Photo by Steven Christy
The series is tied 2-2 after Wednesday night. How this happened is quite the thing to behold, and for once fans were correct in clamoring for a different approach to the lineup.
After the first two games of the series, where only a combined six goals were scored in eleven periods, game three was a bit more offense-friendly. If offense-friendly is how we explain game three then game four was a move-in-we-are-getting-married-and-having-a-baby-after-knowing-each-other-for-three-months type of explanation.
The Barons scored seven goals, four on the power play, to lift them past the Utica Comets on Wednesday evening. The 7-4 final would tie the series at two games a piece.
In short, the addition of Kyle Platzer, Greg Chase, and most certainly Darnell Nurse helped “shake things up” enough that Utica couldn’t return with a clear answer. They tried, and likely will adjust accordingly in tonight’s game five, but for now they have been hit by a two-by-four between the eyes. Those three players would come in for Mitch Moroz, C.J. Stretch, and David Musil. The changes were potent.
Jujhar Khaira would score twice, Darnell Nurse would earn three helpers, Brad Hunt would snatch four points, and Richard Bachman would again face 40+ shots only allowing four to wobble through.
The personnel changed, as did the mindset of the players, but what really looked sharp was the power play. Going 4/6 on any given night will almost 100% of the time earn you a victory. As Utica took penalty after penalty the Barons kept barreling down on them. Two key power play goals in the third period really sunk the Comets halfway through the final frame.
The scoring for OKC began as Darnell Nurse jumped into the play and assisted on a Jujhar Khaira goal, his second of the season. Utica would respond, as they are want to do, nearly five minutes later. The first period would end with Utica doubling the OKC Barons shots totals (14-7), but with a one goal tie.
A late first period cross check carried the power play opportunity over to the second, and Andrew Miller would give his team the lead again in the first minute and change. Utica would respond over the next ten minutes with two goals of their own, one on the power play and one at even strength, to overtake OKC momentarily. But Oklahoma City would follow suit by scoring a goal with an extra skater and another at even strength to round out a wild, goal-filled second period. Matt Ford and then Jujhar Khaira, earning his second goal of the evening, would play the role of heroes as they would give their team a 4-3 lead with one period remaining.
The dam would continue to break for the Barons offense as they would score back-to-back power play goals via Ryan Hamilton and Brandon Davidson to extend the lead to 6-3. The four unanswered goals would force Utica to pull Jacob Markstrom early for an extra attacker. It paid off momentarily as Utica’s Brendan Gaunce earned his third goal of the postseason with under four minutes to play. But Brad Hunt, saucering a shot 150+ feet away, put the goal totals at 7 for OKC on an empty netter with less than two minutes on the clock.
The final horn would sound, and the dominate performance in the back-half by the Barons game was impressive. The 7-4 victory over the Utica Comets would tie the series at two games. Game five will be played Thursday night in OKC. Interesting.
Oklahoma City Barons Lineup:
Scratches: Bunz, Rimmer, Betker, Pageau, Musil, Pinizzotto, Stretch, Ewanyk, Kessy, Ludwig, LaLeggia, Moroz, Yakimov, Gernat, Lain