3/4 lines. Sneaky good five on five, and scoring throughout the lineup (although, the bulk of scoring still coming from more well-traveled fellas). They are deep, and also back-stopped by the ECHL squad in Bakersfield that is starting to develop good players (Schaber, Jones x2, Winquist).

In all they are such a good team. I’m sure you have heard by now.

Kale Kessy and Kellan Lain Sidelined By Long Term Injuries

On the day that Craig MacTavish discusses the importance of prospect development in Edmonton, one of the Oilers forwards on the farm is sidelined by a substantial knee injury.

In Grand Rapids to face the Griffins (the team would win 4-1), Todd Nelson gave injury updates on two players including Oilers draft pick Kale Kessy.

“Kale suffered a knee injury recently, and it will likely sideline him for a while.”

In the same breathe he also mentioned recently acquired center, Kellan Lain. Lain, as you may know, has been scratched due to a nagging wrist injury.

“We hope to have Kellan available for the playoffs, but we just don’t know right now.”

The status of that injury isn’t exact, but it will place him on the IR for quite some time.

More specifics will be given as time goes on, and the Kessy injury in particular is a rough one.

Kessy, having a decent season, has recently changed the way he plays the game of hockey. Less nasty and more instigator, Kale has hammered out he rough edges enough to make him a pretty pesky deep forward. One that the Oilers liked in camp, preseason, and still tend to keep an eye on while in the minors.

More to come as details are given.

Oklahoma City Travels North, Grand Rapids Griffins Tonight

The 12-4-2-2 Oklahoma City Barons battle the 9-8-2-0 Grand Rapids Griffins on their first trip to the North of the season. For Oklahoma City the game means they can gain a few points in the standings, and potentially a stranglehold on the top spot in the West Division while also gaining ground in the entirety of the Western Conference.

Not long ago it was the Griffins that defeated the Barons in the Western Conference Final (amid some tornadic activity, literally) to become the best team in the American Hockey League. Since that time the teams have played only a handful of times, but the competition has remained high.

Toting a goaltender that shoulders a lot of the burden, Tom McCollum is starting to pave the way for the Griffins to become a better squad. 6-3-0-1 in their last ten games points to a team that is finally starting to come around despite a recent loss to Toronto where the Marlies crushed GR in the final twenty minutes of play.

But they are on the up, and that conjures up fear in the heart of this Barons fan, even with the fantastic nature of play in recent days. Grand Rapids plays Oklahoma City well. There is no denying that.

The offensive world of the Grand Rapids Griffins revolves around three key players – Teemu Pulkkinen, Andy Miele, and Mitch Callahan. 23 / 16 / 16 points for those three with Pulkikinen second in the league in scoring, and Miele driving an insane +30 shooting percentage. They can score some goals on this squad, but it seems they have another secret weapon.

Penalty killing can be an art form, and the Griffins paint with a broad stroke. Sure they are one of the least penalized teams in the Western Conference, but when they do suffer a penalty they are quick to kill it. Any advantage that team’s might have over them on the power play is potentially squashed on a regular basis. Several weeks ago this might have been bothersome to the Barons, but with the cooling down of their power play just a bit, they will need to work extra hard to find offense with an extra attacker.

The other potential wrinkle to the play of the Griffs is first period scoring. They win a lot of their games in the first period, which means teams need to come out challenging every possible angle. Goaltenders like Brossoit and Bachman will need to be on point from the first drop of the puck.

After a five game home winless streak through October and November, the Griffins have won their last four at home. The promise of “battening down the hatches” has paid off, and the team has been a much better squad at home in recent weeks. They’ll look to better than number tonight.

Defensively they have some cracks, and are prone to an occasional odd man rush. They also have a tendency to be awkward in their own zone, especially in clogging up passing and shooting lanes which forces some pretty high shots against.

