Ford Scores Two, Barons Defense Better, Power Play Still Off, Oklahoma City Beats San Antonio 3-1

Losing in a shoot out in San Antonio 24 hours prior, the same two teams would travel to Oklahoma City on Saturday for a rematch. A mechanical issue on the Barons sleeper bus forced the squad to disband, and struggle to find flights out of San Antonio to OKC. This, unfortunately, had many players not arriving in Oklahoma until lunchtime. With a puck drop at 7:00, you would have thought that the Barons would be at a great disadvantage. Instead they played patient, realizing they were probably a bit weary, and were able to notch three goals against the Rampage in a 3-1 victory for the home team.

Laurent Brossoit would start for Oklahoma City and be dazzling for sixty straight minutes. And for a second night the Rampage would throw Jacob Markstrom to the net, and he would be pretty solid as well.

Matthew Ford would score his first of two with assists coming from Curtis Hamilton and Ryan Martindale, two guys recently re-inserted into the lineup after injuries. For Hamilton, it was only his fifth game of the season after a long ACL recovery process. Martindale, returning to the lineup for his fourth game in quite some time, looked to return to his offensive form prior to injury. Both the Rampage and Barons would get a chance on the power play in the first period, and both would look majorly unorganized. With twenty minutes complete, it was the Oklahoma City Barons that would come out victorious with an early 1-0 lead.

In the second period Oklahoma City began to slip into the puck possession troubles that they have been plagued with for most of the season. Again, both teams would squander power play chances, but it was San Antonio that would sneak in a goal at the 8:26 mark. John Lee would score his third on the season, and the Rampage would even things up. San Antonio began to amp up their shot totals, and we got our first really good look at Laurent Brossoit as a prospect. Stopping all but one of twelve shots, he would eventually end the night facing 31 shots. After two periods, the game was tied at one all.

The Barons would score twice in the third period, with Anton Lander putting his team up a goal in the first two minutes of the final period. The pace slowed, the Barons defense looked far more disciplines, and Brossoit continued to be glorious. One or two scoring chances for each club just weren’t enough as the Barons would seal the deal via an empty netter from Matthew Ford. The final score of 3-1 would put the Barons one step closer to .500.

Hamilton Fights, LaBarbera Again Faces 40+, Barons Lose To Rampage In SO

Friday nights in San Antonio can be a mixed bag when you are the Oklahoma City Barons. On this particular night, as we have seen quite a bit lately, the Barons were suffocated by the Rampage puck possession game. This led to a high number of scoring chances for the bad guys, and a goaltender left to fend for himself for the good guys. Although the Barons scored the games first goal, the Rampage would roar back with a pair of their own. A late third period equalizer by Linus Omark forced the game into a shoot out where five straight Barons couldn’t get a goal around Jacob Markstrom. The Rampage would defeat the Barons 3-2 in a shoot out.

Jason LaBarbera earned his second straight start for OKC with familiar foe, Jacob Markstrom, lacing them up at the other end. Both tenders were good, but it was JLB that would face another 40+ shots (43 of 45), let in very little, yet still be slapped with a loss. This is as much of a seismic issue of overall defense than just a goaltender letting in a few goals. The defensive core for OKC continues to be unable to achieve quick, sustainable puck movement from defense to offense. When they do move the puck up the ice, the forwards are unable to hang on to it for long periods of time. This is a continuing problem.

Nonetheless, the Barons accomplished some things including earning at least a standing point. A scoreless first period was kicked off by a Roman Horak penalty just sixteen seconds in, and would feature a Curtis Hamilton fight about nine minutes later. Just when it appeared that another scoreless period was upon us, Anton Lander would score on the power play at the thirteen and then some minute of the second. OKC would protect the 1-0 lead until the Rampage managed two goals in under three minutes as the midsection of the final period quickly approached. With radio announces in full and hopeful post game mode, Linus Omark would cut diagonally in front of Markstrom where Andrew Miller handed him a pass. Linus would quickly unleash a shot, score a goal, and put the game into overtime.

The Barons finally pressured the puck consistently, maybe for the first time in the game, during the OT frame, but they’d continuously be denied. We’d head to a shoot out.

No goals in five tries for OKC. One goal in as many for the Rampage. Despite a valiant effort from LaBarbera, the Barons would lose to the Rampage, 3-2.

Same two tomorrow night, but in Oklahoma City. Join us!

