The Tales Of Charlotte Scoring Early, Barons Split Weekend Games

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The Oklahoma City Barons played a two-set this week against the Charlotte Checkers in North Carolina prior to the All-Star break. With three (four if you count Lander) Barons on the All-Star roster for the Western Conference, they’d make the trip owning one of the best records in the league. At the other end of the spectrum is the Charlotte Checkers, who’ve had an up and down and up again season through 40+ games.

It would be a lesson in frustration in game one as the Charlotte Checkers would score the games first goal, and the Barons would scratch and claw their way back to victory. In game two, Charlotte would again score early, but OKC couldn’t muster the offensive strength to overcome a two-goal deficit.

The game one goaltending situation would place All-Star Richard Bachman in net against the not-so-awful John Muse. Bachman would be treated to a low shot total (seven in the first, and only four in the second) from Charlotte, and after allowing the games first goal, would be untested until the final moments of regulation.

Chad LaRose scored in the final five minutes of period one, and it felt like Charlotte was going to be hit with the lucky stick. In return, the Barons would score three unanswered in the second period to really seal the deal before the third period arrived.

The second period talking points were less about the goals and more about the Pinizzotto and Moroz fights and roughs and other stuffs. The nasty side of the game, for once, favored the Barons. This led Charlotte to play “catch up” the remainder of the game. A late shot flurry in front of Bachman wasn’t enough, and the Barons would courageously win 3-1.

The second game in two nights for both clubs felt oddly out of place. The Barons would again be playing from behind, but their otherwise stingy penalty kill (one of the best in the league) would allow two man advantage goals in five attempts.

It took the Barons a good 15:00 to find their sea legs, and Laurent Brossoit felt the weight of the sluggish start. He would be fine through the first 20:00 of the game, but two second period goals placed the team in attack mode for the remainder of the game.

A second period goal by Kellen Jones gave life to the Barons before the final 20:00 of the game began, but a carry over tripping penalty allowed Brody Sutter to again give the Checkers a two-goal lead.

Iiro Pakarinen would scored his 17th of the season in the dying minutes of the third period, but credit Charlotte tender, Drew MacIntyre, for playing a pretty good game facing 30+ shots.

Oklahoma City would lose the second game 2-3.

The Barons would lose one of two, and display a bit of nasty behavior in both games. McGinn and perhaps Pinizzotto could be looking at pre-ASG suspensions after this one (assuming the league was paying attention)

Headed in to the All-Star break the Barons are the best team in the league with 61 points.

Thursday Starting Lineup:

C. Hamilton-Williams-Pinizzotto
Miller-Yakimov-Pakarinen
Moroz-Khaira-Ewanyk
K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford

Hunt-Davidson
Oesterle-Musil
Simpson-Marincin

Bachman

Friday Starting Lineup:

C. Hamilton-Williams-Pinizzotto
Miller-Yakimov-Pakarinen
Moroz-Khaira-Ewanyk
K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford

Davidson-Hunt
Oesterle-Simpson
Marincin-Gernat

Brossoit

The AHL To ECHL Flip, Can It (And Should It) Work In Oklahoma City?

As we stumble down the rabbit hole of a West Coast AHL division (or subdivision or something), fans of the Oklahoma City Barons continue to mop the floor with tears of sorrow for how the traditionally successful minor league hockey market in the center of the US has gone down the drain. We’ve discussed at length (and in various forms) about why the Barons failed at seizing a foothold in the sports landscape in OKC, and we have discussed how a managing ownership has flattened hockey’s existence. Those things will continue to be debated for years to come.

In the meantime, the reality is that AHL hockey is probably leaving Oklahoma City, and the immediate future of hockey in this city is a fuzzy image.

There has been great discussion by the Edmonton Oilers (over the 5 year term) that has indicated that the NHL parent club was very fond of OKC. The location. The fans. The city in general. All things that seemed positive for the NHL owners and managers of the storied organization. That will likely pave the way for future teams to land here. But will the AHL ever return?

The likelihood that the AHL returns to Oklahoma City is slim to none. As the going mantra seems to be “stay close, go far” for minor league affiliations, suddenly the South West seems too far away. That means that the third tier of hockey, the new-fangled ECHL, becomes the likeliest of candidates to land across the sweeping plains.