Oklahoma City will look to Curtis Hamilton, Iiro Pakarinen, Anton Lander, and of course leading scoring, Jason Williams to provide offense. Yet in the bottom six of the forward group is where the battles will be won. Travis Ewanyk, Kale Kessy, Jujhar Khaira, etc. will be tasked with challenging the GRG top trio which will be a tough job. They have proven they are an agile group that is more skill than gruff, and that might force the top two lines of the Griffins to play a more careful game.

Richard Bachman and Laurent Brossoit will probably go one two this weekend with both flip flopping in the second game in Milwaukee. Both have been very good with Brossoit closing the gap on Bachman in the stats department.

Kellan Lain has been quiet since joining the Barons, and was subject to the healthy scratch rotation only a game ago. He needs some kind of awakening game to get the organizations attention. Likewise, recently called upon Bakersfield Condor, Josh Winquist could make a name for himself in a game against Grand Rapids. After rookie camp and main camp injuries this offseason, WInquist remains an unknown commodity for the most part, and the call-up might just be a display case for his trophy of skills.

The game is a 6:00pm Central Time puck drop, so eat an early dinner. Go Barons!

THE ECHL’S WILD WEST CENTRAL DIVISION – November

Earlier we looked at the very small set of October’s games and this month we have a much better idea of how the former CHL teams, now the ECHL’s Central Division, are performing this season. The Allen Americans and Tulsa Oilers have been battling it out for the top spot the past week, while Wichita has jump-started their season to move up in the standings. Other teams such as Rapid City have fallen rapidly, struggling to stop their losing skid.

Keep in mind the stats below are through the end of November (unless listed as “current”) and there have been some slight changes in the first few days of December.

The ECHL’s Central Division for the Month of November:

Rank Central GP W L OTL SOL PTS
1 Tulsa Oilers 18 10 5 1 2 23
2 Allen Americans 16 11 4 0 0 22
3 Wichita Thunder 18 8 6 1 3 20
4 Quad City Mallards 18 7 5 3 2 19
5 Missouri Mavericks 17 7 9 0 0 14
6 Brampton Beast 14 6 7 1 0 13
7 Rapid City Rush 18 5 12 0 1 11

 

Overall, as of Dec. 4th, the ECHL leaders are the Ft. Wayne Komets (at 28 pts with 18 games) and the Florida Everblades (at 27 points with 17 games) in the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference the Allen Americans (at 26 points with 17 games) are even with the Idaho Steelheads (at 26 points with 21 games) however Allen continues to hold an advantage with fewer games played so far into the season.  For November the Central Division’s top 3 teams, Tulsa, Allen, and Wichita are pulling ahead while Quad City, Missouri, Brampton and Rapid City are falling, or continuing to remain behind the pack this month.

1 | Tulsa Oilers – 14 games in November – 8-4-0-2 (18 points).

The Tulsa Oilers are an offensive juggernaut this season with their top scorers Pleskach, Booras and Caig, however they continue to have problems with some teams, in particular the Allen Americans. From October through November the team remained in No. 1 in the Central Division.

Points for Oct: 5

Points for Nov: 18

Current Overall team stats: 10-7-1-2 (23 points in 20 games).  Trending: ↑

 

Game #: Date: Time: Visiting Team: Home Team:
774 Sun, Nov 2, 2014 4:05 pm CST Wichita 2 at Tulsa 3 in SO
775 Tue, Nov 4, 2014 7:00 pm CST Missouri 5 at Tulsa 4
779 Sat, Nov 8, 2014 7:05 pm CST Tulsa 4 at Allen 6
781 Sun, Nov 9, 2014 4:05 pm CST Tulsa 3 at Allen 2
788 Fri, Nov 14, 2014 7:35 pm CST Rapid City 4 at Tulsa 6
789 Sat, Nov 15, 2014 7:35 pm CST Missouri 7 at Tulsa 4
794 Tue, Nov 18, 2014 7:00 pm CST Wichita 3 at Tulsa 4 in SO
795 Wed, Nov 19, 2014 7:05 pm CST Tulsa 3 at Quad City 4 in SO
797 Fri, Nov 21, 2014 7:05 pm CST Tulsa 4 at Missouri 1
803 Sun, Nov 23, 2014 4:05 pm CST Wichita 2 at Tulsa 3
804 Tue, Nov 25, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 3 at Tulsa 1
808 Thu, Nov 27, 2014 7:00 pm CST Allen 5 at Tulsa 4 in SO
811 Fri, Nov 28, 2014 7:35 pm CST Quad City 2 at Tulsa 3
815 Sun, Nov 30, 2014 5:05 pm CST Tulsa 3 at Wichita 2 in SO

