Yann To Edmonton. Roy To OKC. Deck To Stockton. Moves Abound

Yann Danis Oilers Throwback
Photo by Rob Ferguson.

You move one, you move at least two others. Or so that’s where the Oklahoma City Barons find themselves today following a pretty great victory over the Texas Stars last night as they downhill sprint towards a playoff spot. Two goaltenders and a defenseman were moved, all are important in the grand scheme of the OKC Barons 2012-13 campaign.

Let’s start with the most minor of the transactions, which is actually anything but minor to Barons fans.

Announced today, the Oklahoma City Barons have re-assigned Nathan Deck to the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. Having been benched nearly the entire month of February after signing a standard player contract (previously PTO), the Barons elect to send the sturdy defender to Stockton while PTO’d players remain with the squad. Odd.

Also announced was the callup of Yann Danis to Edmonton as Nikolai Khabibulin is placed on the IR with a groin pull, an injury that has been ongoing for the Bulin Wall. Yann, playing the last three games for Oklahoma City, hasn’t been great, but he’s likely the best option at the moment. That leaves Niko Hovinen and Olivier Roy (pulled from Stockton) in OKC where they’ll form a tandem that pushes the Barons towards the playoffs.

A couple of interesting things going on here.

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Workin’ For The Weekend (Tuesday Edition): Tuesxas Stars “Circle In The Sand”

Belinda Carlisle Circle
We love Belinda. You should too.

Good grief, if the Go-Go’s weren’t fantastic. For three years, they wrote and performed some of the greatest pop music of the 80’s. Forget that they were an all-female outfit, a rarity up until that time, because they had armloads of talent that pales in comparison to others of the decade. They were so so good.

I was a toddler when the Go-Go’s came about, so I learned about them in reverse and through the lovely Belinda Carlisle. She too had some memorable tunes, albeit not nearly as sturdy as when she was with the Go-Go’s, but memorable nonetheless. Unlike the quick burning candle of her former band, Carlisle still churns out music for the fun of it, and that’s admirable.

“I Get Weak”, “Mad About You”, and of course, “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” were successful singles from her solo career. But the talent that oozed from Carlisle from day one (drums, guitars, vocals) is a common thread throughout her entire catalog of popular music. She was/is a keeper.

The lesser known, but chart hitting single, “Circle In The Sand” was a melodramatic MTV screen grabber. Belinda on the beach. Sultry keyboard with a beat. Eternal summer love. This one’s a winner by every stretch of the imagination. But there’s more to this song than just a young lady wandering aimlessly through the sand, recounting the steps she took throughout the relationship, it’s about a never ending cycle. “I begin where you end,” suggests that time has passed, but moving on is nearly impossible.

Spinning wheels, running in a circle, round and round we go – perhaps that’s the Oklahoma City Barons season in a nutshell. Really good as individuals to start the season, really bad as a team. Lose those really good players, start to look more like a team. But that team doesn’t have the really good players to sustain a tough season. The moving parts are indeed moving, but maybe in a circle, and unless your Belinda Carlisle on the beach…that’s not good.

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Barons Add Additional Scoring Piece In CJ Stretch

CJ Stretch
Photo via Flickr. All rights reserved.

As the Oklahoma City Barons begin their 25 game push towards earning a playoff spot in the AHL postseason, they are getting desperate. And that’s a good thing. Announced today, the Barons have added Ontario Reign center, C.J. Stretch to the team’s ever changing lineup.

Stretch, a Cali-kid, spent a full five seasons in the WHL where he notched a point per game or better two of his five seasons with the Kamloops Blazers. Since that time he’s played very well in the ECHL’s own Ontario Reign. Last season he went 20-30-50 in 45 games, and this season he’s near the top of the ECHL scoring race with 27-33-60 in 57 games. His 60 points this season has him hovering around a single season record for the Reign organization.

C.J. is a dynamic scorer at the ECHL level. Small in stature, but with a mustache worth a million bucks, he might become an Arcobello-like puzzle piece that fits nicely amongst the current crop of Barons circa February 2013.

