It was another odd three-in-three for the Oklahoma City Barons last week. Starting in Houston for a morning game - the Barons second of the season, heading home to take on the Peoria Rivermen the next night, and ending the trip in Austin against the Stars. After sweeping a three-in-three a few weeks ago, the Barons looked to do it once again and take full control of the Western Division and the League.
Starting Thursday morning in Houston, the Barons played their second morning game of the season, and it really looked like a morning game. Yann Danis started in net, going against Darcy Kuemper for the Aeros. The first period ended scoreless, and the Barons didn't make it easy for themselves, giving up three power play opportunities to the Aeros - two of which were back to back. The Barons gave up another power play opportunity in the second, but the penalty kill stood tall through all of them.
Finally, on the Barons second power play of the game, they broke the scoreless tie with an Alex Plante goal with assists from Gilbert Brule and Dylan Yeo, who's on a try-out deal from the ECHL's Ontario Reign. Ryan O`Marra commited a hooking penalty soon after, but the Barons killed that penalty as well. The Barons fended off the Aeros well into the 3rd period, but finally at the 18:00 mark the Aeros broke Danis' shutout thanks to a Jarod Palmer goal from Drew Bagnall. The teams went to overtime, tied at 1-1.
No one scored in OT, even with Houston getting a brief power play thanks to a Brule roughing penalty, and then it was shootout time. Philippe Cornet scored the lone shootout goal in five rounds for the Barons, and Warren Peters scored for Houston, so it went to sudden death rounds. Luckily, it wouldn't take long to decide it, as Josh Green scored in his attempt, and Palmer missed his attempt. The Barons escaped with a 2-1 win.
With a good break between games, the Barons returned home to take on the Peoria Rivermen for the first time this season as the Barons held their Teddy Bear Toss night. David LeNeveu got the start in net against the towering 6'7" goaltender for Peoria, Ben Bishop. It was a pretty quiet first ten minutes, as Peoria was playing their first game of a three-in-three weekend. The Barons got a power play from a Anthony Peluso hooking penalty, and things got interesting from there. At 13:03, Josh Green checked Brett Sonne into the boards. On the far side of the rink where I was sitting, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary, but Sonne went after Green following the hit, and Green ended the fight with a takedown. Green was assessed a five-minute fighting penalty and a game misconduct for a check to the head. Sonne got five for fighting, and an extra two minutes for roughing. After all was said and done, the Barons were still on the power play for a few more seconds.
I'm not really sure how there was five minutes on the board against Green, when both he and Sonne were assessed majors, and the game misconduct shouldn't have mattered penalty time-wise, but regardless, the Barons had to kill off three minutes of Green's penalty. The penalty kill couldn't hold against the Rivermen though, as Brett Sterling got a nice cross-ice pass from Danny Syvret and potted it in behind LeNeveu to give Peoria a 1-0 lead. That score held up as the teams headed to the locker room for the second intermission.
The 2nd period came and went with no goals or penalties for the entire period. As the 3rd period rolled on, fans became anxious as they held onto bears that should've landed on the ice long before. Ryan Keller finally broke through as he too a pass from Mark Arcobello, who was stationed behind the net and blasted it by Bishop to tie the game at one. The fans responded, by letting the bears fly from the stands. They rained down for a minute or two and in total, the Barons donated 3500 bears to the OKC EMSA. Luckily the break didn't mess with the Barons momentum, as only 1:03 later, Tanner House gave the Barons the lead by deflecting a point shot from Alex Plante. The Rivermen began to show their frustration and at the 17:19 mark Dylan Yeo and Stefan Della Rovere dropped the gloves. The fight was broken up by the linesmen, but it was a good back and forth bout by both players. Just a minute later, the Rivermen committed the worst possible penalty -- too many men on the ice with less than two minutes to go. It proved to be the last nail in the coffin that night for Peoria, as Chris VandeVelde put away the empty net goal and gave the Barons the 3-1 win, and four points in two games.
Looking to complete another three-in-three sweep, the Barons traveled to Austin, Texas for the first time since they lost 7-0 in the season opener, and play the Stars for the first time since their 10-1 revenge win the following weekend. Both teams looked a little bit different for this game as both have undergone significant lineup changes since the first two meetings. Richard Bachman was called up to the Dallas Stars, and the Barons were without Gilbert Brule, Josh Green, and Philippe Cornet who didn't make the trip. As a result, the Barons raided their ECHL affiliate the Stockton Thunder and called up Ryan Martindale and Cameron Abney. Martindale and Abney become the third and fourth Thunder alumni to play a game for the Barons this season, joining previous call-ups Milan Kytnar and Dan Ringwald.
Yann Danis got the start versus Tyler Beskorowany that night. It wouldn't be long for the Barons to get into penalty trouble as Kirill Tulupov took an early boarding call just 1:56 into the game. He didn't do himself any favors though -- he flipped the bird to the cameras in the penalty box and earned himself a ten-minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike fingers. Much later in the period, Tanner House scored his second goal of the weekend at the 16:34 mark with assists from Hunter Tremblay and Alex Plante. Plante ended the weekend with three points and a +1 in the three games. The Barons gave up numerous power play opportunities once again, but the penalty kill stood tall, keeping the Barons in it.
The Barons took another penalty early in the 2nd, but killed it off. At the 6:00 mark, it Triston Grant took his turn to score, giving the Barons a 2-0 lead. Grant was assisted on the play by Ryan Lowery. The Barons' penalty parade marched on in the 2nd, but the defense was up to the task and kept the Stars from getting the puck in the net.
Finally able to go more than two minutes into a period without committing a penalty, the Barons actually made it through the third period without committing any infractions. The Stars found the net though, as at the 4:16 mark Scott Glennie brought the Stars to within one, with assists from Francis Wathier and Dan Spang. Ryan Garbutt committed a tripping penalty just before the ten-minute mark, and the Barons took advantage thanks to Taylor Chorney who scored his first goal of the season off of an assist from captain Bryan Helmer to make it 3-1 Barons.
The Stars tried to mount a comeback as the period wore on, and came dangerously close to doing so as Ryan Fraser scored at the 18:16 mark to get the Stars back within one. Fraser was assisted by Travis Morin and Spang once again. That's all the Stars were able to manage, and the Barons completed the three-in-three sweep once again and become the sole leader in the league and division.
A bit of an odd schedule for the Barons this week, as they play the Stars tomorrow night home, play Houston at home on Saturday, and then travel to North Carolina to take on the Checkers the following evening. Won't be a fun one, but the team has shown that they're able to handle it quite well. With Martindale and Abney still up, it'll be interesting to see if either are in the lineup tomorrow night, and if there's any suspension awaiting Green after the check to the head.
★★★ - Ryan Keller
★★ - Tanner House
★ - Alex Plante(I can't believe I just wrote that)