I’m not fond of moving a step backwards. That is just me. I’ve really enjoyed AHL hockey, and the connectivity it has directly with the NHL. To lose that, even just in one tier of the tower, sort of bothers me. Nonetheless, I enjoy hockey, and will continue to do so in the city that I love so much.

There seems to be a growing rumor that perhaps the Edmonton Oilers, whom will place their AHL franchise in Bakersfield as soon as this summer, will elect to place the ECHL franchise in OKC. Thus flip-flopping affiliate locations. This makes sense on paper, but there are some leaky holes in this belief.

First, you still need a local manager. Prodigal is out of the question as they have given up (for now) on minor league hockey. The Oilers could indeed run things locally as they own their ECHL franchise, but that seems like a tough sell. Regardless, someone with ties to OKC would have to manage the team, and it will be hard to court someone in to that position given the “tough sell” that hockey has become in Oklahoma City.

Second, the ECHL would have to approve the entrance of a new team. They would welcome this with open arms as it places another destination point in the mid-South to form a good partnership with teams in Texas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma (Tulsa). The AHL Board of Governors will likely approve the West Coast AHL conference as soon as this Sunday, and don’t think for a minute that the ECHL won’t quickly look to expand. In the end the ECHL would need to approve expansion, and by golly they would.

Third, an ECHL team would have to sign a long-term arena lease in OKC. One of the reasons that Prodigal bowed out was that they wanted a shortened lease with the city while the Cox Center begged for a long term tenant. In more specific terms – Prodigal wanted one, two or three year lease (after having tossed tons of money into the Barons), the city wanted more like eight to ten. That’s a big gap. The city might waffle just a bit on the term if the investment is good for them. Meaning they receive a guaranteed profit and a portion of concessions, etc. Any way you slice it, a deal will need to be made that benefits the city first, the team second.

Fourth, you are going to have to convince OKC that hockey still matters. Although not a dollar and cents type of concept, this might be the greatest hurdle to overcome. Many in this city are asking the question, “Well, if people won’t show up for AHL games, why would they show up for ECHL games?” And that’s a fantastic question to be asked. The answer to that question is a bit convoluted. Oklahoma City isn’t too hung up on whether hockey is tier two or three or beer league, it is about connectivity, access to the team, and a genuine love for the city. All things that were clearly absent in the last two seasons of AHL hockey. The divide between fan, team, and communication of both being important was vast. So let me stop, turn back towards the original statement because if you are reading this I don’t have to convince you that A) Prodigal didn’t finish well and B) hockey can work in OKC. In the end, whether it is the city, the people, the decision-makers, or the marketers, you are going to have to figure out a way to sell hockey again regardless of the league.

I have done my best to think through the process of “swapping” AHL for ECHL, and YOU can probably name a few more. My personal feelings are quite simple. I am really going to miss the AHL. As a league it had its problems, but what league doesn’t? A lot of the things that I really liked were a direct result of my love for the NHL. The connection the two have is important, exciting, and actually created a greater boundary of hockey appreciation that I wasn’t prepared to experience. I will certainly miss the “here today, NHL tomorrow” thought process that players and GM’s go through, and that won’t be as tangible with the ECHL in town.

Yet still, hockey is a good sport, and an even better sport when viewed live. Given the right management, the right marketing, and the right timing, I think that the ECHL can succeed. But will it be worth the investment? For some it is a hearty YES for me it is a LET’S WAIT AND SEE.

What are your feelings on this topic? Share them in the comments.

Call-ups in the Minor Leagues are all part of Player Development

Article co-written by Patricia Teter and Eric Rodgers, and cross-posted on ArtfulPuck and Tend the Farm.

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Every season fans in the Minor Leagues complain about call-ups from their teams and this is our advice to you: enjoy those call-ups and cheer on your players at a higher level. Someday you might just be able to say “I knew that guy when he played for my local ECHL club, and now’s he’s in the NHL!”

Call-ups are a part of life in the Minors — you can’t avoid it and it is best if you just accept how the entire NHL hockey development system works. It is designed to ultimately help the top-tier of professional hockey, the National Hockey League. The NHL calls-up a player from the AHL, the AHL is then short-handed and calls-up a player from the ECHL. This same scenario also happens if a player is injured in the AHL — the team needs an extra player to fill that spot. It is no different from when an ECHL team signs an extra player to fill in a missing spot on their roster – you are calling up that player from the SPHL perhaps.