Reasons To Be Thankful: Oklahoma City Barons Edition

There are reasons to be thankful, Oklahoma City Barons fans, and not just because of this unseasonably cold November we are having. Family, food, football, such and such usually top our thankful list on this day of, well, Thanksgiving, but I have challenged myself to be positive in regards to our beloved hockey club we call our own.

On that first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims and the local natives sat across from each other, enjoying a three day meal of venison, lobster, and corn and bravely agreed to live in harmony. I too, in a less historically triumphant fashion, will praise the harmonious life cycle of the Barons and their existence in the city I call home.

Reasons to be thankful, proceed.

1) We have goaltenders & choices! And before you say, “I’m glad we don’t have Jeff Deslauriers anymore” I’ll remind you he’s 10-4-1 with the Baby Pens.

2) Omark is still smug. In a less glaring eyeball, grown up sorta way, but it’s still there. And you kinda grow to love it.

3) Free parking. It does exist, and probably only on nights there are Barons games. Enjoy obscurity while you can.

4) The Barons souvenir cup. If you’re hesitant to get one, be hesitant no more. They make great rinse cups for kids at bathtime, are wonderful potted plant ecosystems, and hold more orange Crush than is legally allowed. Just don’t do all three things at once.

5) The team loves community. Have you driven by the Habitat for Humanity build site? Cool. Did you see the Grebeshkov Barons Buddies photos? Awesome.

6) Teemu Hartikainen’s crazy adventures in the KHL. Strange brews, wild and wooly hats, and funny caricatures. If you’re not lucky enough to be following him on Instagram, I’m deeply sorry.

7) Easy to pronounce names this season. Bryzgalov is a bit tricky for the noob, as is Broissoit (I called him Bross-Way the other day). Yet we Okies will always find a way to butcher “Ewanyk”.

8) Thunder basketball. I’m a fan of the NBA team, no doubt, and you should be too. They bring great improvements to restaurants and overall downtown experiences that “big league” cities always do. Plus, Nick Collison would look killer in a Barons third.

9) You, the fans. We are few, but vocal, funny, and precocious. We have to be.

10) Mark Arcobello is awesome. He’s been non-existent in the Oilers roster lately, but what a point scoring tear he was on. Yes, we Oklahomans take full responsibility for his success.

11) Tyler Bunz social media. The Avengers costumes were great, but Tyler Bunz has been rattling off fantastic social posts for years. I don’t know where that kid spends his summers, but it looks like a Florida Georgia Line video.

12) Texas Stars. Because the rivalry that was spoon fed to us by the league has actually turned into a pretty tame matchup. We really kind of love Cedar Park, don’t we?
13) Buffalo Wild Wings (NWX location). They care about hockey fans. How sweet.

14) Sunday skates with the players. Where you look like an idiot in skates that don’t fit right, but you secretly hope Ben Eager comes to catch you when you fall and then gracefully lifts you over his head like the Stanley Cup.

15) Todd Nelson. No explanation needed.

16) Toni Rajala. Because there’s always a chance, just ask Linus Omark.

17) Oscar Klefbom checks. I internally go KlefBOOM when he does it. I may have actually done it out loud a few times. Not ashamed.

19) Barons sweaters. They wick sweat AND nacho cheese. Win!

20) The Oilers. Without you we have nothing (okay, maybe the Blues or someone else, but you get the message).

What Barons things are you thankful for?

LaBarbera Good, Eager Injured, Offense Invisible – Texas Beats Oklahoma City 2-1

Having not won back to back games since mid-October, the Oklahoma City Barons faced off against their divisional rival, the Texas Stars, in a Thanksgiving Eve battle. The game was about a consistent offense in Texas squaring off against a not-yet fully realized Barons core. From goaltending to defensive posturing to forward puck possession – Oklahoma City is a bit wobbly. However, the time to climb the peak is now, and a win against a divisional rival might nudge the Barons back to .500 as we move into the Christmas season.

When the dust settled, Jason LaBarbera had a whale of a game stopping 39 of 41 shots, but the Barons were incapable of tilting the ice in their favor. The Stars spent huge chunks of time in the OKC zone, and this put way too much pressure on the defensive pairs as well as LaBarbera who was superb. And don’t discount Nilstorp at the other end, and his accompanied blue line because they played very well in their own right.

The Barons would lose to the Stars on Wednesday night, 2-1.

