As the AHL week's continue, the battle for the Western Division begins to get a little more exciting. In arguably, the most stout division in the league, the Barons are hanging tough near the top of the division. The Western Division would end the weekend games with four teams reaching 30 standing points. The other divisions combined, East and West, only have 6 amongst them. So as the teams down south duke it out, the Barons would head even further south to begin a road trip that would eventually end way up north in the frozen land of the Moose; Winnipeg.
Barons vs. Stars : The One Where JDD's Gloveside Goes on Vacation
It was a first period (and an entire game) that the Barons will try to erase from their minds. From top to bottom it got out of hand early and often. The team fell asleep offensively, were weak on defense, and unstable in net. Despite an early goal from Gregory Stewart who tapped in the rebound off a Ben Ondrus shot from 15 feet away, the Stars surged through the Barons defense to score three consecutive goals against starting goaltender Jeff Deslauriers. Luke Gazdic and Travis Morin scored back to back goals in almost a minutes time to quickly put the Barons down by one. Mathieu Tousignant scored in the waning minutes of the period to put the Stars up 3-1.
As period two began, Todd Nelson switched to Bryan Pitton in net. An interesting move that early in the game, but after giving up 3 goals in less than 10 shots to open the previous period no one was surprised. Right off the puck drop, Chris Vande Velde is called for tripping, and the Barons continue to shoot themselves in the foot. With three great chances to score, Pitton stood tall and denied them all as the Barons killed the power play chance for the Stars. Alex Plante, attempting to muster some oomph from somewhere, engaged Francis Wathier in a scrap, but it proved to be a one-sided affair as Wathier got a one-two shot in on Plante's temple. The Barons finally got a smidge of confidence on a power play opportunity following Liam Reddox's stick being slashed out of his hands. Giroux-McDonald-Moran had two great opportunities in the first minute of the power play. Hartikainen-Omark-Reddox rounded out the final minute with similar results. Richard Bachman shielded the goal nicely for the Stars as he would do for the remainder of the game. Pitton indeed stopped enough shots to give Teemu Hartikainen the opportunity to steal a short pass, zip it to Liam Reddox who'd flip it over Bachman's stick. The Barons were now down by only one with less than 10 minutes remaining in the period. Raymond Sawada would charge Bryan Pitton, clang it off the post while a Barons defender watched, and Colton Sceviour would score his third of the season. Barons 4, Stars 2. The Barons would finish period two short-handed on a 4 on 3 power play.
After killing the penalty to start period three, the Barons pressed things significantly stronger out of the gate than they had the first two periods. Pitton blocked a few sharp one-timers, and covered the puck quickly. However, at 6:54 Wathier caught Pitton dangerously out of postion as the puck sailed over his right shoulder. Up 5-2, the Stars continued their dominance throughout the period, and protected their three goal lead. The Barons had far too many mistakes amidst a strong performance by the Texas Stars.
The Moose Have Muscle
On a chilly, 12 degree Winnipeg evening, the Barons arrived at the MTS Centre for the first time in the 2010-11 season. Martin Gerber, joining the team on the road after enjoying some success with the Oil, gets the start in net while the Moose went with rookie Eddie Lack. The period began as a chess match with each side holding the puck in the offensive zone too long with very little shots on net. As the pace quickened, so did Liam Reddox. Reddox scored the first goal of the game after Marco Rossa made a lazy pass in front of his goaltender. He head faked his way to an unassisted goal and his thirteenth of the season. Nearly 10 minutes would pass before Manitoba made it to the scorecard. Jordan Schroeder backhanded a shot past Gerber following a Rossa pass, this time a good one. However, the Barons quickly countered when Alexandre Giroux hit a streaking Shawn Belle, who did what he prefers to do, and rocketed it towards Lack. The rebound quickly came off the goaltender's blocker, and was tapped home by the go-to-guy of late, Colin McDonald.