I wrote yesterday, that I believed the Barons would struggle to find the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, and clearly OKC feels the same way. GM, Bill Scott, typically reacts to the current state of the team by using “outside sources” to fill cracks in the facade. And when he reacts, it’s with caution and superior foresight. He should pride himself in his desperation because sometimes it works, and I think this signing is a good example of that.

Official Release:

The Oklahoma City Barons have signed center C.J. Stretch to an American Hockey League PTO, General Manager Bill Scott announced today.

Stretch, a 5-11, 195-pounder from Irvine, Calif. has played this season with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL. With the Reign, he has scored 60 points (27-33-60) in 57 games played. His 33 assists are good for the team lead, while his 27 goals is second on the club. Last season, he split time between the Reign and the Houston Aeros. With Houston, he played in 23 games and registered six assists. With Ontario, he registered 50 points (20-30-50) in 45 games. In all, he has appeared in 218 professional games, scoring 150 points (57-93-150).

Prior to turning pro, Stretch played five full seasons with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. In 341 games over four seasons, he scored 248 points (85

Can (or Will) The Barons Make The Playoffs?

Um, Barons, the exit from the playoffs is this way. Photo by Steven Christy.

Can and will are two completely different things. Can is a verb about ability. Will is a want or desire. Two very different things. And this season, the Oklahoma City Barons currently sit in fourth place of the South Division in the Western Conference, I’ll consider can, but probably not will. Starting Tuesday, the team will begin the 25 game downhill slalom towards the playoffs. With many poles to dodge and courses to navigate, OKC is in a race against the clock. Time might be running out.

Those that follow AHL hockey, both writers and fans, have some commanility in determining the number of standing points needed to make the playoffs. That number is around 86, and that’s comparable to last season. I agree, but I think the range is 85-90. The teams in the South are highly energized and focused. The teams in the Midwest are notoriously feisty down the stretch. Teams in the North have knack for “muddying the waters”. And so the win mark, especially in the West, will be hovering around the back end of the 80’s. Good luck.

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Oklahoma City Goes Scoreless On The PP, Houston Wins

Oh the sweet taste of victory. How my senses long for your sweet lingering presence. ‘Twas a fleeting moment this weekend, but your potent aroma left my thoughts as soon as you let in a few leaky goals. Fin.

After beating the Houston Aeros at their own game (protect, PROtect, PROTECT) the night before, the Houston Aeros gave it right back on Saturday night in the Toyota Center. The Barons would go scoreless on the power play as the Houston Aeros held on to a victory on the wings of a two goal opening period with a final score of 2-1.

The first period was the best of times and the worst of times for Oklahoma City. Owning the puck possession for the first ten minutes was good. Some incredible forward play was good. Fading for two shifts, letting in a goal, and seeing the momentum swing is not good. And that’s what happened. The Barons, having their defense around the net suddenly fall apart, gave up a goal to Aeros’ newcomer Dan DaSilva in his debut with the team. Martin Marincin would give a really long distance pass to Mark Arcobello that just missed the blade of an Aeros defender, and eventually the show was walloped in behind Matt Hackett. Despite scoring a goal off a fluky pass Houston still owned the momentum. And they’d carry that through the final moments of the period as Steven Kampfer scored a through-traffic goal, his first of the year. OKC indeed scored a goal, owned half of the first period, but they’d lose a grip on the confidence as Houston takes a 2-1 lead after the first frame.

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Eric Hunter Recalled From Stockton, Kristians Pelss Injured

AHL Hockey: Oct 05 Barons vs Aeros Preseason
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy.

Eric Hunter, centerman for the Stockton Thunder, has been recalled to the Oklahoma City Barons this morning. In what is likely a fill-in role for the injured Kristians Pelss (seen leaving the Cox Center in a protective boot last night), Hunter will step into the lineup quickly. Perhaps this evening in Houston.

Pelss, who has been playing pretty well on a line with Toni Rajala, was apparently injured in the early portions of the game last night in Oklahoma City. I can’t place the time or instance in my mind now, but he was gone from the bench was not spotted on there for the remainder of the game.

