Welcome to OKC, Magnus Paajarvi (Photo Copyright Kathleen Rodgers, All Rights Reserved)
With the Houston Aeros and Abbotsford Heat hot on the tail of the Oklahoma City Barons, the Barons headed into the week looking to create a bit of separation in the division and league standings. With injuries and suspensions in the locker room, the Barons headed home after a 3-2 win against the Texas Stars for a rematch. Following the actions of Kirill Tulupov in Austin - flipping the bird while on the big board, thanks to a penalty box camera - the AHL suspended Tulupov for two games. Ryan Martindale and Cameron Abney made their regular season home debuts on Tuesday with the Barons, still on call-up due to injuries for Gilbert Brule and Philippe Cornet.
Tuesday was a pretty slow game for the Barons against the Stars. Between the previous travel and the slew of injuries and suspension, it was time for a bland game. It didn't take long for the Stars to score against David LeNeveu, as Stephen Schultz fired a shot from the point. LeNeveu got a piece of the puck, but it had too much power behind and flipped over LeNeveu's glove and in to give the Stars the 1-0 lead just 3:33 into the game. Triston Grant was called for tripping a few minutes later, and while the Barons were able to kill the penalty, the Stars scored four seconds after he was let out of the box. Another point shot found it's way through and into the net with Raymond Sawada getting the credit for the goal to make it 2-0 Stars at 9:39.
The Barons continued to have trouble controlling the puck and the Stars kept up the pressure and scored once again as Colton Sceviour played the puck behind LeNeveu's net and up into the left faceoff circle, firing the shot past LeNeveu and making it a 3-0 game at 17:07. The horn would sound and that would be the score with each team firing 11 shots. As the Barons returned to the ice for the 2nd period, Yann Danis would lead the team out of the locker room to take over for LeNeveu.
After a scoreless 2nd period with each team getting a power play opportunity, the teams hit the ice for the 3rd period. While the Barons were on the power play following a Brendon Dillon hooking penalty, Grant committed another penalty, this time from punching Brad Lukowich in front of Beskorowany's net as both players had a slashing match. Grant picked up the extra two minutes for roughing and both teams would skate four-on-four. Maintaining some much needed the pressure, the Barons finally were able to score with Taylor Chorney getting a beautiful pass in the right faceoff circle from Bryan Helmer, and blasted it top-shelf past Beskorowany. The Barons finally had some semblance of themselves late in the 3rd, but it was too little, too late as the Stars turned away their offense. The Barons would hit the scoresheet again with Ryan Keller shooting just before the horn sounded, but that wouldn't be enough with the Barons falling 3-2.
With a few days before their next game against the Houston Aeros, the Barons saw a lot of transactions. In addition to sending down Dan Ringwald, Cameron Abney, and Ryan Martindale, the Barons also called up goalie Olivier Roy to fill in on the road for Yann Danis who is expecting the birth of his child. The Barons extended an AHL contract to Kirill Tulupov as well, signing him off of his professional try-out. In addition, the Oilers sent down Colten Teubert to make room, and Magnus Paajarvi to allow Paajarvi some playing time.
As the Houston Aeros came to town, it would be a battle for first place in the Western Division with Houston having a one point lead. Antti Tyrvainen and Gilbert Brule returned from their respective injuries, and Danis was in net against Darcy Kuemper for the Aeros. Magnus Paajarvi started the game in his AHL debut on a line with Mark Arcobello and Ryan Keller. After a lot of back and to start the game, Triston Grant and Matt Kassian dropped the gloves. With good punches thrown back and forth, Grant got the hardest shot in and earned the takedown over Kassian. The Aeros didn't let it affect them though, and at the 11:16 mark, Drew Bagnall snagged a puck at the blueline and after a questionable non-call for offsides, Bagnall shot the puck and it made it past Danis. The Barons answered back near the end of the period while on the power play, and Dylan Yeo took his turn from the point and made it count as he earned his first AHL goal of the season with assists by Tyler Pitlick and Alex Plante. The first period ended tied 1-1.
