Photo by Steven Christy
Game #1 – December 2nd, 2014
Utica Comets 0 – Oklahoma City Barons 1 (OT)
The Comets stumbled into the Cox Center in early December while the Barons were on an eight game tear through the American Hockey League. Knowing that they would only face the Comets one other time during the regular season, OKC would play really good defensive minutes against a team with skill. Richard Bachman would stop all 34 shots for the shutout, and Todd Nelson would be showcasing his talents before assuming the role of the Edmonton Oilers interim head coach (replacing Dallas Eakins).
It took nearly 64:00 scoreless minutes for Jason Williams to score his eighth goal of the season with a whale of an assist from the suddenly-good Curtis Hamilton.
The Barons power play went 0/2, but their penalty killing was superb (in three chances). A late game trip by David Musil and a subsequent scrap with Brendan Guance 7:16 into the third period nearly undid the perfect game for Richard Bachman. Yet the defense steadied themselves, and the penalty kill worked like a charm.
Joacim Eriksson played remarkably well stopping 34 of 35 shots for the Utica Comets.
Game #2 – March 27th, 2015
Oklahoma City Barons 2 – Utica Comets 4
The first game was low-scoring, goaltender-leaning. The second game was the complete opposite. Laurent Brossoit was in net while Richard Bachman played back up with the Oilers, and Joacim Eriksson made his second appearance against the Barons.
This game was over mid-way through the second period as Utica scored four straight against a soggy Barons squad. Yet the tall tale in this outing was about one thing – penalties. Eleven different roughing calls, three players awarded ten minute game misconducts (including C.J. Ludwig and Travis Ewanyk), and 77 penalty minutes in total. It was a bruiser of a hockey game that got wildly out of hand halfway through the game.
Four different Comets scored in a span of less than twenty minutes of game time, all of them at full strength. It was not a good showing for the Barons nor for Laurent Brossoit who was struggling in the wave of badness that became a team problem through the month of April.
Jason Williams would score his 18th goal of the season after Darren Archibald was whistled for a check to the head and issued a game misconduct. The Williams power play goal breathed a bit of life into the Barons sails as the second period came to a close.
Mitch Moroz would chip away at the Utica lead by scoring only his fourth goal of the season with an assist to Jackson Houck (his only point in seven games) and Jordan Oesterle.
The team was buried by the brutish nature of the game, and their inability to “shake off the problems” bit them in the end. And so the two parted ways.
The two games couldn’t have been more incredibly different, and quite honestly, the two games represent two completely different seasons within a season for both squads.
Goaltending changes, defensive movement, recalled players, injuries, coaching changes, etc. all played a huge part in the victories or defeats in both cases.
This is the danger of facing unfamiliar teams in the postseason – which version are we gonna get?
For Oklahoma City the doldrums of their March to April swing have given way to some really sound play in the first round. I continue to suggest they got lucky (in many cases), and that they caught a Rampage team on a downhill slide. Utica has slow-burned their way towards being one of the best in the West (actually, the best mathematically speaking), and they are probably more like the Game #2 team than the Game #1 team.
For Utica, they showed they have the guts, the goaltending, and the gall to put a hurt on a team like the Oklahoma City Barons. Markstrom and Eriksson are every bit the dandy that Bachman and Brossoit have been (probably moreso), but the Comets can be beat. It just hasn’t happened often.
We will break down the two squads in the coming days. Stay tuned.