Last night, the Oklahoma City Barons suffered their fifth occurrence of letting the opposing team score to either tie or win the game in the last 2 minutes of the 3rd period. Last night's resulted in a shootout loss to the Chicago Wolves. With the top 7 teams in the Western Division all within 4 points of each other, every point is a premium right now, especially with the Barons being in the upper half of the division in games played. It's been awhile since I've posted so I'll just give a big update on all the big things that's happened lately.
No, seriously, can we play in the blue uniform?
In the AHL, the home teams regularly wear the white uniforms, while the road team will wear their colored uniforms. The Barons returned home from their 7 game road trip last night, losing to the Wolves in the shootout. This, after the team had gone 6-1-0-0 on the road trip. The Barons are 10-9-2-4 within the Cox Convention Center, whereas the team has gone 15-7-0-1 on the road this season. Within the division home records, that puts them 7th, ahead of only the Rockford IceHogs whose only impact on the playoffs this year is seeming to be who they're able to beat among the top 7. Head over to the road records, and the Barons are tied for 1st in the division with Peoria, who has the same exact road record. I don't know if Todd Nelson can pull any strings for this weekend, but it might be worth it to see how the team does in the road blues for the 2 games.
Can we finish a game please?
Like I mentioned earlier, last night was the 5th time that the Barons let the opposing team back in the game, or let them win the game, in the last 120 seconds of the 3rd period. The first instance came Oct 29th in Grand Rapids. Milan Kytnar had scored the leading goal at 4:03 in the 3rd, but the Barons let the Griffins tie it up at 18:53 on a goal by defenseman Brendan Smith. The Barons would later win the shootout.
The second, came against the Texas Stars on Dec 28th in OKC. The Barons had a 3-1 lead heading into the final period, but 1:49 in, Tomas Vincour would score to bring the Stars within 1, and Fabian Brunnstrom would tie the game at 19:11 to send the game into OT. This time the Barons weren't so lucky, losing in the shootout. The third time would come the very next night in San Antonio. Colin McDonald put a stop to the bleeding and tied the game at 3 after the Barons let the Rampage score 3 straight in the 2nd period. 18:09 in the 3rd, Matt Watkins would score to put the Rampage ahead, and he would score 80 seconds later into the empty net to seal the deal.
Fourth, was during the aforementioned road trip. The Barons headed into Milwaukee after just coming off a loss to Lake Erie. With the game tied at 1 heading into the 3rd period, the Admirals would score at 1:36, and Alexandre Giroux would answer at 3:24 on the PP. After 15 minutes of scoreless hockey, Milan Kytnar would put the Barons up at the 18:40 mark to almost put the Barons on the giving end of these situations. It unfortunately would not play out to be after an untimely tripping penalty by Greg Stewart and the Roman Josi of the Admirals would tie it 14 seconds later. The Barons would pull this one out in the shootout though, to salvage the win.
Last night's recap
The Wolves came into town to take on the Barons for the 2nd time of 3 meetings in a week. Successive penalties by Colin McDonald and Shawn Belle would give the Wolves a 5 on 3 just 6 minutes into the 1st. The Wolves would take advantage and score with 5 seconds remaining on McDonald's penalty, and with 1 second remaining on Belle's penalty. Teemu Hartikainen, who played like a beast all night, would get one back after Milan Kytnar broke up a set play by the Wolves and Harski picked up the deflected pass and put it past goalie Drew MacIntyre.
Rolling into the 2nd, the Barons put a complete 180 on the game. After the Wolves pretty well dominated the Barons in the 1st, the Barons took it to the Wolves in the 2nd. Greg Stewart would put in a point shot from Alex Plante at 3:28 and 28 seconds later Brad Moran would put in a goal to put the Barons up 3-2. It wouldn't be very long-lived though as Fredrik Pettersson would score at the 16:33 mark to tie the game back up.