 

2 |  Allen Americans – 12 Games in November – 9-3-0-0- (18 points).

The Allen Americans, like the Tulsa Oilers, have some of the highest scorers in the league on their rosters with Steffes, Combs and Costello. In November the Americans have only lost games to Tulsa and Wichita, their current closest competitors; they also lost to Rapid City to start the month, but Rapid City has fallen hard in the standings from October into December. From October through November Allen moved up from No. 3 to No. 2 in the standings.

Points for Oct: 4

Points for Nov: 18

Current Overall team stats: 13-4-0-0 (26 points in 17 games). Trending: ↑

Game #: Date: Time: Visiting Team:  Home Team:
772 Sat, Nov 1, 2014 7:05 pm MDT Allen 2 at Rapid City 4
779 Sat, Nov 8, 2014 7:05 pm CST Tulsa 4 at Allen 6
781 Sun, Nov 9, 2014 4:05 pm CST Tulsa 3 at Allen 2
787 Fri, Nov 14, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 3 at Missouri 1
790 Sat, Nov 15, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 3 at Wichita 2
791 Sun, Nov 16, 2014 4:05 pm CST Rapid City 1 at Allen 3
796 Fri, Nov 21, 2014 7:05 pm CST Brampton 2 at Allen 9
799 Sat, Nov 22, 2014 7:05 pm CST Brampton 1 at Allen 4
804 Tue, Nov 25, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 3 at Tulsa 1
805 Wed, Nov 26, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 6 at Missouri 0
808 Thu, Nov 27, 2014 7:00 pm CST Allen 5 at Tulsa 4 in SO
814 Sat, Nov 29, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 1 at Wichita 3

 

3 | Wichita Thunder – 15 Games in November – 7-5-0-3 (17 points).

The Wichita Thunder is improving rapidly from their rather dismal beginning in October and early November. The team accomplished some impressive wins the past two weeks against equally good or even better teams, but Tulsa continues to be a thorn for the Thunder. The Thunder moved up in the standings from October through November, from No. 5 up to No. 3.

Points for Oct: 3

Points for Nov: 17

Current Overall team stats: 8-6-1-3 (20 points in 18 games). Trending: ↑

Game #: Date: Time: Visiting Team: Home Team:
773 Sat, Nov 1, 2014 7:05 pm CDT Missouri 2 at Wichita 4
774 Sun, Nov 2, 2014 4:05 pm CST Wichita 2 at Tulsa 3 in SO
778 Fri, Nov 7, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 3 at Wichita 0
783 Sun, Nov 9, 2014 5:05 pm CST Missouri 5 at Wichita 2
784 Tue, Nov 11, 2014 6:35 pm MST Wichita 3 at Rapid City 6
785 Wed, Nov 12, 2014 6:35 pm MST Wichita 3 at Rapid City 2
790 Sat, Nov 15, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 3 at Wichita 2
793 Sun, Nov 16, 2014 5:05 pm CST Missouri 1 at Wichita 3
794 Tue, Nov 18, 2014 7:00 pm CST Wichita 3 at Tulsa 4 in SO
801 Sat, Nov 22, 2014 7:05 pm CST Missouri 0 at Wichita 6
803 Sun, Nov 23, 2014 4:05 pm CST Wichita 2 at Tulsa 3
807 Wed, Nov 26, 2014 7:05 pm CST Quad City 0 at Wichita 2
809 Fri, Nov 28, 2014 7:05 pm CST Wichita 4 at Missouri 1
814 Sat, Nov 29, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 1 at Wichita 3
815 Sun, Nov 30, 2014 5:05 pm CST Tulsa 3 at Wichita 2 in SO

 

4 | Quad City Mallards – 13 Games in November – 5-3-3-2 (15 points).