We’ve watched a lot of minor league hockey at the AHL, ECHL and even CHL level, and we have covered a great many transactions of players moving up and down throughout the system over the years. We have also listened to the impatience and irritation of the minor league fans as their best players are called-up at crucial points in their season. Trust us, we’ve felt the same things every season! Understandably fans are frustrated — but on the flip-side, the players are thrilled for an opportunity to play at a higher level. THIS is why they are playing hockey, make no mistake about it! And don’t fool yourselves into believing otherwise! They dream of playing in the big show.

Last season we calculated that the AHL’s OKC Barons had 153 separate transactions during the 2013-14 season (this figure does not include the initial signings and training camp PTOs). The 153 moves included players moving up and down, to and from the team’s NHL parent club the Edmonton Oilers, and players moving up and down from their minor league club, the Bakersfield Condors and other associated clubs such as the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, and the CHL’s Quad City Mallards, Allen Americans, and Wichita Thunder. Most of the 153 transactions were between the NHL and AHL club, however when the AHL team’s roster was short in terms of game day numbers, the team would call-up a player from the minors.

And it is not always just players who are called-up! Don’t be surprised if you see your Coach called-up at some point as well. OKC Barons coach Todd Nelson was hired at “interim” Head Coach for the Edmonton Oilers in mid-December 2014 to replace the NHL’s clubs empty coaching spot after Dallas Eakins was fired. The OKC Barons team and their fans were extraordinarily excited to finally see their “Nelly” receive a much deserved promotion as an NHL Head Coach. Barons goaltender Richard Bachman said, “I’m sort of surprised he’s not already in the NHL. He’s a players’ coach. He listens to players and is very patient, sticks with his systems play even when things aren’t going well.”

Your minor league coaches understand the system and they realize that their best players will be called-up. They even recognize that players will move up to another league full-time, as in the case of Wichita’s Theo Peckham. Wichita Thunder’s coach Kevin McClelland explained at the time of his signing, “Peckham joined our hockey club, and I think he’s a big addition. Now, how long he’ll be here who knows? He’s got the ability to go on and play at a higher level, that’s for sure, and hopefully he’ll get that opportunity.”

This is how the system works and how it was intentionally designed. It benefits the NHL clubs, the minor clubs, and it always benefits the players involved. It gives players a chance to be seen and play for another club, receive advice and feedback from other team’s coaching staff and also it is a sign of recognition that they warranted a call-up to a higher league. This is what every hockey player dreams about — a call-up to the big leagues and an opportunity to move up in the system.

Over the years we’ve seen a lot of questions from minor league fans (and have replied to many!) but we thought it might help to explain how the development system works and what benefits are part of the system.  Recently Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel wrote an opinion piece on “ECHL needs better system to deal with AHL call-ups: Too often good ECHL teams are getting hurt,” and he has some very good points, but he disregards the overall minor hockey league development system.

Q: What exactly is a development league, and why do they exist?

A: This can be defined multiple ways. When most people see the name “development league” they could assume that every player is under a certain age. While this is true a lot of times, another key part to developing young players is teaching them how to act and how to handle controversy. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by having some vets on the roster. People may see them as taking ice time from younger prospects, but they are an integral part to the process. But at the same time as those vets are developing their skills to continue their dream, they also add that experience and skill for the younger guy to play against.

Q: What is a “call-up”?

A: A call-up is a player who is requested at a higher league team, due to injury, suspension, or even the normal call-up of their affiliated teams players who have not yet signed an AHL contract. Teams are signing specific players – a Center, Defenseman, Goalie to replace that specific position – this is not a one-size fits all type of situation. An AHL team might have some players sitting in the stands, but it is rather crazy to play a left winter in a goaltender position!

Q: What is the difference between an “affiliated” and “unaffiliated” team?

A: About what it sounds like. An affiliated team is one in which the team has an agreement with a team of a higher league to provide each other with players throughout the season. Some are mutually exclusive, but most of the time they’re not.

Call-ups for “affiliated” teams are specified in the ECHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA):

“Recall to an NHL/AHL Team Having an Affiliation with the Member [i.e. Team].

(1) If a Member has an affiliation agreement with an NHL/AHL team, a Player
may be recalled on receipt by the Member of an executed try-out agreement.
The Player shall be allowed to report to that team.

(2) If a Player is signed to an NHL contract or a one-way AHL contract, the
Player may report to the NHL/AHL team upon notification to the Member of
his recall prior to departure.”