Oklahoma City starting lineup:

Omark-Lander-Miller
R. Hamilton-Horak-Ford
C. Hamilton-Martindale-Nesbitt
Eager-Ewanyk-Stretch

Marincin-Fedun
Klefbom-Hunt
Davidson-Gernat

LaBarbera

The first period pace was fast, sharp, disciplined, and unwavering for both clubs. Nilstorp vs. LaBarbera was in full effect, and the double digit shot totals by each team forced both net minders to be agile and awake. Toby Petersen had two magnificent scoring chances in the first ten minutes of the game, but JLB was ready. The final ten minutes swung the momentum the other direction with quality chances from the top line of Linus Omark, Anton Lander, and Andrew Miller. The first twenty minutes had no penalties, no goals scored, but well north of twenty combined shots in the game.

A quick high stick by Texas to begin the second period gave Oklahoma City a great opportunity on the power play. The opportunity was quickly wasted, and not a single shot was fired on net. The Barons would go on the kill after a Gernat tripping penalty. Texas would score with a man advantage as Colton Sceviour would handle the puck towards Chris Mueller who’d punch in a gaol around LaBarbera. The Stars take a 1-0 lead. Following the goal, Ben Eager would get hit into the boards and emerge holding his arm. Shoulder or elbow injury likely, and after only a shift and a half in the second he’d leave the ice and not return to the game. This shortened the bench just a bit for OKC. The Barons only mustered four shots the entire period while simultaneously giving away three straight power play chances. The period would end 1-0, in favor of the Stars.

At 5:39 of the third period Taylor Fedun would insert himself into the offense just enough to get a pass from Linus Omark. He’d shoot the puck around Nilstorp to tie the game at 1-1. The final fifteen minutes heavily favored the Stars as the Barons played far too much hockey in their own end. Colton Sceviour would score his fifteenth goal on the season to put the Stars back on top, and also deflate a bit of hope for OKC. The Barons would get a chance on the PP, but again struggled to gain confidence. In the end, the Stars had the more well-rounded game, and despite a fabulous night for LaBarbera the Barons would lose 2-1.

Bunz, Kessy, Fyten, Lizon All Harvested To Make Room For Oilers. Is It Worth It?

This summer, the wildly optimistic Oilers fan had something to celebrate. A new NHL GM who talked a great deal about boldly moving forward, winning games, growing the next gen of Edmonton player, and honoring the commitment to prospect development. In some regards I understand that Craig MacTavish pigeonholed himself into a spot where he looked bad if the team hovered around last place, but a few days worth of interesting moves continue to have me wonder what really has changed.

The movement of Tyler Bunz, Kale Kessy, Austin Fyten, and to a much lesser extent, Erick Lizon, point to a bit of a problem for Oilers followers. The short version is that the Oklahoma City Barons has more than enough vets (seven to be exact), which is not an entirely awful thing, the problem is that it is loaded with players with very little future inside the Edmonton Oilers organization.

Traditionally AHL teams keep vets to help “backstop” otherwise young cores. They help give guidance, sometimes goal scoring, but always a bit of career prospective. Right now those vets on the Barons are Steve MacIntyre, Denis Grebeshkov, Ben Eager, Matthew Ford, Derek Nesbitt, Ryan Hamilton, Linus Omark. Not a bad minor league core, but what’s the point? MacIntyre and Eager are stashed in the minors in OKC not to help improve morale of overall prospective for the youngsters, they just have no where to go. Thus this necessitated the leave of Kessy and Fyten to lower leagues.

Both Kessy and Fyten were having pretty solid seasons in bottom line situations. Kessy, for one, played the agitator role pretty well. Fyten was good for several scoring chances per game, and in twelve played actually ended a +3 which is tied for the team high in that particular stat line (Brad Hunt the other). I just don’t like moving those two players out when they do have potential in the organization they are currently playing.

The thought is “because of all the vets, those younger players need more TOI”. True. But in a watered down league or less-than-AHL where the stepping stones get further apart? That doesn’t add up. In the short term cycle of player development maybe this can slightly help players get their sea legs even if they had already found a bit of a niche.

Don’t forget about Tyler Bunz, because the Oilers “needed” a solid goaltender, Jason LaBarbera is now the number two G on the farm with eventually Richard Bachman being thrown into the mix with recent acquisition Laurent Broissoit. Bunz never got a fair shake, and that’s bothersome. Indeed his play dictated his placement, but c’mon, give him a stretch longer than two games to give us a well-rounded view on his game.

