It was a four-game week for the Oklahoma City Barons, as they took on the Rockford IceHogs at home, and then headed on the road for another Texas roadtrip and a three-in-three weekend. Losing twice in overtime last week, and winning one against Lake Erie, the Barons were on a three-game streak of at least picking up a standings point, crucial as the season begins to draw to a close.
Finishing up a three-game homestand, the Barons took on the Rockford IceHogs for their final meeting of the 2011-12 season. Olivier Roy got the start in net, his first for the Barons this season. Carter Hutton was in net to start for the IceHogs. Still out for the Barons, Anton Lander from a hip pointer, Alex Plante and Dan Ringwald from concussions, and Curtis Hamilton from a knee injury. The fireworks began quickly as Antti Tyrvainen and Wade Brookbank got into a post-whistle scrum following a save by Roy. As Brookbank tried to pull Tyrvainen in by his stick, Triston Grant came from a long ways out to bowl over Brookbank. They got together for a bit of a wrestling match, but not much else as Grant lost his footing. Roughing minors were assessed to Tyrvainen and Brookbank, and Grant was given a major for cross-checking, and in turn, a game misconduct as well.
Able to kill the major, the Barons were given a power play seconds after the major ended. Joe Lavin was given a hooking call and thirty seconds into the power play, Teemu Hartikainen received a centering pass from Josh Green and put it past Hutton to give the Barons the 1-0 lead at 13:08. The Barons killed another penalty in the 1st, and the teams finished the period with the Barons up by the 1-0 score.
The 2nd period began and the Barons went right back to work. 4:41 into the period, Bryan Helmer shot from the point and got enough on the shot to be deflected by Chris VandeVelde and skitter past Hutton and across the line to make it 2-0 Barons. Two minutes later, Taylor Chorney received a pass from Ryan Keller and his shot from the point deflected off of a Rockford defender and through Hutton's five-hole to give the Barons the 3-0 lead, and Carter Hutton the rest of the night off. In ten meetings all-time, this was the sixth time that the Barons chased a Rockford goaltender. At 8:39, Philippe Cornet took a hooking penalty and a minute later, Dylan Yeo commited a high-stick. On the ensuing 5-on-3 chance for Rockford, they were able to get one of the goals back on a goal by Peter LeBlanc. The Barons killed the rest of the penalty and were unable to score on two chances of their own as the 2nd period ended with the Barons on top 3-1.
Both teams had a power play chance early on in the 3rd, but neither converted. 15:04 into the final period, Rostislav Olesz drove in from the far side circle and received a centering pass from LeBlanc, putting it past Roy to bring Rockford within one. That didn't last long though, as Chorney picked up the puck off the next faceoff, drove into the attacking zone and shot from the point, putting it past Alexander Salak for his second goal of the night, and putting the Barons back on top by two, 4-2. Rockford pulled Salak in the closing minute, and the Barons kept it out of their net, closing the game out with a Hunter Tremblay empty net goal, and a final score of 5-2 over the IceHogs.
The next day, Hartikainen was called up to Edmonton by the Oilers and Cameron Abney was recalled to the Barons from Stockton to fill in the spot.
Starting a three-in-three weekend, the Barons headed down to Cedar Park, Texas for a two-game set against the Stars. In a bit of a surprise to me(I thought he still had another week before his return), Yann Danis returned to the Barons line-up and started Friday night against the Stars, with Tyler Beskorowany in net for Texas. Dylan Yeo sat in this one, allowing Kirill Tulupov into the line-up and paired with Bryan Rodney. The first period started flukily for the Barons as a Texas shot went over the net, hit the glass on the endboards, and hit off of the back of Danis and into the net to make it 1-0 Texas, just 1:13 into the game. Twelve minutes later, the puck came into the Barons end and as Tulupov tried to play it, his skate caught a rut and he lost his edge, allowing Mike Hedden to retrieve the puck and take it in past Danis to give the Stars a 2-0 lead through one period of play.
Tulupov took an interference penalty at the 6:12 mark of the 2nd. As his penalty expired, Ryan Keller was able to force a Texas turnover, drove in with the puck, and scored to put the Barons back into the game at 8:26, down 2-1. Shawn Weller hooked up Keller about a minute later, and as the Stars were about to kill that off, Brenden Dillon took a roughing call to keep the Barons on the power play. Halfway through, the Barons took advantage with Bryan Helmer scoring a one-timer from a pass by Tremblay, nicely set up by Tyler Pitlick, and the Barons tied it up 2-2 at 12:34. The Stars didn't go quietly as Matt Fraser and Travis Morin got a 2-on-1 break and Fraser scored his 30th of the season to give the Stars the 3-2 lead after two.