Quad City has had a rough month in November losing their last four games to Missouri (twice), Wichita and Tulsa. The team split their road games in Brampton, winning only two of the five with the three losses going into overtime and one of those into a shootout. Quad City has remained at No. 4 but is trending slightly down for the future.

Points for Oct: 4

Points for Nov: 15

Current Overall team stats: 7-6-3-2 (19 points in 18 games). Trending: ↘

Game #: Date: Time: Visiting Team: Home Team:
771 Sat, Nov 1, 2014 7:05 pm CDT Cincinnati 5 at Quad City 4
776 Thu, Nov 6, 2014 7:00 pm EST Quad City 5 at Brampton 1
777 Fri, Nov 7, 2014 7:30 pm EST Quad City 7 at Brampton 2
782 Sun, Nov 9, 2014 2:00 pm EST Quad City 3 at Brampton 4 in SO
786 Fri, Nov 14, 2014 7:30 pm EST Quad City 1 at Brampton 2 in OT
792 Sun, Nov 16, 2014 2:00 pm EST Quad City 4 at Brampton 5 in OT
795 Wed, Nov 19, 2014 7:05 pm CST Tulsa 3 at Quad City 4 in SO
798 Fri, Nov 21, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 2 at Quad City 4
800 Sat, Nov 22, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 2 at Quad City 3
802 Sun, Nov 23, 2014 4:05 pm CST Quad City 3 at Missouri 4 in SO
807 Wed, Nov 26, 2014 7:05 pm CST Quad City 0 at Wichita 2
811 Fri, Nov 28, 2014 7:35 pm CST Quad City 2 at Tulsa 3
812 Sat, Nov 29, 2014 7:05 pm CST Missouri 2 at Quad City 1 in OT

 

5 | Missouri Mavericks – 13 games in November – 6-7-0-0- (12 points).

Of the 13 games in November Missouri lost more than they won. Consistency and a stable roster seem to be Missouri’s biggest issues. Over the month of November Missouri had 23 transactions (counting all Additions and Deletions to the roster) which over time becomes a huge problem for the entire team. Does this type of team movement bother remaining players? Absolutely! The team moved up from No. 6 to No. 5 through November, but to be honest, that is due to Rapid City’s fast decline for the month.

Points for Oct: 2

Points for Nov: 12

Current Overall team stats: 8-9-0-0- (16 points in 17 games). Trending: ↘

Game #: Date: Time: Visiting Team: Home Team:
773 Sat, Nov 1, 2014 7:05 pm CDT Missouri 2 at Wichita 4
775 Tue, Nov 4, 2014 7:00 pm CST Missouri 5 at Tulsa 4
780 Sat, Nov 8, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 2 at Missouri 3
783 Sun, Nov 9, 2014 5:05 pm CST Missouri 5 at Wichita 2
787 Fri, Nov 14, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 3 at Missouri 1
789 Sat, Nov 15, 2014 7:35 pm CST Missouri 7 at Tulsa 4
793 Sun, Nov 16, 2014 5:05 pm CST Missouri 1 at Wichita 3
797 Fri, Nov 21, 2014 7:05 pm CST Tulsa 4 at Missouri 1
801 Sat, Nov 22, 2014 7:05 pm CST Missouri 0 at Wichita 6
802 Sun, Nov 23, 2014 4:05 pm CST Quad City 3 at Missouri 4 in SO
805 Wed, Nov 26, 2014 7:05 pm CST Allen 6 at Missouri 0
809 Fri, Nov 28, 2014 7:05 pm CST Wichita 4 at Missouri 1
812 Sat, Nov 29, 2014 7:05 pm CST Missouri 2 at Quad City 1 in OT

 

6 | Brampton Beast – 11 games in November – 6-5-0-0 (12 points).

