Friday night, the Oklahoma City Barons wore special jerseys that were auctioned off following the game with proceeds going to Special Olympics Oklahoma. Photo copyright Kathleen Rodgers, All Rights Reserved
The Oklahoma City Barons returned to action after the All-Star Break looking to extend their six-game winning streak and in turn, extend their lead over the rest of the league. This week, the Barons continued their four-game homestand against the San Antonio Rampage and the Charlotte Checkers.
The San Antonio Rampage came into the Cox Center having won the last two meetings between the two teams. The Rampage were also riding a seven-game win streak coming into this one. Yann Danis started in net for the Barons, with Dov Grumet-Morris in net for San Antonio. The 1st period started with a power play chance for each team, but no scoring until the final minute of the period as Hunter Tremblay scored his 11th goal of the season with assists from Magnus Paajarvi and Mark Arcobello at 19:02. The 2nd period was much of the same, both teams getting a power play chance, but the Barons took advantage of a second chance in the period as Michael Caruso took a high-sticking penalty at 18:58. Ryan Keller scored his sixteenth goal of the season at 19:35 with an assist from Josh Green to make it a 2-0 game with the Barons leading the shots 18-15 after forty minutes.
Each team would once again get a power play chance in the 3rd, but neither could convert it into a goal. And just like the last two periods, this one once again came down to the final minutes. Luckily, it stayed on the Barons side and Ryan O`Marra scored his eighth goal of the season with assists from Antti Tyrvainen and Tanner House at 17:22. That was all the Barons needed with Yann Danis standing tall in net and turning away 26 shots to earn his fourth shutout of the season and give the Barons the 3-0 win and their seventh straight.
The next night, the only team with a winning record against the Barons this season, the Charlotte Checkers were the opponent on the Barons Special Olympics night. Wearing jersey templates like the Oilers current home jerseys, the Barons tried to keep their winning streak alive. David LeNeveu got the start for the Barons and John Muse was the starter for Charlotte. From the get-go, the Barons looked to be suffering from a shutout hangover. Passes were having trouble connecting and they could not get anything going towards the Charlotte net. A.J. Jenks scored his first goal of the year, and his first point of the year in 32 games after skating the puck into the crease unmarked at 16:33. The Barons only managed six shots on net in the 1st, while the Checkers had nine.
The Barons had a better 2nd period, but still had trouble against the Checkers. A shanked shot by Matthew Pistilli was saved by LeNeveu but Brett Sutter picked up the rebound and easily scored with LeNeveu out of position at 10:36. The Barons were able to cut the lead to one later in the period. Curtis Hamilton took the puck around the back of the net getting Muse out of position, and passed it to in front of the crease to Josh Green. Rather than reaching Green however, the puck banked off of a defender and Hamilton earned his fifth goal of the season to make it 2-1 as the teams headed to the locker rooms. Green did earn an assist on the play, extending his point streak to eight games.
Frustration on the Barons began to show at the start of the 3rd. Josh Green took exception to a hit near the benches and right in front of the ref, he delivered an extra slash to the Checkers player and drew a penalty. It didn't take long for Charlotte to gain back the two-goal lead on the power play as Bobby Sanguinetti received a pass at the blue line and once again the Barons allowed the player to just skate it in and score, making it 3-1 Charlotte. Despite getting three chances on the power play, the Barons were unable to score and a Ryan Keller penalty at the 17:00 mark prevented much of a late chance to come back and the winning streak ended as the Barons fell 3-1.
Following the game, the Barons auctioned off the jerseys to benefit Special Olympics of Oklahoma. With half of the jerseys going for $800 or more, the Barons raised $24,300. Kirill Tulupov's earned the most on the night, going for $1,750. Teemu Hartikainen's was right behind, going for $1,600.
The Barons look to rebound this week as they take on the Abbotsford Heat in a true battle of AHL-Berta on Thursday night eminating from the Saddledome in Calgary. The two teams will face off again on Saturday night in British Columbia.
With all three teams playing 47 games so far this season, the Barons hold a seven point division lead over second-place Houston Aeros. Abbotsford is right behind them, with the Barons holding a ten point lead over the Heat. The Barons also continue to lead the league, currently holding a two-point lead over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who have played 48 games.