The Barons came out fast in the 2nd, and scored fast as well. Grant picked up a rebound from a Bryan Helmer shot and pushed the puck towards the net as he fell to the ice, getting it past Kuemper to make it 2-1 Barons. It was a quiet period after that until Yeo was called for holding with less than three minutes to go in the 2nd. The Aeros copied the Barons from the last period and scored in the final minute to tie it back up at 2-2 with Jon DiSalvatore getting the goal. The 3rd period passed quietly as the Barons killed a Teubert penalty early on and the teams headed to overtime.
Dylan Yeo was called for hooking at 1:13 of the OT period, and the Barons killed that one as well, leading the teams to a shootout. Justin Fontaine and Jeff Taffe missed for Houston, as well as Hunter Tremblay and Mark Arcobello for the Barons. Magnus Paajarvi got the call next for the Barons, and he made his debut memerable, deking twice and drawing Kuemper out of the net, and pushing the puck into it. Kris Foucault failed his attempt and Gilbert Brule scored on his giving the Barons a 2-0 lead with another shooter for Houston to go. Jon DiSalvatore tried scoring another, but Danis would turn it away and give the Barons the 3-2 shootout win.
A quick turnaround as the Barons flew to Charlotte for a game the next night. The Checkers are the only team with a winning record against the Barons this season. Mike Murphy would start with David LeNeveu in net for the Barons and Olivier Roy as the back-up with Danis staying in Oklahoma. The travel effects were evident for the Barons, as they only made four shots in the period to the Checkers 13, but the 1st period ended in a scoreless tie. Early in the 2nd period, Taylor Chorney pushed a loose puck past Murphy, scoring his second goal in three games and giving the Barons a 1-0 lead at the 6:39 mark with assists from Brule and Chris VandeVelde. Charlotte answered right back with Jerome Samson scoring at the 8:00 minute mark, 24 seconds into a Ryan O`Marra tripping power play. Keller got into it with the Checkers towards the end of the period, and received a slashing penalty. He would be released from the box and as the horn sounded, Chris Durno started it right back up again with Keller and earned a penalty for his troubles.
The 3rd period started with the Barons on the power play, but they wouldn't be able to convert. Finally at 14:32, Curtis Hamilton received a great pass from Antti Tyrvainen and scored his second goal of the season to give the Barons a 2-1 lead. Much like last time however, the Checkers answered back right away. 1:25 after, Bobby Sanguinetti fired a point shot, and the puck bounced off Brett Bellemore's skate and into the net, tying it right back up at 2-2. That was the score after regulation time, and stayed that way through the overtime period, putting the Barons in their second shootout in as many nights.
Dalpe was stopped by LeNeveu first, as well a surprising shootout attempt from Kevin Montgomery. Justin Krueger scored in the second round, while Magnus Paajarvi was turned away from a Mike Murphy poke check. VandeVelde and Chris Terry both missed, while both Brule and Jon Matsumoto scored in the next round, leaving it at 2-1 Charlotte through four rounds. Matthew Pistilli missed his attempt, and with a chance to keep it going into sudden death, Mark Arcobello would be turned away as well, handing the Barons a 3-2 shootout loss.
Four straight 3-2 games for the Barons, and they've been on the winning end for two of them as they head into the Christmas break. The Barons will take on Charlotte again on Tuesday and then they'll be off until they return home to take on the Rochester Americans on the 27th and 28th. Magnus Paajarvi impressed in his debut, but after only averaging 12 minutes or so with Edmonton, I'm sure it'll take him a bit to get used to playing top line minutes. I doubt we'll see him down here long, but I look forward to seeing where he's at in a couple weeks, if he is here that long.
★★★ - Magnus Paajarvi
★★ - Triston Grant
★ - Taylor Chorney