With Oklahoma City Up 2-0, Game 3 Should Be A Dandy

The Oklahoma City Barons may be up on the San Antonio Rampage two games to none, but that doesn’t mean that this series is over. It certainly means the Rampage have an uphill climb, but it certainly isn’t over.

The heroic comeback on Saturday evening was nothing short of remarkable. Yet it was also extremely lucky. The players who are most likely to score throughout the season are the players also scoring in the post season. Ryan Hamilton with two power play goals and three points. Matt Ford, Andrew Miller, and Brad Hunt with three points in two games. There is Connor Jones with two goals on just two shots including the game winner on Saturday night. Jason Williams, Josh Winquist, and Jordan Oesterle have all contributed. In all, the post season has begun remarkably well. But then there is luck.

Laurent Brossoit was yucky to start game two after being amazing in game one. The decision to pull him after 20+ minutes, facing 24 shots, and letting in 3 was an interesting choice. But one that paid off for Gerry Fleming. Richard Bachman came in at the relief position and was magical. “The Biz” seems ready to make his mark on the Calder Cup run so I expect him to start game three with Dan Ellis (according to Dan Weiss, PxP fella for the Rampage, all-around good guy) at the other end.

In come some interesting players for the Rampage, as they shake things up in their not-so-triumphant return to San Antonio.

Namely Kyle Rau whom was drafted #91 in 2011, just one spot ahead of another collegiate prospect on the Oilers farm, Dillon Simpson. Rau is a 40+ points per season player in four straight at the University of Minnesota. The Big Ten is a competitive league, but it is not producing national titles (save for Michigan, the dominate performer). Yet he is a shifty player, good hands, sort of small, but powerful, and gives Gerry Fleming and crew something to really think about. I like it for the Rampage.

Ryan Hamilton is good to go, as is most of the team. A quick scouting report from practice this week says all are ready to go (those who played in games one and two).

It will be very interesting to see if San Antonio can play deep in this one. To go deep teams have to be able to defend and get solid goaltending. These are two leaky tires in the recent drive of games one and two. Can they fix it? Yes, they are the Rampage. Will they is the question.

The Rampage will raise their Western Division banner this evening, and congrats on a truly historical season for the Rampage. A banner year, a banner season, a banner team – they continue to play with pride. Don’t think for a moment that they will not go out with a fight.

Final Regular Season Homestand Begins Tonight, Bulldogs Welcomed

Photo by Steven Christy

One game has been played between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Oklahoma City Barons in the season of 2014-15. It was Sunday, January 11th in Hamilton, Ontario when Andrew Miller had a two point night and two more goals were scored by Iiro Pakarinen and Jason Williams en route to a 3-0 domination of the Montreal Canadians farm team. That night Richard Bachman stopped 32 shots, including several early on that were season-long highlights, and the blue-line pushed back on Hamilton forwards allowing only six shots in the final twenty minutes of play. It was a spectacular performance.

A lot has happened since then – the Barons only clinched a playoff berth in the final four games, injuries have deconstructed them, and Richard Bachman might not be the #1. In all it has been a wild back-half to the AHL season, and one that has sent OKC into the sunset with much trepidation.

Tonight the Barons and Bulldogs play again, this time in Bricktown, but the teams look vastly different as the stakes down the stretch get much higher.

Hamilton still has a chance of making the playoffs. It is a slim one, but it is still a chance. Currently in tenth, but with a lone game in hand over Milwaukee, the Bulldogs are going to need help from the Marlies, and not the kind of help the Marlies want to give. With playoff clinching implications in mind, the Barons and Bulldogs might be in for one exciting game.

Led offensively by rookie dynamo, Charlie Hudon, and vet centerman T.J. Hensick the two have combined for well over 100 points and nearly 40 goals. They can play some hockey. Yet the team remains under 200 goals scored, but nearly 200 allowed. That’s an interesting crossing. Hudon, in particular, has cooled down in the back half of the season, and that has been problematic for the team. While the Nick Sorkin’s of the world pick up the slack, the struggle continues.