Statements by ECHL Stockton Thunder President and New York Islanders GM on their affiliation, July 31st, 2013:

“The Thunder is committed to helping our players reach their goals through NHL development, and our new affiliation with the Islanders will help us achieve this objective for them in a much bigger way. And, our fans can look forward to watching talented Islanders prospects, who will play important roles in our commitment to excellence, both on the ice and in our community, ” Thunder President Brian Sandy said in a statement.

“The culture of success in Stockton will benefit our prospects and develop them into better hockey players as they work their way from the ECHL, to the AHL and eventually playing for the New York Islanders,” said Islanders’ GM Garth Snow.

List of Affiliated teams – FYI: NHL team affiliations with AHL and ECHL Teams.

Q: Are there any benefits to my minor league team from this development system?

A: Yes. A higher league team can “assign” players to your team, and an ECHL club can benefit by only paying a minimum of the player’s salary. The rest of the salary is paid by the higher club, depending upon their contracts. This places a potentially higher caliber player on their roster and they pay minimum cost. This is very useful to ECHL clubs since the league has a weekly salary cap set for team rosters.

From the ECHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA):

NHL/AHL Affiliate Payments

Reimbursement for the services of an NHL/AHL contracted Player owned or assigned to a Member [i.e. Team] shall be calculated weekly as follows:  2014-15  — $525″

ECHL clubs are fully aware that those assigned players will most certainly receive call-ups throughout the season. The NHL club (or even AHL club) assigning the player wants their players to be playing consistently and developing properly. An example of this situation is the Edmonton Oilers assignment of their prospect goaltender Tyler Bunz with the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder.  The Oilers are not “affiliated” with the Wichita Thunder, however the Thunder are nearby the Oilers’ AHL Club the OKC Barons, and Bunz is essentially placed nearby to be the Barons Emergency Backup Goalie when necessary.

Q: What are ECHL waivers? And how is this system different from the AHL?

A: In the ECHL a team can place a player on “waivers” at any time – that means that even though a player and a team have signed a season-long contract between two parties, the team can release that player at any time. There are no guarantees. That is why you can potentially see far more individual players come in and out of an ECHL club than an AHL club in general.

Waivers are something that you don’t see a lot of in the AHL, because most ECHL players are signed to Professional Try-Out contracts when they are called up. PTOs generally are smaller salary contracts for the AHL team to sign a called-up player with, and allows them to only pay the player while they are with the team. If the AHL team likes the player enough to where they want to keep the rights of the player and not allow another AHL team to call them up, that is when you see the player signed to an AHL Player Contract.

Q: What are the differences in AHL One-Way Contracts and Two-Way Contracts?

A: One-Way and Two-Way Contracts work the same way with AHL deals as they do with NHL contracts. One-Way contracts mean that a player earns the same amount of money regardless of if they are with their AHL team, or playing with an ECHL team. A Two-Way contract means that they earn a higher amount of money while they are on their AHL team and earn a lower amount with the ECHL team.

Q: Can an AHL team who is unaffiliated with an ECHL team call-up a player?

A: Yes. The system is designed so that any higher minor league team can call-up a player who is not affiliated.

Q: What benefit is a call-up from an unaffiliated team? What does my team get in return?

A: According to the ECHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement the team receives $500 compensation for each player called-up to an unaffiliated team:

 “Recall to an NHL/AHL Team That Does Not Have an Affiliation with the Member [i.e. Team]. If the Member or the Player receives a try-out offer from an NHL/AHL team with no affiliation with the Member, the Player agrees he shall not accept the try-out offer until the Member has received a Five Hundred Dollar ($500) development fee from the non-affiliated AHL/NHL team for each call-up.”

Your team does not pay the salary for that player while they are called-up.

Your players benefit and often return with better skills and habits than before. As ECHL and CHL players were called-up to OKC the AHL coaching staff gives these players special attention. Higher league teams have more coaching staff, and even NHL coaching staff on site at times and this group gives time and guidance to any player coming into the team.

Q: If an unaffiliated AHL team calls-up a player, can they sit that player for weeks in the stands?

A: They could, but they would also be wasting their money if there is no good reason to keep the player. An AHL team generally signs lower league called-up players to a PTO (Professional Tryout Contract) at a higher rate and the player is paid a daily pro-rated salary. This contract is a short-term contract, lasting no more than 25 games. Teams do not like wasting money and they would far prefer to make money.