The addition of Hunter, a “true” center, does shuffle the lineup around just a bit, but probably less than we think. I’d place Hunter at center, move Josh Green back to wing, and allow Rajala to stay on the opposite side. And that’s likely what will happen unless Coach Nelson sees Hunter fitting elsewhere in the lineup (but I don’t know where).

Eric Hunter had two previous games this season with the Oklahoma City Barons, and not much to show for it. What is interesting though is that the Barons continue to bury Cameron Abney in the ECHL. It’s always odd when a prospect is passed over by a non-prospect, but in Abeny’s case, that’s what is happening.

Official Release:

The Oklahoma City Barons recalled forward Eric Hunter from the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, General Manager Bill Scott announced today.

With Stockton this season, Hunter has 38 points (17-21-38) in 56 games played. The 6-1, 194-pounder has appeared in two games with the Barons this season, both against Houston. He also attend training camp with the Barons prior to the start of the season. During the 2011-12 campaign, he played in 75 games with the Lake Erie Monsters and scored 16 points (6-10-16).

Prior to turning pro, Hunter played four seasons at the University of Alberta. In 105 games with the Golden Bears, he scored 98 points (40-58-98). Prior to attending the University of Alberta, he played five seasons with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. He scored 233 points (111-122-233) in 323 games played with the Cougars. Hunter’s 111 goals and 233 points are Cougars’ franchise records in those categories.

Oklahoma City Barons Hold On To Beat Houston Aeros

Houston vs. Oklahoma City Barons 2-22-13
I think he’s happy. Photo by Rob Ferguson.

After the Barons scored their first goal of the evening, I tweeted something to the effect of “I know they are nursing a small lead, but this feels like one they could squander.” And if Friday’s third period had been five minutes longer, the Barons might have squandered more than just a one goal lead. They could have lost a game after leading by three goals.

But the hockey gods intervened and the Barons held on to beat the Houston Aeros on home ice, 4-3. Goals by Toni Rajala, Philippe Cornet, Curtis Hamilton, and Jonathan Cheechoo got the job done.

The first period was a tame one for both clubs. A Jonathan Cheechoo high stick gave the Aeros a two minute man advantage that was ugly from the first second (Houston has scored only one PP goal in the last 41 chances to that point). And the Barons had a few great chances and smart play by the “heavy” line of Darcy Hordichuk, Tanner House, and Erick Lizon. The Barons would get a full power play chance, would have one good scoring opportunity, and squander the rest of the time. The period as a whole was timid and overly cautious. But as the first twenty ended, the Barons started to grind the gears a little quicker. Philippe Cornet gets roughed up just enough by yeoman defenseman, Paul Mara, and OKC went on the PP to end the period. 0-0 after one.

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Workin’ For The Weekend: Houston, We’ve Gotta Solve ‘Em “Into The Groove”

AHL Hockey: Oct 26 Barons vs Aeros
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy.

I’ll get right to the heart of the matter. I’m a God-fearing, OKC-pastoring, mild-mannered individual. Yet, Madonna’s “Into The Groove” is my jam. It’s not that I love Madge’s entire catalog of sugary pop candy, it’s that this song in particular gets glued to your inner ear from the first millisecond the song begins. If I were in a John Hughes film, my character would make his onscreen debut jogging at 6:30 in the morning, in a slightly fall scene in a suburb of Chicago, gloriously wearing a pair of beat up Nike running shoes, yellow Sony Walkman attached to my hip, with matching ear phones blaring “Into The Groove” as I rounded each corner in a sweaty fervor. If that doesn’t paint you a picture of my favoritism towards this song (and 80’s music in general) I don’t think much else will.

Originally featured in the Desperately Seeking Susan soundtrack lineup, the track would eventually become one of Madonna’s earliest truly great pop songs. Partially written by her, all the typical Lady M trademarks are there. But the synthesizing over the drum machines, the double-tracked vocalizing, and the overall entertainment value of the whole thing sticks out as a true 80’s classic.