3-4-3-0 over their last ten games, clearly congruence is a major issue, and this has been a battle all season. Yet they were able to defeat Texas this week, so the team is certainly capable.

A good report on the team can be found here.

Oklahoma City has earned the right to play in the AHL postseason for the fifth time. Quite the achievement indeed. But things were dicey down the stretch, but now they have the opportunity to play with full belly of steam.

The return of Marincin, Musil, and Davidson will help mightily on the defensive side of the puck. Likewise, bringing Curtis Hamilton back in (after his first NHL stint) makes the offensive side of the puck just a tad more robust. With Bachman awaiting the arrival of his first born child, the Barons will rely heavily on Laurent Brossoit who gets the start tonight (27th in 28 games, yowza).

Rumored to be practicing is Kale Kessy, and if he is available for the postseason then the Barons will have a host of depth players on standby.

The good news, again, for OKC is that they can steady themselves in the final three games. They’ve had a brutal February through March, but April brings showers of blessings. Here is hoping that the team is prepped and ready for a battle.

A Look At The Barons Roster, Rampage Tonight

Photo by Steven Christy

UPDATE: Kyle Platzer, recently signing an ELC with the Oilers, has been added to the ATO parade with the Barons. Likewise, Kevin Noble from the Tulsa Oilers has been signed to a PTO.

The Oklahoma City Barons host the San Antonio Rampage tonight. The team from the Alamo city has clinched a spot in the AHL postseason, and by golly tickets are already on sale. With that in mind, tonight’s game could be a tightly wound grudge match or an absolutely debilitating game for the Barons who are in desperate need of wins.

Let’s take a look at what we have to work with.

Healthy RW – C.J. Stretch, Matt Ford, Brad Winchester, Travis Ewanyk, Kyle Platzer (ATO today)
Healthy LW – Ryan Hamilton, Curtis Hamilton, Kellen Jones, Mitch Moroz
Health C – Josh Winquist, Jason Williams, Chase Scahber, Jackson Houck

Josh Winquist has gotten a push lately, and has been showing great signs of improvement. I like that. But I like wins much more. Yet the minutes of Moroz and Houck continue to be protected, but with totals increasing as the injury situation continues to darken. I think you jumble the lines just a bit tonight against the Rampage. Facing a high skill, quickened team means that you gotta win face-offs promptly, and you have to be responsible with the puck. This team is super duper young, yet entirely capable of playing smart.

Healthy RD – Nick Pageau, Jordan Oesterle, C.J. Ludwig
Healthy LD – Brad Hunt, Dillon Simpson, Joey LaLeggia, Kevin Noble (PTO today)

Ironically enough Nick Pageau, only playing his fifth AHL game ever, and C.J. Ludwig are the only true right-handed defenders left in the quiver. The ATO of Denver graduate, Joey LaLeggia, gives the Barons another healthy defensive option. They most recently only played with five healthy blue-liners in a rotation that certainly made Gerry Fleming’s eyes bulge out of his head like Roger Rabbit. He made it work, and he is a better coach for doing so.

LaLeggia, like a lot of players entering in to the pro ranks for the first time, will likely get thrown in to the fire just a bit. If he does stay “true” left than I expect a pairing with Oesterle. Regardless of my opinion, just having the extra skater will help the freshening of the legs in almost all circumstances.

Goaltending – Laurent Brossoit, Ty Rimmer, Tyler Bunz

Brossoit is still the go-to guy. With Bachman returning soon to Edmonton following the death of his brother (prayers for Richard and Devyn and family) the OKC Barons will ride three backstops. Why Rimmer? First of all, the Bako season ends this weekend. They want to give him reps. Bunz is probably still the runner up, but Rimmer, as we have come to find out, is a runner up part B. I’m not convinced Rimmer will play (he hasn’t since mid-January), but he certainly is practicing with the team. You will recall that Rimmer has missed the bulk of the season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer (which he soundly defeated!).

I was asked earlier this week, “Neal, can Richard Bachman make this OKC Barons team better?” My response, “Absolutely.” But he doesn’t solve the major problems the Barons have. Those are three-fold.