The second period was much more physical. At 4:45, Jordan Bendfeld gave a lofty elbow to forward Stefan Schneider. Scrums would ensue, but when all was said and done, Bendfeld gets 2 for elbowing and 2 for roughing. The Barons would struggle offensively through period two, but Gerber would keep them alive. His focus was evident from the puck drop, but most intense in period 2. He stopped two very difficult rebounds, and only allowed one goal during the frame. The Jonas Andersson/Marco Rossa/Jordan Schroeder lined played strong for the Moose all night, and scored the lone goal of period 2 when Lee Sweatt rifled a shot past Gerber for his fourth goal of the season. The Barons would finish period 2 going 0-4 on the power play, and a Taylor Chorney penalty would carry over to start period 3. Barons 2, Moose 2. The third was bound to be a good one.
The Barons killed the penalty to begin period 3, and would again kill a second as both teams were 0-4 on the power play through the night. Teemu Hartikainen would have a great chance to score, but just shot the puck wide. The Barons would get their fifth chance on the power play, but again would struggle to get it going. The Moose themselves were bitten by the no-goal-on-the-pp bug as they'd finish the game in regulation at 0-6. Back and forth the teams would go until regulation ended with a Barons 4 on 3 chance heading into OT.
In OT, the Barons had several chances as the PP ended. The Moose came back strong and gave Gerber a run for his money, however too many mistakes for both teams squandered any scoring steam they might have incurred.
Headed to a shootout, the Barons would run with Milan Kytnar, Teemu Hartikainen, Linus Omark, Alexandre Giroux, and Chris Vande Velde. Through five rounds, the game winner was scored by Manitoba's Sergei Shirokov. Barons fans were even treated to a 360 spinn-a-rama move by Linus Omark that didn't make it through, but gave everyone at the MTC Centre a reason to "ooohhh" and "aaahhh".
The Barons were shaky at times. Gerber was strong, but didn't get the offensive help he needed to put the Barons on top. Getting the point against a team that they had never played before, and whom they'd see the following day was very important. Mission accomplished in my books, but Giroux would need to end his 14 game scoring drought, and Omark would need to find his magic again to win the next day's game.
Moose Get Muddled
The night would go to Martin Gerber in this day old rematch between the Moose and the Barons. Both teams were scoreless on the power play the night before as the Barons went 0-6, and the Moose 0-7. Frustrating indeed, but somewhat a result of some incredible goaltending by Martin Gerber and Eddie Lack. The first period was another chess match of sorts. The Barons had the first crack at ending the PP struggles at 6:14, but couldn't drop it in despite three or four really good chances. Jordan Bendfeld would serve an interference call, and the next faceoff Taylor Chorney slashed a stick, and the Moose would be up two men on the power play. They faultered, and Gerber denied each scoring opportunity turned his way. Period one would end scoreless.
You know things are starting to turn around when Matt Marquardt and Ryan O'Marra both score to put the team up by two. Marquardt's, his second of the year, came after some great "in the trenches work" from Johan Motin. O'Marra, seemingly healthy after some shoulder issues, finally got his first goal of the season following through on an Omark rebound. Both goals were scored at even strength, and the Barons again were denied twice on the power play, and the Moose once. Visibly both coaches were frustrated on the bench, as lines would be adjusted as the teams head to the locker rooms prior to the period three puck drop.
Period three began with four consecutive Moose power plays including a 5 on 3 courtesy of a bench minor on the Barons. Much to the chagrin of booing Manitoba fans, the Barons would kill the penalties in fine fashion. Amongst the four consecutive power play's the Barons would receive to end period three, they'd manage to score an even strength Reddox to Omark tag teamer making it 3-0 Barons. Finally, on an individual scoreless run of his own stemming 14 games, Alexandre Giroux added more insurance to a strong Barons win to end the game, and finally on the power play I might add.
The Moose much up very well with the Barons. I'm anxious to see these two teams tangle in the near future (and by near I mean four days). Of note? The Moose were booed as they left the ice. 0-14 power play will do that to a fan.
The Barons now sit at third in the Western Division behind Peoria and a suddenly surging San Antonio team. Giroux's scoreless drought, the terrible power play, and Gerber heading back to the baby Oilers made for a witches brew of frustration. However, to escape the week at 1-1-1 is fine by me.
December 7th Houston Aeros @ Oklahoma City Barons
December 10th Manitoba Moose @ Oklahoma City Barons
December 11th Oklahoma City Barons @ Rockford Ice Hogs
December 12th Oklahoma City Barons @ Milwaukee Admirals