Following the Christmas break in the AHL, the Oklahoma City Barons looked to resume the season and their winning ways, having won nine of their last twelve before the break. It was a busy four-game week that they came back to, playing the Rochester Americans for the first time in franchise history, San Antonio, and Houston. Some welcome additions returned to the lineup with Teemu Hartikainen and Philippe Cornet returning from injuries, and Josh Green playing in his first game since being suspended.
With Yann Danis starting in his first game since the birth of his child, the Barons got set to take on Rochester and Drew MacIntyre in their net on Tuesday. MacIntyre was in goal for the Hamilton Bulldogs during the Calder Cup playoff series last season that elimated the Barons in the first round. Once again, it was a quick start to the game, as Paul Szczechura scored during a Colten Teubert power play for boarding just 2:45 into the game. Szczechura and Corey Fienhage then took back to back penalties, and on the second one the Barons answered back as Josh Green put in a rebound from Taylor Chorney at 7:25. Magnus Paajarvi got the second assist, giving him his first AHL point. A about three minutes later, the Barons got a couple of chances and hit the post twice, one of them coming off of the stick of Hartikainen. The next play down the ice however, Alex Biega put the Americans back on top as his shot from the point deflected off of sticks and in, making the score 2-1 as the teams headed to the locker rooms. The second period was much quieter until the final two minutes when Triston Grant tied the game up at 2-2, deflecting in a shot from Chris VandeVelde. Fifty-four seconds later, the Barons gained their first lead of the night as Ryan O`Marra put the puck past MacIntyre to make it 3-2 after forty minutes.
Halfway through the 3rd, Szczechura scored his second of the night off of a Barons turnover to make it 3-3. A hit by Taylor Chorney in the final minutes to Evan Rankin saw Rankin head to the locker room shaken up as no penalty was called. Chorney ended up getting suspended three games on Friday as a result of the hit. As the seconds ticked down in regulation, Teubert had one great chance to one-time a pass at an empty net but misfired and sent the game to overtime - the Barons fourth straight OT game. This one ended at 3:21 during a Philippe Cornet slashing penalty with Drew Schiestel scoring the game-winner for Rochester.
The teams were right back at it the next night, this time with David Leggio in net for Rochester and Yann Danis getting his second straight start. Rankin was scratched for Rochester, and Chorney as well. Colten Teubert was called up earlier in the day and to replace him the Barons called up Andrew Martens from the CHL Wichita Thunder. Martens was the CHL Defenseman of the Year in 10-11 and was named to the CHL All-Star team as a starter that same day. This one didn't start out as quick as the night before, but 7:01 into the game Rochester scored the first goal of the game again as T.J. Brennan's shot from the point made it past Danis. The Barons answered back at 12:54 during a Riley Boychuk interference penalty with Ryan Keller putting home a Paajarvi rebound to make it 1-1.
The Barons repeated that again in the 2nd period at the 12:57 mark during another Boychuk penalty, this time with Dan Ringwald scoring his first career AHL goal. In the play prior, the Barons net was knocked off of the moorings, but as the Barons gained possession up the ice there was no whistle. Rochester answered back later on in the period with a charging Jakob Lagace knocking a rebound past Danis making it 2-2 at 18:01 and after two. The Barons answered right back in the 3rd as Keller scored his second of the night off a great pass from Bryan Helmer, making it 3-2 just 21 seconds into the period. Paajarvi got his second assist of the night on that play. Rochester tied it back up at 10:11 with Lagace deflecting a Marcus Foligno shot over the shoulder of Danis, sending the game to overtime once again.
A scoreless overtime sent this one to a shootout, the Barons third in five overtime games. Lagace and Keller scored in the second round along with Jonathan Parker and Paajarvi scoring in the fourth - Paajarvi once again faking out the goaltender with a bunch of dekes and sliding it past the goalie's right side. Philippe Cornet missed his shot in the sixth round of shooters and T.J. Brennan scored his, giving the Americans their second win over the Barons in as many nights.