1) Defensive Sloppiness

The Barons are defensively sloppy both at the forward position and certainly on the blue line. This has caused Laurent Brossoit to be stung early and often. 2-6-2-0 over the last ten games is frightening to consider. They have been outscored 33 to 24 including a 7-3 spanking over a week ago via Adirondack. About half of those games, however, are a one-goal loss or defeat. This tells me that the Barons are either really bad or they are extremely close to winning, and you can flip a coin as to which it might be on a given night. I point mostly to defense for the goals allowed problem.

2) Lack Of Scoring

Again, the stats above show that scoring is a major issue, but one that can sort of resurrect itself. Ryan Hamilton has been adding points as a good long-in-the-tooth AHL player should at this point in his career. Yet the Barons are getting scoring from Josh Winquist and Mitch Moroz, but other than Hamilton it is hard to tie down a specific goal leader. Andrew Miller and yes, Anton Lander and Iiro Pakarinen continue to leave major holes in the lineup. Andrew Miller is still the team’s leading scoring and he hadn’t quite reached the 60 game mark upon leaving for Edmonton. Jason Williams (49 pts), Matthew Ford (47), and Brad Hunt (47) are the only players with 40+ points on the season. Who will the team turn to? I’ll get back to you on that.

3) Injuries

Of course, injuries are killing this team. The list – Juhar Khaira, Steve Pinizzotto, Connor Jones, Kale Kessy, Akim Aliu, Tom Mele, Bogdan Yakimov, martin Gernat, Kellan Lain

Yowza.

The Rampage are just killing the averages, and lately seem unbeatable as they secured their spot as the West Division leader. Nine victories in a row, 43 wins on the season, one of the hottest teams in the league – you don’t want to face them in the playoffs. You also don’t want to face them if your team is skidding out of control heading in to the post season.

San Antonio is 8-1-2-0 against OKC this season. Six of the eleven games have been decided by at least a goal, but there have been some lopsided decisions of late including the February 28th win by OKC where the Barons scored four unanswered.

The game starts at 7pm central, and should be interesting given the newly added Houck and newly newly added Kyle Platzer. Go Barons!

Barons Begin Road Trip (Hopefully No Stumble) Against #2 Griffins

Photo by Steven Christy

When you trip sometimes you fall. Sometimes you catch yourself, pull friends down with you, spill your coffee, twist an ankle, scuff up an elbow, or split your pants. Simply “falling” sounds better.

A road trip like the one the Oklahoma City Barons will entertain for three days will be a test, and here is hoping that they avoid catastrophe.

The team has only gone .500 over their last ten games yet still have retained their top spot in the Western Conference. By comparison, the Grand Rapids Griffins have gone 8-0-2 in their last ten but 10-0-2 in their last twelve. They’ve won eight straight on a tear through the lumpy Midwest. The Griffs experienced a trip, but instead of falling or stumbling or making a fool of themselves, they’ve taken steps to becoming the best in the West.

So the two go head-to-head tonight with Laurent Brossoit in net and Peter Mrazek (current AHL player of the week) at the other end. One of the league’s best scorers in Teemu Pulkkinen facing off against an Andrew Miller who is ten points behind. Scoring defender Nathan Paetsch against a similar player in Brad Hunt. The team’s match up with one another very well, and if you watch one game in March, this might be the one to consider.

The Barons have added C.J. Ludwig to round out the bottom pairing on defense, and Akim Aliu to add a bit of angst to the forward core in the absence of Steve Pinizzotto.

Game starts at 6:00pm central time. Tune in, this one is going to be a good one.

OKC Barons Host Lake Erie Monsters This Weekend

Photo by Steven Christy

The weekend has arrived and so have the Monsters. Not Godzilla. No Bigfoot. No Babadook (if you’ve not seen this film, see it with the lights on). Instead we get the always ferocious group of hockey folk from Ohio (God’s country) where there just might be a scary creature hiding in the waters, but most certainly on the ice.