Many times called-up minor league players do play with the higher league, but sometimes they are just there for security — a spare scratch in the event they are needed on a long stretch of 3 back-to-back games. Perhaps one of their players is injured and they are uncertain if they can recover in time for a game. Normally a called-up player is returned fairly quickly.

Q: Is there any benefit to a player who is called-up? Even if they don’t play?

A: A call-up, even if they do not play in a game, gives players a chance to be seen and play for another club, receive advice and feedback from another team’s coaching staff, and it is also a sign of recognition that they warranted a call-up to a higher league.

In addition to that, a player is paid at a higher rate on a PTO, even if they don’t play.

Q: Are fans benefiting from these call-ups, affiliated or otherwise?

A: Absolutely. ECHL fans get the opportunity to see their favorite players receive a chance to further their career in a higher league. Most call-ups are made because the player called was one of the best players on the team. It’s a sense of pride that a fan can have that their favorite player was good enough to receive that look at a higher level.

Q: How do ECHL teams protect their “product on the ice” for their fans?

A: Hire excellent staff and coaches at the hockey operations level who will be able to not only create and develop a good hockey team every season, but who will also be able to move with the ebb and flow of the minor league system. Coaches that have the ability to make the changes needed and recognizing players’ skills are ones that see the most success. A called-up player isn’t just a compliment to the player, but also the coach and team itself.

And speaking of the team itself, you also need to have a front office staff that recognizes the importance of when a player is called up, and being sure to make a big deal of when something like that happens. All the time you see the ECHL promoting how many players have appeared in an ECHL game and have since played in the NHL. 553 players have done so over the course of the ECHL’s existence, 13 of which have made their NHL debut so far this 2014-15 season. All of those numbers are easily accessible on the ECHL website because it’s something they take great pride in, as they rightfully should.

| Please let us know if you have more questions about this topic. We are happy to share our thoughts on the process.

Richard Bachman Added To AHL All-Stars Roster

Andrew Miller, Brad Hunt, and now Richard Bachman will represent the Oklahoma City Barons at this year’s AHL All-Star Game. Bachman, who is the Barons #1 and the Oilers #3, has had a truly fantastic season. Like Martin Gerber and Yann Danis before him, Bachman has been the anchor of his team when they needed him the most. A guy who loves OKC, has family nearby, and is just an all around good fella, Bachman deserves this attaboy.

With nineteen AHL games to his credit this season he has an overall record of 12-3-3, and a GAA creeping towards 2.00. Nearly 500 saves and a Sv% of .926, Bachman is certainly one of the best all-around goaltenders in the league. He’s also fabulous mentor for the young prospect, Laurent Brossoit, who has benefited from the tutelage of Sir Bachman.

The All-Star Game kicks off with a skills event this Sunday evening, followed by the All-Star Game on Monday. Bachman is expected to play behind Jacob Markstrom (from Utica) in the weekend’s events.

Andrew Miller Added To AHL All-Stars Roster

After one heckuva win by the Edmonton Oilers, and a pretty good game for one, Anton Lander, the American Hockey League has announced that Andrew Miller will be the replacement representative for Lander at this year’s AHL All-Star Game. Brad Hunt will also represent the Barons at the All-Star Game.

Miller has had anything but a “replacement” type of season. In 39 games played he now has 33 points which is second in team scoring (Lander has now played 10 fewer games). Andrew has been playing the second line left wing with Bogdan Yakimov and Iiro Pakarinen, and it has been beautiful music of late.

In other news, the Barons leading scorer, Jason Williams, has either been completely left out of the equation or he’s denied a request to attend (both plausible). Regardless, Williams has had a remarkable, pace-setting season for OKC, and at the ripe age of 34 nonetheless.

Congrats to all the All-Stars, and especially Andrew Miller.

Three Games In Three Days, Barons Lose Twice

Photo by Steven Christy

Coming off a hot December and an equally as hot early January, the Oklahoma City Barons were forced to battle through a home three-in-three against the familiar Texas Stars and the unfamiliar Rochester Americans. Despite losses being few and far between these days, the Barons would lose twice in the span of 72 hours.

The first two games, against the Texas Stars, come with the knowledge that scouts and media from Edmonton are littered throughout the Cox Center. The Barons would arm themselves with Laurent Brossoit in game one, and Richard Bachman in game two – both netminders being sturdy to start the new year.

