The time had finally come for the Barons to tame the wildest in the West. With a week of games that featured four Western Division opponents, three of whom the Barons are chasing in the standings, the time for epic gunslinging had arrived.
Milwaukee is fast, San Antonio is deadly on the power play, and Houston lulls you into submission - the Barons would need to bring their A game if they were to make it out with even a few points. Yet the mood amongst Oklahoma City fans was positive; after all they were pushing towards a playoff berth in their first season of existence.
In a recent radio interview, Barons Head Coach, Todd Nelson, highlighted the importance of this week's games by saying, "We might be 3-1 over the last four games, but this week it's magnified because our division is so tight. We have a tendency lately to score by committee. Whether it's Giroux, McDonald, or Hartikainen - we need to score much more often." Ironically, Coach Nelson's words would perfectly define the three games this week, and the stoutness of our Western Divisional friends in the AHL.
The penalty-sized hurdle that the Barons seem unable to leap, has caught up with them again. Going into Wednesday's battle with Western Division leading Milwaukee Admirals, the team in OKC averages 16.8 PIM per game. While that's not the worst in the league, it certainly isn't the best. With a majority of those 16.8 coming in the first two periods, the Barons seem to find ways to end up short-handed, and short on goals. But it wasn't the penalty totals, and their poor timing alone that did the Barons in against the Ads on a warm-for-February Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
It was quickly apparent why this Milwaukee team is tops in the West. They are fast to the puck, relentless in front of the net, make few mistakes, and poke holes in opposing teams shortcomings. They aren't unbeatable, just unburdened by mistakes - as is Oklahoma City. As a matter of fact, to start the game a reconfigured line of Teemu Hartikainen-Milan Kytnar-Ryan O`Marra scored within the first two minutes. To add to the excitement, Kytnar's goal was scored on Pekka Rinne's backup in Nashville, Anders Lindback, who was sent down to the "A" this week to get some much needed minutes in net (ironically the last time he saw game action was February 7th against Edmonton). But that was the only goal the Barons could muster.
Five different Admirals players would score a total of six goals, four against Martin Gerber in under thirty minutes of play. Jeff Deslauriers didn't favor well either, letting in the final two late in period two. By the the 16:00 mark of the second period the Barons were done, but didn't completely give up. They would rattle off fourteen shots on net, compared to the Admirals one to end the game, but when your dance card is full, there isn't much room for improvement.
The 6-1 smackdown the Admirals laid on the Barons was embarrassing to say the least. Certainly not a great way to start a wild, wild week against others in the West.
Coach Nelson describes the massacre by relating it to opening night. Ouch.
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