The Lake Erie Monsters are having a rough go this season. Just barely over .500 mid-way through the season, the team from the Cleveland area can’t seem to pull the strings to get Pinocchio to dance. Coming off two big wins against San Antonio, and two losses against the Iowa Wild, the Monsters are attempting to gain as many points as they can before the hunt for playoff spots officially begins.

Nestled in eleventh place in the Western Conference just behind Hamilton and Texas, they are the only team in the league who haven’t passed the 41 game mark. This means they have games in hand on everyone as we march in to February, and that’s good news even for team’s with the worst of luck.

The Monsters are a team that can score (115 goals on the season), but struggle to keep the puck out of their own net. Tied for the second most goals allowed in the Western Conference, the squad is really out-matched defensively. Those same defenders love to score, they just don’t love to defend, and that’s a problem (also see Brad Hunt).

Led by two defenders (one currently with the squad), the point snatchers for the Monsters are Maxim Noreau and Stefan Elliot (the latter with Nashville at the moment). Behind them are five Monsters with twenty points or more including three with ten or more goals a piece. While strong defending is usually a mark of the Monsters, the forwards on this squad have a tendency to be burned. Not good.

With save percentages above .900 the two Monsters tenders to watch are Calvin Pickard, who gets the most starts, and backup Sami Attokallio. While the percentages suggest they aren’t entirely awful, they both are very close to allowing three goals a piece per game, and that’s probably a big problem. Again, both blue line defending and offensive posturing are issues, so these goaltenders aren’t entirely to blame.

What the Monsters are saying:

Agozzino had a goal and an assist last time out to help the Monsters to a win, and he has become the second Monster this season to notch goals in three straight games.  Agozzino has 10 goals on the season.  Agozzino is also plus-four over his last two games and plus-six over his last five games.

Look for a Bachman / Brossoit double-take at home this weekend. Bachman is in the top ten in the most important statistical categories in the AHL (Saves, Wins, SV%), and Brossoit has show flashes of brilliance. Both have things to prove, and will look to further enhance their teams chances of remaining the best team in the West.

Ryan Hamilton, Josh Winquist, Kale Kessy, and Kellan Lain remain on the injured list for the Barons, but luckily all seven defenders on the team are healthy. No news on whether or not a call-up is coming to replace the injured Nikitin in Edmonton, but I assume it happens sometime this weekend. Assume for a moment that Davidson goes, that allows Gernat/Musil to play more consistent minutes without healthy scratches. That’s good news.

Gernat / Musil / Marincin have all been wildly inconsistent, but a good break might have done them well. Look for these three specifically to prove themselves down the stretch. They need to make good on some sideways play for the last three weeks.

Big things are happening for the underdog, Iiro Pakarinen. He responds well to being centered by Bogdan Yakimov which points every bit to the sensational play by the centerman that Edmonton really really wants to be a good one.

From the team:

“It was important to get back on our skates after a well deserved break. We have a lot of guys banged up, and the break has given us a time to get them back in.” – Gerry Fleming

The game begins tonight at 7pm. See you then!

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!

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!

The Barons Battle #1 In The West Division In San Antonio

Photo by Steven Christy

The San Antonio Rampage have won seven straight games. They’ve gone 7-3-0-0 in their last ten. They are currently sitting in the divisional lead with 24 points. As the Oklahoma City Barons travel to San Antonio for another game against the Rampage, we think back on the recent history these two have conjured up.

The Barons are currently on a four game winning streak, with their most recent loss being delved out by, you guessed it, the Rampage. They played four games prior to that time, and the Rampage won them all. All Rampage vs Barons games this season (save for one) have ended in a San Antonio victory by one goal with one settled in overtime, and two more in the shootout. Needless to say these two teams match up very well, they are familiar with one another, and by golly, they just don’t play nice. Tonight, in San Antonio, the ending is hopefully better for OKC, but the chances are high that things go the way of taut.

The Rampage haven’t played since November 23rd. The Barons, on the other hand, have played twice in that same span. They battled in both games, won both games, and somehow managed to move past the .600 mark, and in to second place in the West Division in front of Texas, Charlotte, and Iowa.