Brossoit would give up two even strength goals in the second frame that would be the only scoring on the evening for either club. The 2-0 loss was earmarked by some poor power play gaming by OKC alongside some of the laziest defense we’ve seen in the 14-15 season.

Nearly forty shots taken, some of the unhealthy quality, weren’t enough to beat Jussi Rynnas even once, and the Stars goaltender would earn the shutout victory. The 2-0 Friday night game was completed, and the Barons knew what had to be done in round two on Saturday.

Saturday’s game felt like it was going the way of Friday’s as an early Iiro Pakarinen boarding penalty gave way to a Meech goal in first ten minutes of the game. But the sticks got good for the home team as the Barons rattled off three unanswered goals from the 11:34 mark of the first period until 7:01 of the second. Andrew Miller would catapult himself with a goal and an assist in that time frame, and Richard Bachman would close the windows and lock the doors.

But an early third period short handed goal (the Barons first short-handed given of the season) by Texas gave a little bit of life to the team from the South. With a 3-2 lead, Bogdan Yakimov would score his second goal of the game, and help seal the deal for OKC. In the closing :30 Iiro Pakarinen would put in an empty netter to round out a good night of hockey.

Bachman was tested often by his former team, but it was the defense to offense transition that won out on this evening. The Andrew Miller – Bogdan Yakimov – Iiro Pakarinen line would be responsible for four out of the five goals, and in front of Edmonton brass – that’s great news.

Sunday’s game was a completely different beast of burden.

The Rochester Americans, on a southern swing, would face-off against Laurent Brossoit who has been less-than-sturdy in the last couple of starts. At the other end was the young Russian goaltender, Andrey Makarov, who is still in the midst of his first ELC.

To attempt to sum up this game would be an absolute travesty. I couldn’t do it justice, really. It was a tire fire for three straight periods. Here are your goals and penalties via the AHL website:

As you can see, the game was a goal-scoring frenzy, a defensive slap in the face, and nightmare-ish sixty minutes for goaltenders. These types of games happen every once in a while, usually not more than once to the same team in the same year, but this one is an odd duck. A rarely seen opponent can do that to you, and it can also make you want to forget the whole thing happened in the first place.

Needless to say, regulation wasn’t enough to put the nail in the coffin, and thus we went to OT and eventually a SO. Here are those results:

The Barons were completely out of skill and most importantly gas. When the dust settled the Americans won 8-7. The Barons would have six different goal scorers, Pakarinen with two, and thirteen players with at least a single point. WOW.

A healthy and spirited crowd witnessed a rare thing on Sunday, but in terms of meaningfulness – this one is a wash.

In summation, it was a wild up and down weekend for the Barons (which happens when Oilers media and persona are in town). Thursday and Friday the Barons travel to Charlotte then will return home for a two-set against Lake Erie. Now is the time to scrape together as many wins as possible, and for now the Barons have a tiny blemish in their armor. They will fix it, I know they will.

Richard Bachman Named AHL Player Of The Week

I’m late to posting the news after being in a flu-like stasis for about a week (still not right), but Barons goaltender Richard Bachman has been named the AHL player of the week.

He came in to rescue Laurent Brossoit from the clutches of a breakdown against the Texas Stars. Bachman would begin a trend. Stopping 60 shots in 61 chances across three games played, including two starts that ended in a shutout for the goaltender. This comes on the wings of a lengthy trip to the IR where he was nursing a groin injury that “wasn’t too bad”.

Moving fully in to the month of January, the Oklahoma City Barons now have two of the hottest goaltenders in the league. This, no doubt, has propelled them into the top spot in the American Hockey League at least for the time being.

Well done, Ricahrd, and congratulations.

Anton Lander and Brad Hunt Named To AHL All-Star Team

Anton Lander and Brad Hunt have spent time with the Edmonton Oilers this season. For Brad Hunt it came near the beginning of the season where eleven games yielded three points, but some stubbly defense. For Anton Lander, his NHL minutes are just beginning. He has two assists in four games, and doesn’t completely look like a fish out of water.

Both have spent time in the AHL this season, and both have had truly remarkable first-halves. Both highly score savvy, and quickened by a solid team – Anton Lander and Brad Hunt will represent the Oklahoma City Barons at this year’s AHL All-Star Game in Utica January 25-26.

Hunt’s 22 points in 20 games puts him near the top of the league in points scored by defensemen. Likewise, Anton Lander has 31 points in 29 games which has him at a record-setting pace for his career totals.