Brampton had a horrible start to their season but they have been picking up some wins in November against Quad City and Rapid City, which has bumped them up in the standings. They still have a long way to go, but they are trending slightly up and have moved up from No. 7 to No. 6 through November.

Points for Oct: 1

Points for Nov: 12

Current Overall team stats: 6-7-1-0- (13 points in 14 games). Trending: ↗

Game #: Date: Time: Visiting Team: Home Team:
56 Sat, Nov 1, 2014 7:05 pm EDT Brampton 3 at Elmira 5
776 Thu, Nov 6, 2014 7:00 pm EST Quad City 5 at Brampton 1
777 Fri, Nov 7, 2014 7:30 pm EST Quad City 7 at Brampton 2
782 Sun, Nov 9, 2014 2:00 pm EST Quad City 3 at Brampton 4 in SO
786 Fri, Nov 14, 2014 7:30 pm EST Quad City 1 at Brampton 2 in OT
792 Sun, Nov 16, 2014 2:00 pm EST Quad City 4 at Brampton 5 in OT
796 Fri, Nov 21, 2014 7:05 pm CST Brampton 2 at Allen 9
799 Sat, Nov 22, 2014 7:05 pm CST Brampton 1 at Allen 4
806 Wed, Nov 26, 2014 6:35 pm MST Brampton 4 at Rapid City 3
810 Fri, Nov 28, 2014 7:05 pm MST Brampton 2 at Rapid City 0
813 Sat, Nov 29, 2014 7:05 pm MST Brampton 2 at Rapid City 1

 

7 | Rapid City Rush – 12 Games in November – 3-9-0-0 (6 points).

Rapid City had a very good start to their season, but since that time they have lost 9 of their 12 games in November. Since November 11 the team has lost 8 straight games against Wichita, Tulsa, Allen, Quad City and Brampton. From October through November Rapid City dropped from No. 2 to bottom of the Division at No. 7. If they have any hopes for the playoffs, Rapid City has to turn this around very quickly.

Points for Oct: 5

Points for Nov: 6

Current Overall team stats: 5-12-0-1 (11 points in 18 games). Trending: ↓

 

Game #: Date: Time: Visiting Team: Home Team:
772 Sat, Nov 1, 2014 7:05 pm MDT Allen 2 at Rapid City 4
778 Fri, Nov 7, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 3 at Wichita 0
780 Sat, Nov 8, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 2 at Missouri 3
784 Tue, Nov 11, 2014 6:35 pm MST Wichita 3 at Rapid City 6
785 Wed, Nov 12, 2014 6:35 pm MST Wichita 3 at Rapid City 2
788 Fri, Nov 14, 2014 7:35 pm CST Rapid City 4 at Tulsa 6
791 Sun, Nov 16, 2014 4:05 pm CST Rapid City 1 at Allen 3
798 Fri, Nov 21, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 2 at Quad City 4
800 Sat, Nov 22, 2014 7:05 pm CST Rapid City 2 at Quad City 3
806 Wed, Nov 26, 2014 6:35 pm MST Brampton 4 at Rapid City 3
810 Fri, Nov 28, 2014 7:05 pm MST Brampton 2 at Rapid City 0
813 Sat, Nov 29, 2014 7:05 pm MST Brampton 2 at Rapid City 1

 

We will check back at the end of December to see how the West’s Central Division is doing and in the meantime head out to watch a few of these teams!

Bakersfield Scoring Ace, Josh Winquist, Joins OKC

Tyler Pitlick is NHL dreamin’ these days (and not playing entirely insufferable), and so the Oklahoma City Barons are lacking quality winger depth. They have a healthy roster, but it is tidy and neat, no excessive player waste. So when a forward leaves (Pitlick) and the one on waivers (Joensuu) is plotting an oversea change (supposedly), they are in need of a body. As a brief road swing begins in Grand Rapids on Friday, the Oklahoma City Barons have elected to recall Josh Winquist from the Bakersfield Condors.

