In the final game of the inagural season for the Oklahoma City Barons, they'd be soundly defeated 6-3 with a "B" team roster that included two defensemen making their professional debuts.
To understand the plight of the Houston vs. Oklahoma City head-to-head series this season, you have to start with goaltending. The Barons only have one victory against the Aeros, and neither of the starting goaltenders were named Martin Gerber or Jeff Deslauriers. The lone victory came early in the season, actually the fifth game of the season, when Bryan Pitton stopped 29 shots in a Barons 8-2 drilling of the Aeros on October 17th. Since then, it's been rough.
However, with both teams already securing their playoff futures, these teams were given jumbled rosters to work with. For the Barons, Martin Marincin and Brandon Davidson would get their first professional starts while Alexandre Giroux, Brad Moran, Bryan Helmer, and Jake Taylor were all healthy scratches. So the safety net has been cast over the top line, save for McDonald who seems to be focused on that goal scoring award (Giroux confirmed, in a first intermission interview, that McDonald had that mind mind). The Aeros would be without a few familiar faces as well. Maxim Noreau, Colton Gillies, and Drew Bagnall are all getting the chance to play in the NHL with the parent club in Minnesota clearly out of the playoff picture.
So the puck dropped in Houston with the Oklahoma City Barons having the unique opportunity of moving up in the standings. Who would their first round opponent be? Houston, Milwaukee, or Hamilton?
With three minutes left in period one, Phillipe Cornet would shoot the puck towards Colin McDonald who found himself standing to the left of Aeros' goaltender Matt Hackett. McDonald would secure the puck, drop it for Mark Arcobello who'd then wrap it around Hackett's left goal post. Oklahoma City looked poised to win again.
As the second period began, the Barons were in the midst of a delayed penalty against them, when Chad Rau rebounded a Sam Lofquist rocket from the blue line. Moments later, Patrick O`Sullivan would laser a high and lofty shot over Gerber's shoulder. Warren Peters would convert a three-on-one with seven minutes left in the third period to put the Barons down two goals. However, Colin McDonald took a shot from the point, a Mark Arcobello pass would bounce off the pads of Hackett, and Phillipe Cornet would lift it top shelf. The Barons were suddenly within one. But it wouldn't last more than a few minutes as Aeros defenseman, Jeff Penner, shot the puck towards Gerber that took a couple of rough bounces along the way, and eventually would deflect off Cody Almond's stick. After two periods, the Barons would give up three straight power play goals, and pay the price by falling behind 4-2.
Houston would add two more in the third along with Colin McDonald's league-leading 42nd goal, but Houston would win the day 6-3. Playoffs or bust!
Here's those "jumbled" lines:
- The Barons could have climbed the standings, and moved higher up in the playoff scenarios, only if they had been victorious. So it is off to Hamilton for game one which will take place Thursday night at 7pm CST.
- Many outlets have confirmed the move of Linus Omark, Teemu Hartikainen, Ryan O`Marra, Chris Vande Velde, and Jeff Petry are all headed to Oklahoma City. Great news! Although there are always questions of "momentum", "cohesion", and "chemistry" the Barons will need the help regardless. The playoff success, I believe, still revolves around good goaltending. They'll have no problem scoring, but maintaing a strong showing in net will be the key to victory.
- No announcement has been made about the potential televised broadcasting of Barons games either in Edmonton or Oklahoma City. Several teams including the Binghamton Senators, and Houston Aeros have made announcements regarding radio/tv broadcasts that give higher attention to the AHL game. Might the Oilers move the same direction? Keep in mind - the Barons online stream is not the greatest quality nor the most reliable. It could happen, but away broadcasts seem more likely, and more easy on the eyes.
- Colin McDonald has won the AHL Willie Marshall Award for scoring 42 goals on the season. However, Nigel Dawes accomplished 41 goals while playing on two different squads, and involved in fourteen fewer AHL games than McDonald. Even more incredible is knowing that his previous three pro seasons he's only had 35 total goals. Get that man a bigger contract (and with better parameters).
- Barons playoff tickets will be available tomorrow (Monday) morning at 11am CST. Available at Ticketmaster.com, the Cox Center box office, and by calling 405.232.GOAL.