In the second preseason game for the Barons, they’d face the familiar Houston Aeros. After beating a similar lineup the night before, the Oklahoma City team looked to add to the exhibition tally in the win column. They’d do it without Tyler Bunz, who was assigned to Stockton Friday night, and a few familiar names that sat the night before. The 12-13 debut of Tyler Pitlick, Josh Green, Dane Byers, and Magnus Paajarvi were amongst the few Barons many were anxious to see. In net, Yann Danis would return as he embarked on another campaign as the league’s best goaltender.
Early on, it seemed that the Barons were content to give up the puck, and not do much to capitilize on early Houston penalties. Mikael Granlund, after a forgetabble night on Friday, roared back with some serious wheels and two goals in the first period. The Barons defense caved a little, found little razzle dazzle, and was deep in a 2-0 hole. Until Tyler Pitlick broke free on a puck, beat every able body on the ice, soared down the right wing and unloaded a quick shot over Aeros’ goaltender Darcy Keumper.
The second period wasn’t much different. A few high quality chances from Justin Schultz, Magnus Paajarvi, and Chris Vande Velde went nowhere. As Alex Plante and Teigan Zahn took exception to some posturing in front of Danis, a roughing penalty put the Aeros on the advantage again. And again, Granlund would be a part of the plan. Charlie Coyle would press in a puck that was centered by Granlund, and the Barons go back to a two goal deficit. To end the period, Schultz roared to life with an end-to-end dangle that caught the Aeros defenders off guard. He couldn’t finish, but realized the need for a spark, and hopefully gave the team a nudge in the right direction. Period two ends with a 3-1 score.
The third period was a dagger. Granlund scored two earning the hat trick plus one, and Charlie Coyle added another. Ryan Martindale was the only offensive bullet in the barrel for OKC, as he made the game a tad more respectable. The Aeros walloped the Barons, 6-2, and we learned just how deadly an athlete Granlund really might be.
A mid-game goalie change for Houston didn’t aid the Barons, as a matter of fact, Matt Hackett played a better net game for Houston. The defense couldn’t alter the outcome. Alex Plante and Teigan Zahn were nasty penalty takers. Even the vets couldn’t leave a lasting impression. Dane Byers looked so-so in spurts, and Josh Green seemed sluggish. Yann Danis couldn’t steal the game, and gave up six goals, which was a rarity last season.
It’s hard to sum up a lopsided preseason game like this, but I’ll try in two words – Mikael Granlund. He’s a Finnish finisher that is going to be a dandy of an NHL player one day.
One thing to consider for both teams – penalties. The game of hockey is relatively simple. Most of the time, the team taking fewer penalties is the victor. Late, when the game could have been swayed, the Barons took stupid penalties. Grabbing and reaching. Punching and jockeying. It became desperate with 15 minutes remaining.
The season begins October 12th, and the team suited up on that day will be even better than the preseason version, and thank goodness.