No Chase Schaber. No Jones twins. Instead the Barons bring in the ECHL’s leading rookie scorer, Josh Winquist. The 21 year old from St. Albert who is a recent Silvertips alum, has etched 22 points in 18 games as a Condor.

J.F. Houle, coach of the Bakersfield Condors, had nothing but great things to say about his team’s leading scorer (via Bakersfield Californian):

“He’s leading the league in rookie points and they want to give him a look,” Condors coach J.F. Houle said from Boise, Ida., on Thursday. “You never know (how long Winquist might stick in the AHL). If he does a good job there they might want to keep him a long time. He deserves the opportunity.”

The Barons indeed are in Grand Rapids and Milwaukee for the weekend, with a stop in Cedar Park on Wednesday. Look for Winquist to hit the rotation early.

One Of The Best In The West (Utica) Rolls In To Town

Photo by Steven Christy

UPDATE: Per team, Kellan Lain struggling with a wrist injury. Might be out of lineup tonight.

A quick gander at the AHL standings reveals a few very interesting things, and one really large thing. Let’s start with the elephant in the room, and that’s the amount of games remaining on the schedule. The Barons have only played 1/4 of the games they will play this season. There is so much ice to be had that heralding one team over another seems frivolous at this point. But we are indeed filling ours sails with the winds that blow from the West where some really admirable hockey is being played.

On to the bits of interesting things.

The Oklahoma City Barons, with a sideways / Oilers-like start, have resurrected themselves as most Todd Nelson helmed teams tend to do this time of year. The Barons have played one North Division opponent in that span, and that was the Toronto Marlies. The game ended in an OT thriller, and reminded me of all the times the unfamiliar opponents of the North (and to a similar extent, the Midwest) give us the best games of the season.

Arguably one of the best teams in the AHL to start the season will be the Barons opponent this evening, the Utica Comets. Like many teams in the geographical northeast, but for “evens stevens” play in the West, the Comets are want to dip their toe in to some Eastern Conference play. A completely unfair approach to scheduling (since most teams in the West Div don’t play East opponents), the team from Utica seems to take their porridge straight up – they are well weathered.

This makes for an interesting match-up for OKC, and potentially a problematic one for Utica. The teams seem to be trending up as we reach the end of the year, and the likelihood that either deeps fiercely is extremely low. Long story short – this will be one dynamite of a game.

We could talk wins and losses until we are blue in the face, but the Comets are a product of finite things.

They are a low penalized team averaging under fourteen minutes per game (one of the lowest in the league). They play very well at home (only a solitary regulation loss in ten attempts). On the road they are above .500 (although on a bit of an away losing streak as we speak). They play well beyond the first period. They have allowed the fewest number of goals (44 or 2.10 per). They allow few shots (solid D, smart F). They are offensively sound down the center (Cal O’Reilly with eighteen points, Dustin Jeffrey at thirteen, but only in 14 games). Have good scoring on both wings. And they have defensive players that tend to do what you want a defensive player to do, and that’s be a defensive player. And they have Jacob Markstrom in net who always tends to be an “X” factor. They are just a well balanced, well coached, well manned squad. Thus their success is due.

This will also be game filed under “AWKWARD” for a few players with the recent swap of Mitch Holmberg and Will Acton for angsty center, Kellan Lain. Having recently scored a goal against Albany, in which Darren Archibald delivered a head check and earned a three game suspension, Will Acton seems to be settling in nicely. Holmberg has only been a scratch in their lineup. As for Lain, he has been okay at best, but seems to be ready to take the reins of his time on the Oilers farm. Look for him to have a perky game, and for him to go all NUCKS on his former squad.

