Remember the scene in 'Back to the Future' when Michael J. Fox's Marty meets up with Doc Brown at the Twin Pines Mall parking lot? He sees and hears all sorts of crazy time travel nonsense. He wants to believe what the Doc is selling, but he just can't fathom that it's possible. Suddenly, Marty finds himself in that altered DeLorean outrunning hostile Libyan terrorists. He floors it, eventually revs up to 88 mph, and boom, he's off. The car comes to a crashing halt in a barn somewhere at sometime. Is he in the past? Did it really work? Was what the Doc said actually coming true? Eventually he makes it to the town square, where things certainly don't appear to be November 5th, 1985 anymore, but rather November 5th, 1955.
As the Barons awoke from an offensive nightmare during opening weekend, fans weren't quite sure what to expect in week two. With Teemu Hartikainen being the only offensive spout on the squad, you could only hope that the team would awaken from their training camp / preseason / assignment / moving comas and play better after a full week of practice.
In true 'Back to the Future' form, the Barons had a Marty McFly moment. While still stuck in la-la land where power play goals are non-existent, the Barons had to believe that time travel was possible. As they mustered the strength to get back on the ice after two embarrassing losses, they traveled to a higher level of play, one that we had been waiting to see. Were we ever going to see the future Oilers playing strong, or would they be stuck in the doldrums of the past?
A three game weekend following a full week of practice might just be what the doctor ordered. The AHL scheduling gods smiled upon the Barons as their second weekend of play featured a pair of home games on Friday and Saturday, and an early afternoon Sunday away game.
After suffering a home opening loss to the Houston Aeros a week before, the Barons were ready to delve out a healthy dose of revenge. Or were they? They continued their power play struggles eventually getting to a mark of 0-for-17 with a man advantage. An embarrassing achievement for sure and one that no Oilers' or Barons' fan anticipated. Houston would score first followed by a very important goal by a Baron other than Teemu Hartikainen. A forward line featuring Alexandre Giroux, Brad Moran, and the goal scorer Colin McDonald finally clicked to tie the game at one. Houston would go on to win it in overtime, but that game set an important trend for the two remaining games on the weekend schedule.
Saturday evening's game brought the Lake Erie Monsters to Oklahoma City along with their two gunslingers Matthew Ford and Ryan Stoa, both of whom have never met a shot they didn't take. Backed by veteran goaltender John Grahame, the Barons were in for a tough test on home ice.
Lake Erie came out quickly and scored the first three goals, two of which were in the first period. The Barons were behind and seemed unable to dig themselves out of a hole. But then, as if the clouds parted and lightning bolts struck the Barons' sticks, they found some incredible offense, and quite frankl,y they found it in a surprisingly place. Everyone's favorite 31-year-old, B.C. native, Brad Moran, took matters into his own hands by scoring three consecutive goals followed by an exclamation point by Linus Omark. Baffled and elated were the fans in Oklahoma City. This was the future of hockey in Oklahoma City that we had been waiting for.
The high of Saturday's Lake Erie game spilled over into Sunday, despite the eight hour bus ride down to Houston. The Barons, having been dismantled twice by the Aeros, seemed ready and willing to face this team one more time.
Alexandre Giroux played passionate and strong hockey to open the game in Houston, and scored the opening goal in the early moments of period one. Period two began in similar fashion as Giroux again scored a goal in the opening minutes. Colin McDonald followed suit and scored a goal followed by a Houston Aeros tally towards the end of period two. Somehow, the Barons had played both ends of the ice well enough to protect a lead and Bryan Pitton, who was giving Martin Gerber the night off, found ways to keep his team in a position to win.
The third period began with the Aeros scoring their final goal of the evening, their best attempt at inching back into the game. But it was not to be; Jeff Petry, Liam Reddox, Linus Omark, Teemu Hartikainen, and Chris Vande Velde scored the last five(!) goals as the Barons defeated the Aeros 8-2.
At last, a game that was punctuated by an offensive outburst instead of a struggling power play. Even though the Barons allowed nine power play opportunities, the Oklahoma City squad killed off each and every one of them. It was a commanding win on the scoreboard, but it wasn't without its bumps and bruises.
So where does the team head from here? I'd like to think that lines are starting to take shape, and the team's mentality is becoming a strong force on the ice. The Barons desperately needed a weekend like this to build momentum as they face an upcoming schedule that includes a US/Canadian televised game in Hamilton on October 24th. It's time for this team to stop looking back and head into the future.
- It appears that a captain has been named. Saturday's game versus Lake Erie marked the first time for a "C" to appear on a jersey. Ben Ondrus appears to be the guy, and the alternates look to be Alexandre Giroux, and Shawn Belle.
- 0 for 20 was the crescendo of the power play drought for the Barons. It was a head-scratcher of the greatest proportions, but the floodgates were opened on Brad Moran hat trick night.
- The line of Giroux/McDonald/Moran is firing on all cylinders. These three have suddenly learned to play together; it's a combination that we'll see much more of in the near future.
- 3,349 & 3,259 were the attendance totals in the Cox Center for the Friday/Saturday games. Disappointing in my opinion, but the team is still so new to the area, and with success (hopefully) comes ticket sales. On the other hand, over 19,000 total tickets have been sold over the two weekends. That's fourth best in the AHL.
- Shawn Belle continues to surprise me. He is so strong and physical that when he handles the puck there is a lot of space around him. He takes way too many silly penalties especially when his team can't afford them. If he can somehow match his wits with his skates, he'll make for a competent D man even at the NHL level. Plus, he seems to be a crowd favorite in Oklahoma City. Many "he's a bruiser" comments from the gallery.
- A 13-goal, 23-assist weekend puts a smile on even the most downtrodden face.
- Liam Reddox already has 24 shots on net, but only one has made it between the pipes. That places him 4th in the AHL. Boy, that guy likes to shoot.
- Martin Gerber continues to get better with each game. However, Bryan Pitton can dazzle when he wants to. He may not have the experience, but he did stop 29 of 31 in his lone appearance on Sunday afternoon.
- Shawn Belle has 3 power play assists to his name, exactly the type of offensive helpers you want from your guys on defense.
- Tuesday, October 19th Lake Erie at Oklahoma City
- Friday, October 22nd San Antonio at Oklahoma City
- Saturday, October 23rd Oklahoma City at Toronto
- Sunday, October 24th Oklahoma City at Hamilton (CBC in Canada, NHL Network in the US)