Congratulations to both of them.

As an aside, Jason Williams was omitted from the team despite having the exact same number of points as Lander. Not to be entirely political here, but Anton gets the go-ahead because he’s younger (by nearly 11 years). Thus the league shines brightly for the future, and so the future they’ll get. Yet, if Lander is unavailable to play (assuming he’s in the NHL) I’m anxious to see if the league places Williams in Utica or will they try to pull more from the prospect well? Unsure at this moment.

Here are both the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star teams in their entirety:

East

G Anton Forsberg, Springfield Falcons (1st appearance) — 16-4-0, 1.93, .931, 2 SO
G Connor Hellebuyck, St. John’s IceCaps (1st) — 13-9-2, 2.54, .923, 2 SO
G Jeff Zatkoff, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2nd) — 11-6-2, 1.69, .932, 3 SO

D Austin Madaisky, Springfield Falcons (1st) — 36gp, 9-20-29, +6
D Brandon Manning, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (2nd) — 31gp, 6-17-23, +3
D Colin Miller, Manchester Monarchs (1st) — 29gp, 7-15-22, +3
D Nikita Nesterov, Syracuse Crunch (1st) — 32gp, 3-11-14, +4
D Derrick Pouliot, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (1st) — 23gp, 7-13-20, E
D Ryan Pulock, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (1st) — 29gp, 12-5-17, -1
D Matt Taormina, Worcester Sharks (1st) — 33gp, 4-13-17, -5
D Chris Wideman, Binghamton Senators (1st) — 32gp, 12-17-29, +6

F Alexandre Bolduc, Portland Pirates (1st) — 27gp, 10-11-21, E
F Chris Bourque, Hartford Wolf Pack (3rd) — 33gp, 14-16-30, +4
F Tim Kennedy, Hershey Bears (1st) — 34gp, 2-25-27, -1
F Alexander Khokhlachev, Providence Bruins (1st) — 27gp, 7-18-25, +1
F Tom Kostopoulos (“C”), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2nd) — 33gp, 6-11-17, +5
F Vladislav Namestnikov, Syracuse Crunch (1st) — 14gp, 7-8-15, -1
F Brian O’Neill, Manchester Monarchs (1st) — 34gp, 10-32-42, +17
F David Pastrnak, Providence Bruins (1st) — 24gp, 10-17-27, +14
F Nick Shore, Manchester Monarchs (1st) — 34gp, 19-19-38, +23
F Chris Wagner, Norfolk Admirals (1st) — 21gp, 9-8-17, -7
F Jordan Weal, Manchester Monarchs (1st) — 34gp, 11-22-33, +4
F Joe Whitney, Albany Devils (2nd) — 32gp, 13-19-32, +4

West

G Magnus Hellberg, Milwaukee Admirals (1st appearance) — 7-4-2, 1.89, .928, 1 SO
G Jacob Markstrom, Utica Comets (1st) — 10-2-1, 1.91, .932, 4 SO
G Joni Ortio, Adirondack Flames (1st) — 16-8-1, 2.54, .915, 3 SO

D T.J. Brennan, Rockford IceHogs (2nd) — 36gp, 7-21-28, +15
D Matt Dumba, Iowa Wild (1st) — 14gp, 3-8-11, +3
D Stefan Elliott, Lake Erie Monsters (1st) — 33gp, 9-11-20, +3
D Maxime Fortunus (“C”), Texas Stars (1st) — 33gp, 4-9-13, -9
D Brad Hunt, Oklahoma City Barons (2nd) — 20gp, 7-15-22, +9
D Ryan Murphy, Charlotte Checkers (1st) — 23gp, 0-17-17, -7
D Xavier Ouellet, Grand Rapids Griffins (1st) — 21gp, 1-7-8, +5
D Bobby Sanguinetti, Utica Comets (3rd) — 27gp, 8-9-17, +16