With both the Rampage and Barons surging prior to December, tonight’s game has the makings of a true barn burner. Televised on Fox Sports Southwest, with a bit of nastiness amongst the two, and both jockeying for the top spot in their division, the time to win is now. Enjoy it while you can, they won’t play again until two days after Christmas. Enjoy? I meant stomach.

Michael Houser likely gets the start for the Rampage tonight with Dan Ellis up with the big club. Rocco Grimaldi will ease in on a third line. And the top six for the Rampage likely stays in tact. And per usual, watch out for Ryan Martindale, who likes to play tough minutes against his former team. With Alex Petrovic playing very well on the defensive side, the team is continuing to round the edges of any imperfections. That’s scary.

Likely Rampage Lineup:

Wilson-Olson-Butler
Brickley-Shore-Mancari
Yogan-Martindale-Grimaldi
Megan-Hodges-Shaw

Zanon-Petrovic
O’Brien-Kampfer
Racine-Weegar

Houser

The Barons remain healthy, and full of options on offense. The rotation of healthy forwards continues for tonight’s game as well. Anton Lander, getting his first healthy scratch of the season, will be back in against the Rampage. Matt Ford likely comes back in as well, and perhaps Curtis Hamilton and Mitch Moroz are up next. This is a great problem to have – too many forwards – rolling in to December. And with rumors of Matt Hendricks banged up in Edmonton, perhaps they’ll have spare forward lying around to help ease the burden of missing one in the NHL.

Brossoit and Bachman are playing lights out, and I think Nelson goes back to Brossoit who played very very well a couple of nights ago in Cedar Park. Both become valuable options as we move in to the new year, and as the Oilers potentially move bodies (and personnel) around.

The game is available in Oklahoma via Fox Sports Oklahoma, so tune in around 7:30 for game coverage (in HD nonetheless).

Past tonight’s game, the Barons will play Utica on December 2nd, and then head out for a road trip through Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and back to Cedar Park (weird, I know). December is a good mix of road and home games, so there is a chance for you, me, and the world to catch some Barons games. Do that, and bring a friend.

GO Barons!

Back To Business, Barons At Stars Round Two

UPDATE: Rynnas will start. Bachman will start (via Jim)
On Wednesday evening, prior to the US turkeying and cranberrying, the Texas Stars outplayed the Oklahoma City Barons for nearly two and a half periods. In that span they owned the Barons, but it was the suddenly good Laurent Brossoit that would keep his team within spitting distance. The Barons would rattle off two straight goals in the final ten minutes of regulation to tie the game, thus forcing an OT frame. In that OT period, Matt Ford would score the game winner just past the four minute mark.

Andrew Miller, Iiro Pakarinen, and the aforementioned Matt Ford would score the three goals that broke the Stars back. In addition, Bogdan Yakimov would have two helpers, and things suddenly felt “okay” for the Barons after being completely owned by the home team in Cedar Park.

Brossoit would be the biggest story, to my eyes, having stopped 31 of 33, but was really good in a one goal, seventeen shots faced second period.

The Oklahoma City Barons scratched three healthy players on Wednesday including leading scoring Jason Williams. Expect Williams, as well as Ryan Hamilton and defender C.J. Ludwig to get back in to the game with a new set of players rotating out.

Wednesday’s Lineup:

Pakarinen-Lander-Pitlick
C. Hamilton-Yakimov-Miller
Moroz-Lain-Ford
Ewanyk-Khaira-Kessy

Davidson-Hunt
Musil-Oesterle
Simpson-Gernat

Only a few short days ago Ryan Garbutt was suspended two games for an incident where he kneed Edmonton Oiler, Taylor Hall. This has paved the way for Curtis McKenzie to be recalled to Dallas for at least two games or so. This could be monumental for the AHL Stars, as they try to snap their current seven game losing streak (a rare thing for the usually sturdy Texas Stars).

My adoration for Laurent Brossoit’s performance on Wednesday can also translate to the play of the opposing goaltender, Jussi Rynnas who was pretty good in 60:00 plus minutes of play. But expect Jack Campbell to be next in the rotation with Richard Bachman also getting a chance to start as well.

