The Oklahoma City Barons hit the road again, this time heading back north of the border to take on the Abbotsford Heat for their final two-game set of the regular season. The two teams entered this set with the Barons leading the season series 4-2-0-0 and 7-3-0-0 all-time against Abbotsford. The Barons also looked to extend their winning streak on the road against Abbotsford, as the Barons had never lost in British Columbia or Calgary.
Turning a special event into a tradition, the Barons headed to Calgary, Alberta to take on the Abbotsford Heat for the second season in a row on Thursday. Coming off of a shootout in his last start, Yann Danis was between the pipes for OKC, with Henrik Karlsson making his first start on a rehab assignment after being injured against Vancouver a couple of months ago. The only other game that I can recollect where the Barons faced an NHL goalie on a rehab stint was last season against Chicago, when Ondrej Pavelec was in net and the Barons scored three goals plus an empty netter in a 4-1 win.
Thursday night also marked the return of two injured Barons as Linus Omark and Triston Grant both returned from lower body injuries. Josh Green also looked to extend his eight-game point streak.
The 1st period started out sloppy for both teams, and it showed on the scoresheet. Neither lit the lamp in the first 20 minutes, and Abbotsford led the shots 11-7. The first half of the 2nd period was a lot of the same, but things started getting chippy. A Jordan Henry roughing penalty got things moving in the game at 9:58. Thirty-one seconds after the power play ended, the Barons broke open the scoring with Mark Arcobello potting a goal from a pass by Curtis Hamilton to make 1-0 Barons. At 19:10, Chris VandeVelde boarded Akim Aliu and Guillaume Desbiens came in to argue the hit. Not known for fighting, VandeVelde went ahead and dropped the gloves, but came out on the losing end of this one. Twenty-two seconds later, the Barons made it 2-0 thanks to Josh Green getting a deflected pass by Linus Omark, giving Green his ninth straight game with a point and Omark his first point in his first game back. The Barons completely flipped the shots around in the 2nd, taking a 19-17 lead in the game.
The Barons started the 3rd period on the PK, but didn't go back on their heels one bit and Linus Omark got his second point of the game on a goal at 2:28 of the period as he streaked up the ice and scored high-glove side on Karlsson to make it 3-0 Barons. A couple minutes later, Alex Plante and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond dropped the gloves with PL3 landing punches after the takedown. Plante was wobbly-legged as he skated to the bench and didn't return to the game. After a few penalties, the Barons made sure to put this one away as Hunter Tremblay scored his 12th goal of the season with assists by Mark Arcobello and Bryan Helmer. A couple of coincidental roughing calls occured as the period went on, but the Heat were unable to get the puck in the net, giving the Barons the 4-0 win and Yann Danis his second straight shutout.
With 128:53 of scoreless hockey for Yann Danis, he looked to set the franchise record by beating Jeff Deslauriers' mark of 135:49 from last season. With Danis in net again on Saturday, the Heat also had Henrik Karlsson in net once again. The Barons came out much stronger at the start than in their previous game on Thursday. Triston Grant and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond dropped the gloves at 4:34 with Grant taking out the revenge for PL3's fight with Alex Plante. Linus Omark scored his third point in two games as he took a tipped pass intended for Josh Green and scored to make it 1-0 Barons at 14:49. Kirill Tulupov, filling in for the injured Alex Plante, received the secondary assist on the goal. Josh Green's extending his point streak to ten games matches Alexandre Giroux's record for highest point streak.
It was a pretty uneventful 2nd period with neither team scoring. After the Barons outshot the Heat 7-5 in the 1st, Abbotsford came back to put up 11 shots to the Barons' seven in the 2nd. The 3rd period unfortunately marked the end of Yann Danis' shutout streak with Ben Walter scoring at 4:23 by going glove side on Danis. Unofficially, I have Danis' shutout streak at 173:16. Six minutes later, the Barons retook the lead on a booming point shot from none other than Kirill Tulupov. The shot somehow made it through a huge gathering of players that screened Karlsson and made it 2-1 Barons. Teemu Hartikainen and Antti Tyrvainen had the assists to make it an all-Euro goal for the Barons. Abbotsford didn't go away quietly however and the Barons defense and Danis had to withstand an onslaught by the Heat in the final minutes. The puck stayed out of the net and the Barons took this on 2-1 to stay perfect on the road against Abbotsford - four wins in British Columbia and two in Calgary.
Yann Danis currently sits tied for second in the AHL in wins (21), first in GAA (1.94), first in SV% (.928), and second in shutouts (5). The Barons sit first in the West Division with 69 points with Houston at 62 and San Antonio moving into third with 56 points. St. John's had an extra game this last weekend that they won, giving them 70 points atop the league with one more game played than OKC.
After three weeks of playing two games a week, the Barons return home to play a three-in-three to start a four-game homestand. The Barons take on the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday and Saturday as Zack Stortini returns to Oklahoma City. The Barons close out the weekend on Sunday against the San Antonio Rampage.