This is an important time for the Oklahoma City Barons to claim a home victory. They’ll play four times in the span of eight days with three of those games coming in the form of a whistlestop tour through Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and back to Cedar Park, Texas. Frequent flyers, UNITE!

All players appear to be healthy. The Barons get recent waiver clearee Jesse Joensuu in the lineup as well as Baron favorite Martin Marincin on defense. This is going to be a good test for players like Lain, Joensuu, Pakarinen, and Lander whom have some theoretical value to the Oilers whom are only a few losses away from a complete dumpster fire of a season (again).

Defensively speaking Martin Gernat, Dillon Simpson, Brad Hunt, and the rest of Scobby’s gang need to really play a full 60 minutes of shut down hockey. Hunt, who’s goodness is skewed by his ability to play the “fourth forward” role on the ice, is becoming what J. Schultz was during the lockout – good offense, sub par defense.

The pucks releases from the refs hand (nay to your “puck drops” rigmarole) at 7:00 central time in Oklahoma City. We will update as necessary here with lines, pairs, and Cox Center snack evaluations as they are given. Visit all the cool stuff in downtown OKC with the #DowntownInDecember campaign opening at full tilt. Fun stuff.

Godspeed, and GO BARONS!

A Busy Transaction Weekend For OKC, Wins Good Too

The Oklahoma City Barons played two games sandwiched around the Thanksgiving week, and boy did they shine. After the two-set in Cedar Park, they undressed a dynamo San Antonio Rampage team in the final twenty minutes of play, and thus punched their ticket of awesomeness again. Scoring three straight goals to end the game after being pummeled defensively prior to that, and eventually winning the game, was truly a remarkable turning point for this young OKC club. Todd Nelson, an absolute coaching solider, resurrected his team’s third period scoring, and that might be more important than owning the league’s top power play unit (which has dipped lately).

Yet as December slaps us in the face with an icy chill, so to does the re-assignments and eventual tweaks to the roster.

This weekend a handful of transactions took place, all with OKC Barons implications.

First up is the news on Tyler Pitlick:

The chances are high that Matt Hendricks is still dinged up, and thus Tyler Pitlick gets a recall to Edmonton land. Pitlick remains a winger that Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish enjoy in theory. His three goals and six assists to start the season in fourteen games aren’t mind blowing, but with the forward rotation squashing a bit of momentum for several players, there’s no wondering why Pitlick hasn’t scored more. I digress.

The Pitlick you knew at the beginning of last season is still the Pitlick you know in December of 2014. He has become a good positional winger that is a good angular shot taker, a smart passer, and sturdy on the boards. Defensive responsibility is admirable, but he has a tendency to be a bit vanilla. Oh I like vanilla, it is indeed the base flavor by which I judge all other ice cream shop flavors, but in the end it lacks something. For Pitlick it might be the lack of up charge. He has gotten wiser with age, but I think we have found the ceiling for Pitlick. The question of, “Where does he go from here?” might have gone the way of Chris VandeVelde in that he has run his course as an Oiler. Good player, but low-range wingers aren’t what the squad in Edmonton needs. Right? Or maybe that’s exactly what they need.

He will play in the Oilers lineup tonight with Drasaitl and Perron. Good opportunity for Mr. P.

In return Jesse Joensuu clears waivers, and enters the Todd Nelson forward rotation of doom. No, really, Jesse J will be a good addition to the roster. It is truly remarkable how often the Oilers make odd decisions, and the Barons somehow benefit.

In addition to the forward swaps, Martin Marincin lands softly in Oklahoma City rather than being scratched in the Oilers rotation. Oscar Klefbom remains, and perhaps the Oilers are sacking Marty away for a future trade. He is a solid defensive prospect, even more so than I originally assumed, and he is also probably paving the way for Klefbom to steal his coveted future defender spot – “if he can do it, so can I”.

The Barons hit the road this week, and with a few changes to the lineup. I’m excited to see Marinicn back, Joensuu in, and the Kellan Lain trade to actually pay off (HINT: It won’t).