In the end, I keep asking myself ‘Is it really worth it?’ – relegating players, even in a short term, because “these guys have no other place to go”. I’m not sure that it is, but I’m hopeful that we see them again. You should be hopeful too.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Oklahoma City at Texas “Straight Up”

Paula Abdul was widely considered a fabricated pop star. A Laker girl, dancer, and choreographer, sometime in the mid to late 80’s Ms. Abdul forced her way into our hearts. Unlike most paint-by-number pop acts that every decade brings us, Paula worked hard. Recorded demo after demo after demo, many passed on her husky, untrained vocals. That is until they saw her dance. In a pre-YouTube world, MTV was the way you sold your brand, and Abdul was notorious for doing so. She owned the screen with her smolder, the seismic dancing, and rhythmic beats that made me a roller blade gangster – it was pure pop tart heaven.

The run of singles from 1988 to 1990 that featured “Forever Your Girl”, “Cold Hearted”, and “Opposites Attract” was kicked off by the late 80’s club banger, “Straight Up”.

The synthetic horns are marvelous late 80’s glory. When Casio keyboards were sorta outdated but still really cool in my basement, the Elliott Wolff penned dance track (would later again work with Abdul, Color Me Badd, and Atlantic Starr) was in regular rotation on virtually every radio dial from Florida to Florence. The accompanied video, and aura of Ms. Abdul, would lead her to become one of the most successful American female artists in history. Six number ones is teetering on Diana, Mariah, Celine, Whitney land – which is incredible when you understand how long the careers of those ladies has lasted.

“Straight Up” holds up as the nostalgic track that it is because of that hook, oh that glorious hook. And although the reputation of Abdul and the legacy of her music is slightly tainted by American Idol days where she again became tabloid fodder, the body of work is fun, if not entirely progressive.

She’s asking her part time companion, straight up, is this about love or is it something else. Are we going to move forward together or apart. Cohesion being her preference. Uncertainty being his.

The Oklahoma City Barons travel to Cedar Park, Texas for a day-before-Thanksgiving gobbler of the Western Conference. Texas, being the sturdy fence of farm play, has ridden a bit of an up and down streak of late, but they still nestle themselves into the second slot in the West Division where Abbotsford is still far and away the best team in the Western Conference. This places Texas at number four in the Conference where they are a force themselves.

Meanwhile the Barons become increasingly gangly looking, but still fully capable when all cylinders are firing. The team hasn’t won back to back games since mid October, and recently coming off a rough and tumble win at Lake Erie, they will boldly go forward to make that stat line change.

Having split the two games played this season with Texas, you can bet the Stars will be ready. Nilstorp in net, Sceviour alive and well, Travis Morin white hot, and Chris Mueller coming on strong – the Stars are a team fully built to last.

The Barons are still gelling so to speak, and if by Thanksgiving day you haven’t fully congealed, then you might want to find a way to do so and quickly. Jason LaBarbera will probably get his first start as a Baron with Broissoit playing his back up. No Kessy, no Fyten, no Lizon, and the squad gets heavier on the backend with vets. An interesting problem to have. Steve MacIntyre and Ben Eager, both NHL alumnus, will be in the lineup for OKC, but where remains the question. Third line and below, is my bet, and that is a telling statement both on the career arc of those two players and the placement within the Edmonton Oilers.

Curtis Hamilton continues to make his return to the Barons lineup after ACL surgery, while Ryan Martindale continues to nurse an injury of his own.

The game will be interesting, as these two always have a tendency to be, but can the Barons score against the sharp Texas defense, stingy goaltending, and quickened offense? Straight up? I’m not sure.

Kale Kessy Assigned To Bakersfield

Photo by Steven Christy

The fourth line of the Okahoma City Barons has been the one consistent for the squad in October and November in terms of how often the three stayed together not necessarily how well they played. But there was one fellas that flowed out of that fourth line, and sometimes into the third line. It was the way that he balanced agitation and scoring chance that led Todd Nelson to promote him. No it wasn’t Ben Eager – it was Kale Kessy.

A fourth liner nearly by definition, Kale Kessy was dangerous with the puck in an agitation and heavy checking role. I liked him from day one, and nearly twenty games in I still do.

Placed with Eager and Ewanyk (at center), the three were occasionally gifted offensively. That’s huge for any fourth line, and certainly one in the Oilers farm squad. So the news today that Kessy had been placed in Bakersfield of the ECHL came as a bit of a surprise.