F Connor Brown, Toronto Marlies (1st) — 35gp, 9-19-28, +6
F Bobby Butler, San Antonio Rampage (3rd) — 31gp, 14-17-31, -1
F Charles Hudon, Hamilton Bulldogs (1st) — 35gp, 10-23-33, +6
F Anton Lander, Oklahoma City Barons (1st) — 29gp, 9-22-31, +8
F Travis Morin, Texas Stars (2nd) — 23gp, 10-14-24, -1
F Joakim Nordstrom, Rockford IceHogs (1st) — 17gp, 8-5-13, +2
F Cal O’Reilly, Utica Comets (3rd) — 34gp, 4-26-30, -1
F Emile Poirier, Adirondack Flames (1st) — 28gp, 10-10-20, +5
F Teemu Pulkkinen, Grand Rapids Griffins (1st) — 32gp, 19-19-38, E
F Ty Rattie, Chicago Wolves (1st) — 35gp, 15-8-23, +4
F Drew Shore, San Antonio Rampage (2nd) — 33gp, 9-21-30, +1
F Phil Varone, Rochester Americans (1st) — 35gp, 8-21-29, -3

Barons Lose 5-2 To Texas, Streak Ends

Photo by Steven Christy. Is that man scared?

The Oklahoma City Barons, clinging to a seven game win streak, returned home to face the sleeping giant called the Texas Stars. The eight game win streak that began around Thanksgiving and extended into the first week of December was a franchise record. It also saw the Barons take four straight in OT sandwiched by two regulation wins prior and three later. They were a team simply getting the job done. The current streak was eerily similar. Three OT victories in that seven game stretch. Again, this team knows how to finish. And on Tuesday night in Bricktown the team would do a complete 180, and look like mere mortals against their rival to the South, the Stars.

Things were on the up as Kellen Jones received a pass from brother Connor in the first six minutes of the game to give wings to the Barons once more. But Texas would grind the gears, and rattle off two goals before the first period would end. Laurent Brossoit, the golden goose at the moment, would allow those two goals in only eleven shots. No penalties in the first period for either club, and we would head towards another dominate period for the Stars.

In the second period Texas would pick up right where they left off. A two minute slash would give the Stars a power play early on in the second forty, but it would be their lively play at even strength that would again sting OKC. Hulak and Root scored back-to-back goals just over a minute apart to put the Barons in a three-goal hole halfway through the period. A spirited Travis Ewanyk vs. Mike Dalhuisen fight gave little encouragement to the Barons, whom continued to be a bit lazy with the puck. The second twenty minutes ended with the Stars on top, 4-1.

An early third period goal by Steve Pinizzotto felt like a spark, as did his constant yip-yappy ways, but Derek Hulak would score his second goal of the evening to thwart any type of comeback.

The Barons’ seven game win streak would come to an end, and Laurent Brossoit would be handed an ultra rare loss.

Tonight’s OKC Barons Lineup:

Winquist-Williams-Ford
Miller-Yakimov-Pakarinen
C. Hamilton-Khaira-Pinizzotto
K. Jones-C. Jones-Ewanyk

Simpson-Davidson
Oesterle-Musil
Marincin-Hunt

Brossoit

Scratches: Kessy, Lain (injured), Hamilton, Moroz, Gernat (healthy)

The Barons pack it in and ship it out for a three-in-three trip to Adirondack, Rochester and Hamilton beginning January 9. This will be a huge test for the Barons, whom will find themselves in unfamiliar terriroty.

34 Games In, OKC Barons On-Ice Stats

In today’s world of advanced stats in hockey, there’s not a lot to be had in the American Hockey League. I’m working to change that. Here’s a look at the Oklahoma City Barons on-ice stats through 34 games. Sample size means everything, so some of these numbers you can take with a grain of salt. But it does give a nice look at how some players are being used so far this season.

Jason Williams continues to lead the team in goal differential with a +25. Right behind him are Andrew Miller (+24), Anton Lander (+20), and Brad Hunt (+20). Travis Ewanyk brings up the rear with a -13.

Iiro Pakarinen leads the team in even strength goal differential, posting a +14. Brandon Davidson is second on the team to lead all defensemen with a +10.

Hunt is obviously the most-relied upon defenseman, with an estimated TOI of nearly 30 minutes. Martin Marincin since coming back to OKC has averaged an estimated 20+ minutes per game. Davidson also has averaged over an estimated 20 minutes per game.

Bogdan Yakimov has been getting utilized a lot more over the last twenty games, and that will be the case more often now with Anton Lander in Edmonton. At the last update after 14 games, Yakimov was hovering just over the 10 minute mark. Now, he sits at 12:42.

Mitch Moroz, still in search of his first AHL goal, still sits at the bottom of the list in eTOI with a 7:09. Travis Ewanyk, Jujhar Khaira, and call-ups Connor Jones and Josh Winquist all sit below 10 minutes per game.