Despite not having the momentum starting the 3rd, the Barons came out moving, and Taylor Chorney scored his third goal in two games with assists from Mark Arcobello and Helmer at 3:35 of the 3rd, tying the game back up at 3-3. Matt Case took an inteference penalty at 7:10, and after some griping from the Texas bench, Francis Wathier ended up in the box as well, giving the Barons a full two minutes of 5-on-3 play. Unable to convert, the Barons then faced three straight penalties of their own that they had to kill. After killing two, Tyler Pitlick fed a nice cross-ice pass to Arcobello, and he scored to give the Barons their first lead of the night, 4-3, at 14:55. The Barons had to kill off one more Antti Tyrvainen penalty, and they came out with the win in the first of two games in Cedar Park.
Night two against the Stars had the goaltenders swapped on both sides as Andrew Raycroft was in net for Texas, and David LeNeveu was in net for the Barons. Bryan Helmer was given the night off this night, with Tulupov playing in his spot. Tanner House got the scoring going early on, as he picked up a huge rebound from a Ryan Martindale shot, and he scored to give the Barons the 1-0 lead at 3:25. The assist gave Martindale his first AHL point of his career. The Stars came right back a minute later and did mostly the same thing as the Barons, but from closer in, as Weller put in Morin's rebound to tie it up at 1-1, 4:41 in. Six minutes later, Philippe Cornet received a two-line pass from Tulupov, and with Hubert Labrie and Brad Lukowich hounding him every step of the way, Cornet was able to get a backhand shot off from in close and scored to give the Barons the 2-1 lead at 10:32. Ryan Martindale was called for tripping at 11:08, and during the penalty kill, Chris VandeVelde and Hunter Tremblay were able to get a 2-on-1 break up ice. VandeVelde fed a pass over to Tremblay and he scored his fifth shorthanded goal of the season to make it 3-1 Barons after twenty minutes of play.
Both teams had two power play chances in the 2nd, but neither one was able to convert in a scoreless 2nd period. In the 3rd, the Barons came out slow with a lot of the action in their own zone, but 3:32 in, Dylan Yeo scored off a rocket shot with an assist by Martindale to make it 4-1 Barons. The Barons' penalty troubles began to catch up to them in the 3rd, and during a Tyrvainen boarding call, Colton Sceviour scored with LeNeveu out of position, and the Stars were back within two, 4-2, at 6:34. A lot of back and forth between the two teams happened for much of the rest of the period. Triston Grant was tagged with interference at 17:29, and with six seconds left on his penalty, Francis Wathier scored with the extra attacker to bring Texas back within one with 37 seconds left in the game. The Barons were able to hold on and come out with the win, winning their third straight game, and earning points in their last six games.
Sunday, the Barons travelled to Houston to take on the Aeros for the seventh time this season. The Barons were 6-0-0-0 against Houston heading into the game. Yann Danis returned to the net for the Barons as he had been in net for the previous six wins against the Aeros. Joe Fallon was in net for Houston, making his first start against the Barons this season. Another flukey goal started this game, as David McIntyre took advantage of most of the players being distracted by a hit near the benches, and he scored on a 1-on-1 with Kevin Montgomery back, to make it 1-0 Houston, 1:55 in. McIntyre then completed two-thirds of a Gordie Howe hat trick as he dropped the gloves with Colten Teubert, which turned out to be more of a wrestling match. The Barons killed two penalties in the 1st, and it was 1-0 Houston after one.
The penalty woes continued yet again for the Barons, as they had to kill two more penalties to start the 2nd. When the Barons finally got a power play chance of their own on a C.J. Stretch hooking penalty, Josh Green put in a Ryan Keller rebound assisted by Rodney to tie the game at 1-1 at the 18:47 mark. Kevin Montgomery committed a holding penalty late, and the Aeros started the 3rd period on the PK. The Barons killed it, and were unable to convert on two chances in the 3rd, leaving that period scoreless, and the teams headed to overtime.
Still unable to score in overtime, the teams went to a shootout. Houston shot first, and missed their first two tries, while Hunter Tremblay and Magnus Paajarvi scored on the first two Barons' attempts. Cornet, Green, and Keller all missed their's, while Jon DiSalvatore and Jeff Taffe scored to tie the shootout at 2-2 after five rounds. With a chance to close it out, Mark Arcobello was unable to score. Joel Broda put the Aeros in position to win with a goal of his own, and Tyler Pitlick was stopped, giving the Aeros the 2-1 win in the shootout.
Picking up seven of eight points from the week and picking up standings points in their last seven games, the Barons sit in first place of the Western Conference and West Division, second in the AHL. The Barons right now sit nine points out of clinching a playoff berth, and thirteen points out of clinching their division. This weekend, Alex Plante and Anton Lander are expected to return as the Barons have another three-in-three weekend, but all at home this time, as the Texas Stars head up to play on Friday, and the Grand Rapids Griffins will play a two-game set on Saturday and Sunday.