The 3rd period would end up being pretty choppy. Neither team could really find a handle on the puck. 7:52 in though, Matt Marquardt would get a great pass from Andrew Lord and just blast it by MacIntyre to put the Barons up 4-3. I'd venture to say that was a good pay off for breaking two sticks in practice earlier that day and another during the game. The Barons would hold off the Wolves attacks for most of the rest of the period, but Ryan Garbutt was able to get one past Martin Gerber to tie the game up at 19:26 with the extra attacker. The OT period would go by with a few chances, but no goals. Finally in the shootout, Colin McDonald would even up the shootout score at 1 in the 4th round and six rounds later, the Wolves Pettersson would strike again to put it all on Ryan O'Marra who wasn't able to score.
So about the finishing...
The Barons aren't actually the worst club when it comes to that. The Lake Erie Monsters have had it happen to them 5 times as well, but they've lost every instance. 3 times, they've given up the GW goal in regulation, and lost 1 in OT and another in a shootout. But this isn't to say the Barons haven't been on the giving end of one either. Twice, the Barons came back.
First, was the Barons first franchise win. The Monsters were in OKC and leading 3-0 until Brad Moran scored at 11:25 of the 2nd to begin the works of his natural hat trick. Then finally, at 18:37 of the 3rd, Linus Omark would put the game away. The second time again involved Linus Omark. You might have heard about his 5 goal game against the Toronto Marlies. After single-handedly keeping the Barons in the game, he would score at 19:13 of the 3rd on the extra attacker Power Play to tie the game and send it into OT. Omark would score his 6th goal in the shootout and Milan Kytnar would score the winner to end the game.
And to add to the nail biting...
The top 7 teams in the Western Division are separated by only 4 points. I can't say that enough. The top 4 teams have more points than all but Hamilton in the Northern Division. The only thing that puts the Barons(4th, 57 points) on the bad end of this predicament is they've played 48 games while only Houston(3rd, 58 points) and Chicago(7th, 55 points) have played more at 50. San Antonio(2nd, 58 points) has played the same as the Barons with 48. Peoria(1st, 59 points) has played 46 while Milwaukee(5th, 56 points) and Texas(6th, 55 points) have only played 45 games. While the Rampage and Aeros are easy enough to catch, the Admirals and Stars are going to be hard to fend off. And to make it better, 10 out of the next 12 are against division rivals. It's definitely going to be a tough stretch.
Big Milestones attached to a new team
The Barons have had the good fortune of having two players on the team that have reached significant milestones. Alexandre Giroux scored his 600th point on December 18th in a SO loss to San Antonio. Bryan Helmer, who was signed after the Oilers called up both Jeff Petry and Taylor Chorney, broke the AHL record for most career points scored by a defenseman with his 520th point on January 13th in a 7-2 blowout of Peoria. The next milestone? Bryan Helmer is on pace to play in his 1000th game when the the Barons take on the Abbotsford Heat in the AHL Battle of Alberta in Calgary's Saddledome(which I really hope ends up on TV).
As I mentioned, it's a tough stretch against division foes coming up. Tomorrow night, the Barons take on the Texas Stars who are on a 2 game win streak. Saturday night, the Barons take on the Chicago Wolves for the 3rd time this week. Next week, after the All Star break, is the matchup everybody's been waiting for. The Peoria Rivermen come into town for a two game set on Feb 3rd and 4th. The last time they were in town, they got two wins and left a bad taste in the mouths of Barons fans. Ryan Reaves pummeled on Jake Taylor on the ice and the referee nor any of the other Barons did anything to jump in. Reaves had a stay with the Blues, but is back in Peoria. Hopefully he's around next week when they come in.
I want to apologize for the lack of posts. I started a new job that has broke my original schedule so I'm still adjusting to it. Something this long though has gotten me back into the swing. Hopefully I'm able to keep it up. I'm hoping for a good run to the playoffs and beyond, it's been a great season so far.
-Written by Eric Rodgers-