“Get into the groove”, “Get up on your feet, yeah” – it’s a song that demands action. And there’s no double-entendre here, the song is about suggestive things. But this should not take away from the pure enjoyment of a dance track that gets you moving, grooving, and perspiring.

The Barons need to find a groove. They’ve not entirely hit the skids. As a matter of fact, they are 5-3-0-2 in the last ten games with the two most recent losses coming at the hands of the league’s best team at the moment, the Texas Stars. The groove that I speak of needs to be specific, and I have a suggestion.

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OKC Blaze trounce the OKC Barons — But it’s all good!


Photo courtesy of Steven Christy - Copyright 2013.
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy – Copyright 2013.

For two years I have attended the GODSA fundraiser wheelchair basketball game between the OKC Barons and the OKC Blaze and if you have never attended, I highly recommend it. It’s great fun – lots of laughs and you will be very impressed with the athletes of all ages. The game is part of a fundraiser by the Greater Oklahoma Disabled Sports Association (GODSA) to assist with purchasing sports equipment for their athletes and help with travel expenses to national competitions. Attendees can also participate in a silent auction for a number of items, usually including some Barons items as well.

Last night Barons players Kristians Pelss, Erick Lizon, Ryan Martindale, Martin Marincin, Darcy Hordichuk, Taylor Fedun and Andrew Hotham faced the OKC Blaze team – a very good team ranging from about 5 years old on up. It is fun experience to watch! These professional athletes – who are in prime condition don’t have a chance! And to watch a 5-year old get the best of one of the Barons hockey players is the best thing ever!

From the beginning it became clear that the Baron’s primary weapon was Andrew Hotham who must have played a bit of basketball in his time since he was the leading scorer for the team with 10 points, and Fedun followed with 4 points. Martin Marincin was the surprise last night since he picked up the maneuvers very quickly and impressively, and easily became the team’s best defensive player. Erick Lizon had the play of the night when he tossed his hat at the ball, grabbed the rebound and then bounced the ball off of Martin Marincin’s head soccer style. Well done, Erick! Marty seemed a bit surprised by the move, but he’s used to a bit of soccer style hockey at practice.

All of the guys had a great time being outmaneuvered by the Blaze team, sharing a lot of laughs and even a few spills on the court. In the end the Blaze triumphed over the Barons 37 to 24. Not a surprise at all!

Nathan Deck Sheds PTO, Now On Two-Way AHL Deal

AHL Hockey: Jan 31 Barons vs Checkers
Photo by Steven Christy.

Nathan Deck, the Barons least likely of success stories in 2012-2013, has signed a brand new contract. Shedding his 25 game PTO, the team could have elected to place him on a second wave of 25 games, but seemingly wanted to make a further investment. His 2-way, AHL contract is a good addition to the OKC lineup. Having sat out for a stretch of games (while contract negotiations were on-going), his presence was missed.

Deck fills a very important need within the Barons organization and that’s solid puck moving while simultaneously playing smart, defensively grounded hockey. He’s not fast. He’s not big. He’s not heavy. He’s not punishing. He’s a smallish defender who plays simple, fundamentally sound hockey, who like Mark Arcobello, is a product of the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL. Look for Deck to get back into the lineup this weekend as Theo Peckham moves north, and the Barons attempt to wiggle into the playoff picture in the American Hockey League.

Official Release:

The Oklahoma City Barons have signed defenseman Nathan Deck to a two-way American Hockey League contract, General Manager Bill Scott announced today.

Deck, 22, joined the Barons December 3 and had an immediate impact, recording an assist on his first shift of his first AHL game. With the Barons, he has scored six points (1-5-6) in 25 games. Before joining the Barons, the 5-11, 185-pounder from Sedley, Saskatchewan has amassed 43 points (12-31-43) in 79 games with the Stockton Thunder over two seasons.

Prior to turning pro, Deck played four full seasons with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League. In 272 games over those four seasons, he scored 118 points (22-96-118).