Returning to action on Saturday night, the Barons took on the San Antonio Rampage with Jacob Markstrom in net. David LeNeveu got his first start since playing both games in Charlotte before the Christmas break. This one got chippy quick as Kirill Tulupov and Evan Barlow exchanged checks back and forth. Tulupov finally had enough and tackled Barlow earning him a roughing minor. The Rampage took advantage and Tyson Strachan scored from the point to put San Antonio up 1-0. The Barons answered back quickly with Josh Green scoring a sick backhander top shelf past Markstrom. Keller and Paajarvi got the assists as the Barons tied it up at 1-1. Tanner House was tripped up later in the period on a breakaway and earned a penalty shot. He tried a Paajarvi-esque move but didn't get the puck far enough outside Markstrom's reach. Grant suffered a knee injury later in the period and Tulupov was speared while the ref was looking away, putting both of them out for the rest of the game.
The 2nd period started at 1-1 and remained that way for much of the period. San Antonio finally broke that at 18:02 with Evgenii Dadonov scoring after LeNeveu got crossed up in the butterfly and couldn't get over in time giving the Rampage a 2-1 lead after two. The scoring finally showed up in the 3rd beginning with Antti Tyrvainen scoring his first career AHL goal at 2:05 coming off of a rocket shot in the slot thanks to a great pass from Kevin Montgomery. San Antonio regained the lead at 11:26 from an odd man rush as Barlow sent a cross-ice pass to Scott Timmins who put it past LeNeveu. The Rampage opened up the lead three minutes later as Helmer didn't make a play on David Marshall, allowing him to take the shot and make it 4-2. The Barons didn't lay down though - Hunter Tremblay scored at 17:03 from a behind the net pass by Hartikainen to cut the Rampage lead to 4-3. The Barons weren't able to muster anything with an empty net and that would be the final score.
Sunday, the Barons headed to Houston to try and end their three-game slide. Colten Teubert returned from the Oilers and Cameron Abney was called up from ECHL Stockton, though he was scratched for the game. Tulupov and Grant were both held out of the game. Yann Danis got the start for the Barons and Darcy Kuemper was in net for the Aeros. The 1st period went by scoreless, but it didn't take long in the 2nd for the Barons to open up the scoring. 3:27 in, Antti Tyrvainen scored his second goal in as many nights from assists by Montgomery and Helmer. Less than a minute later, during a Jeff Taffe interference penalty, Cornet scored his first goal after a seven-game drought with assists from Keller and Green to make it 2-0 Barons. At 11:47, this time during a Cody Almond penalty, Bryan Helmer scored his first goal of the season with assists from Magnus Paajarvi and Montgomery getting his second of the night. Ryan Keller capped off a four-goal period at 17:16 during a Carson McMillan penalty with assists from Paajarvi and Green, Paajarvi's sixth assist in four games, and the Barons headed to the locker room with a 4-0 lead.
It was a week of first career AHL goals and Magnus Paajarvi continued it as he scored at the 4:50 mark of the 3rd, putting in his own rebound with Hartikainen getting an assist. Kris Fredheim took a cross-checking penalty at 11:58 and thanks to that, the Barons tied their franchise record of four power play goals in a game as Curtis Hamilton received a pass from Tyrvainen to make it 6-0 Barons and that's how the game would end. Danis picked up his third shutout of the season, two of them coming against Houston. Last season, the Barons lost nine of the ten meetings between the two teams and this year are 5-0-0-0 against the Aeros.
Thanks to the win, the Barons pushed ahead of Abbotsford in the standings and earned coach Todd Nelson the honor of coaching the Western Conference team in the All-Star Classic later this month in Atlantic City. Only getting four points out of a possible eight isn't great, but the Barons ended the week on a high note. This week is a long traveling week for the Barons as they play in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters on Wednesday, in Toronto against the Marlies on Friday, and close out the week in Hamilton against the Bulldogs.
★★★ - Josh Green (2 G, 3 A)
★★ - Ryan Keller (3 G, 2 A)
★ - Magnus Paajarvi(1 G, 6 A)