The Oklahoma City Barons have had difficulty struggling late in games through the first two months of AHL hockey. They have course corrected themselves just a bit, and Wednesdays three-goals-in-under-fifteen-minutes was a relief. They can score late, and they can still resurrect themselves when down.

The puck drops at 7:30 tonight, and then the Barons will pack up, and ship out for San Antonio almost immediately for a Saturday game (broadcast on Fox Sports SW or Fox Sports Oklahoma).

Lineups should be interesting for both teams, so join us as we cheer on the Barons.

Workin’ For The Weekend: Planes To Iowa “Pictures Of You”

Sometime soon I hope to take a trip to a cabin, preferably in a countryside not too far from here where a fire crackles nightly, and long walks through wooded areas seem like heaven on earth. I’ll probably bring my warm Coleman boots, my Cannon DSLR (which I still have no idea what I’m doing with), my North Face hat and gloves, my high-tech-super-fancy base layer, and most importantly my earbuds.

Between my ears my synapses will be thumping to one of the greatest mood albums of the 1980’s, The Cure’s Disintegration.

It’s awfully dark album to be so good, but it teeters on the verge of accessibility enough that it feels comfortable and recognizable. I’ve always enjoyed The Cure, not necessarily for their artistic, dour value, but because they made some really nice, and surprisingly beautiful music.

Recorded in a post-pop turn for the band, it was a turn back towards the goth rock foundation that the band had laid for themselves nearly ten years prior. But in the yearning to return to their roots, they also embraced the sonic change of the late-80’s sound as rock would become less electronic sounding and more guitar aggressive. That was fine with Smith, who penned some of the most amazing dream-like sounds that the decade had seen.

“Pictures Of You”, the final single of four released from the album, is probably one of my favorites the band has ever released. On the heels of uber popular tracks “Lovesong” and “Fascination Street”, “Pictures” was a combination of both tours through front man Robert Smith’s brain. Where “Lovesong” was a torch song, and “Fascination Street” was dark and twisty, “Pictures of You” awakened both sentiments in one gratifying culmination.

If you’ve never heard “Pictures of You”, stop and go listen. It is a really good late 80’s romp that would pave the way for early 90’s alt-rock better than most acts of that time. Smith with the sentimental higher voiced gravitas released about as good a vocal performance as he has given. Rumors are that he nailed it live too.

Lyrically it’s magical. When the only thing you have left of a memory is pictures, and they seem to be the closest thing to reality that you could imagine in that moment – whoa, deep. It is a song about regret or missteps that led to regret, and who hasn’t had regret in their life? I have. You have. We all have. So the touching moments from a sincerely deep and dark Robert Smith connect with a wide audience. It will forever be one of my favorite spins from The Cure, as well as one of my favorite singles of the 80’s and 90’s.

Regret. Don’t let it happen. Choose to make decisions today that impact the future positively. That’s a broad analogy for our Oklahoma City Barons, but hey, it’s November, I’m cold, and this feels appropriate. So here is the challenge today – no regret, play hard, work hard, and never find yourself looking at pictures alone in a dark room. It isn’t good for anybody. (cue the windswept empty noise from “Pictures of You” finale)

The last time the Oklahoma City Barons played the Iowa Wild the “good” guys walloped the “bad” guys in back-to-back games both with two-goal victories. Luke Gazdic and Jujhar Khaira scored their first goals of the season, and Ryan Hamilton saran wrapped defenders to two goals for himself in game one. In game two four different Barons scored including C.J. Ludwig in his first pro goal in a pretty impressive game from the young defender.

The two Barons games included, the Iowa Wild would begin the season on a 2-5 skid. Post-Barons games they’d lose three in a row, and fire their first coach in franchise history, Kurt Kleinendorst.

On the firing, Tommy Birch had this to say (via Des Moines Register):

When the Iowa Wild took the ice last season, they did it with Kurt Kleinendorst leading them as the first coach in team history.

Kleinendorst is now just that — history.