Playing better than Erick Lizon, and probably better than Eager, Kessy was the fourth liner (sometimes third liner) playing greater minutes than Eager which was well north of eight minutes a game. In eighteen games played in OKC he earned a goal, an assist, twenty penalty minutes, and a -3. That’s not awful for the rookie, and I hate to see him go.

Choosing him over Eager makes sense. Over Lizon does not. Especially in a world where “prospect” is more important. But keep in mind, Steve MacIntyre is hitting the Barons roster soon, and that means a big heavy has to move out. Imagine an Eager-Ewanyk-MacIntyre line? Harumph.

Oklahoma City Blasts Lake Erie In 6-1 “Angry” Affair

Six goals with four of those coming in the third period, the Oklahoma City Barons would blast the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland on Thursday night in an angry affair. Some extra curricular activity after the first period led to a heavy handed, but impressive victory by OKC. Defeating the Monsters, on home ice, in November, 6-1 is quite the impressive victory.

Laurent Broissoit would earn his first victory as a Baron in his first star for the team stopping 36 of 37 shots including an 18 shot first period.

Also new to the lineup was the not-so-new face of Curtis Hamilton. Following ACL surgery nearly a year ago, Hamilton would make his return to the Barons roster. On the left wing with Roman Horak in the center, and Derek Nesbitt on the right, Hamilton would prove to be a bit sluggish. However, it’s good to see him back.

Travis Ewanyk scored his first two goals of the season in the testy affair. Anton Lander added two more. But it was Taylor Fedun, having a four point night, that really proved to be highly valuable. His value was found mainly as the quarterback of the Barons power play that went 3 for 8 on the night. His movement with the puck seemingly put the Monsters on their heels, and he would eventually tally two assists on the games first two power play goals by OKC.

Ryan Hamilton would get the games final goal for the Barons, but that wasn’t until after some major rough stuff occurred. As the second period started to boil with fervor, the stakes became increasingly higher as the Monsters were visibly frustrated on their own power play. Only scoring once in eight tries, the team didn’t have much more luck at even strength. All this frustration boiled over into the third period where things would get nasty.

The 7:46 minute was interesting:

3 – OKC Eager, 7:46 – Fighting, 5 min
3 – OKC Lizon, 7:46 – Roughing, 2 min
3 – OKC Lizon, 7:46 – Misconduct – Unsportsmanlike conduct, (75.4) 10 min
3 – LE Maggio, 7:46 – Roughing, 2 min
3 – LE Maggio, 7:46 – Roughing, 2 min (PP)
3 – LE Maggio, 7:46 – Misconduct – Unsportsmanlike conduct, (75.4) 10 min
3 – LE Tam, 7:46 – Fighting, 5 min

 

As was the 13:28:

3 – OKC Musil, 13:28 – Boarding, 2 min
3 – OKC Musil, 13:28 – Fighting, 5 min
3 – LE Heard, 13:28 – Instigating, 2 min
3 – LE Heard, 13:28 – Fighting, 5 min
3 – LE Heard, 13:28 – Misconduct – Instigating, (46.11) 10 min

 

And so too was the 19:50:

3 – OKC Eager, 19:50 – Roughing, 2 min
3 – OKC Eager, 19:50 – Roughing, 2 min
3 – OKC Eager, 19:50 – Misconduct – Unsportsmanlike conduct, (75.4) 10 min
3 – LE Desbiens, 19:50 – Misconduct – Unsportsmanlike conduct, (75.4) 10 min
3 – LE Olver, 19:50 – Boarding, 2 min
3 – LE Tam, 19:50 – Unsportsmanlike conduct, 2 min

 

Ben Eager would end the night with 19 penalty minutes, Erick Lizon with 12. However it was David Musil that would take the most punishment in the form of an orbital fracture that would immediately send him back to OKC for evaluation that night.

Despite the 6-1 drubbing that the Barons laid on the Monsters, the reminder that these two would face off again in 24 hours lingered in our minds. Would we see more of the same – both offensively, and maybe in the fisticuffs department – maybe. Lake Erie was completely frustrated, and “Eager” to goad anyone willing to fight into such activities.

In all, it was a good road win for OKC, and like most good road wins it wasn’t void of any injuries. Here’s to hoping that the next night isn’t quite as persnickety.