Just 12 games into their second season in Des Moines, the Wild are making a change. According to a source with knowledge of the decision, Kleinendorst has been fired. The move is expected to be announced Tuesday morning.

He will be replaced by John Torchetti, the source said.

Torchetti​ was coaching the Houston Aeros before the Minnesota Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate made the move to Iowa. But, when he accepted a coaching job in Russia, the team went searching for a replacement and came up with Kleinendorst.

It’s been a disappointing tenure for Kleinedorst, whose teams struggled in his first and second season in Des Moines.

The Wild kicked off their first season in Des Moines finishing with a 27-36-7-6 record, finishing dead last in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference.

And so the team made a coaching move on November 10th. On November 12th they’d win for only the third time all season, but the first for Torchetti as Wild bench boss.

The plot thickens as the team hosts their first home game with Torchetti at the helm, and they will do so by welcoming the pretty-solid OKC Barons this Friday and Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

Let’s start with our own Oklahoma City Barons, whom are nearing 100% in the health department for the first time in about two weeks. The lone ranger on the day-to-day list remains Tyler Pitlick, and unless his concussion is worse than originally communicated, he gets back in the lineup tonight. Forward Bogdan Yakimov and defenseman Martin Gernat seem fully healthy, and look to increase their time on ice this weekend.

The squad only has one forward in the top 40 in league scoring, and that’s Jason Williams with eleven points in ten games. This doesn’t mean that the team isn’t scoring goals (nearly forty on the season), but rather that they are getting balanced scoring. By the end of the weekend Ryan Hamilton, Andrew Miller, Anton Lander, and the aforementioned Jason Williams will all probably be in double-digit point totals through thirteen games. That’s an interesting list as most aren’t considered true Oilers prospects in that they are filling gaps in the next two to three years in the NHL lineup. But that’s fine, and that’s why these players exist. With Iiro Pakarinen still churning out under-ten minutes a night with the Oilers, the team will certainly continue to lean on more seasoned players through the winter months.

Defensively we have seen the pairing of Brandon Davidson and Brad Hunt emerge as fourth and fifth forwards on the ice at times since the latter returned to AHL play. This is a product of “whom” Hunt is as a player, but the same can’t really be said for Davidson who has had to cover more defensive indiscretions for Hunt than you would probably like. This points to Davidson’s betterment, and Hunt’s ongoing defensive issues.

We will probably get a goaltending split this weekend. Look for Bachman on Friday and Brossoit on Saturday. The newly inspired Wild will give them everything they can handle under their new head coach’s tutelage. The Wild’s differential of nearly twenty goals is going to narrow with better coaching, and assume that they start to chip away at that almost instantly.

Turning our attention to the Wild, things aren’t completely doom and gloom for the team. They made a decision early enough in the season that the team could realistically gain ground on Charlotte and Grand Rapids in only a handful of games. Yet they are going to have to get big minutes defensively and in net if that is going to happen.

They’ve swapped a couple of players with parent club Minnesota in the last couple of days including Jonathan Blum for Stu Bickel, and Stephane Veilleux for Jordan Schroeder. The loss of Schroeder is monumental for the AHL Wild as he was their leading scoring through twelve games. But all is not completely lost as the sixth year AHL vet, Blum, comes back to Iowa after a one game stint in the NHL. And in an early morning transaction the Wild lose Justin Falk, and in return get back Christian Folin. Defensive swaps aplenty, and this might throw a bit of a wrench in the “gelling” of teammates. We will see.

Johan Gustafsson has logged nearly 500 minutes in net through nine games for the Wild, and he has averaged nearly three and a half goals in that span. Not good. And for a team somewhat anemic offensively, that’s even more discouraging. Stealing games is a tall order for a goaltender only playing his second pro season as a Minnesota Wild prospect. He will be fine…eventually.

The puck drops on Friday at 7:00pm, as well as on Saturday evening. Nestle in, Oklahoma, for a round of cold weather. Hug the radio or your wireless device for warmth. Cheer the Barons on, and GET A GOAL MITCH MOROZ!