The Oklahoma City Barons and Lake Erie Monsters meet four times this season as a part of the AHL’s dummying down of the schedule to lighten the travel load on most clubs. Three of those games have now been played in nine days. The fourth in 72 hours. And that’s unfortunate, because all three games thus far have been highly entertaining. And irregardless of the outcome, a rivalry seems to be simmering between the two Western Conference opponents.
On Saturday night in OKC, the Barons were cruising towards a victory through almost two periods when the Monsters punished them for late penalties, and win the game 5-3.
If you’re a Monsters fan, you love the 2-1 edge that you’ve gained in games won against OKC. You love the power play chances that you’ve completed. You love how your goaltenders, both rookies in this league, have mustered the courage to stand tall. You like how you’ve matched up against the Barons defenders, and maybe slightly frustrated their star forwards. You like how the coaching staff has prepped the team, schemed the framework for victory, and executed that blueprint to the enjoyment of Northern Ohio. In all, the Monsters are proving to be a superb hockey team — color me impressed.
Curtis Hamilton, on a fiery shift, was given a fantastic setup by Taylor Fedun and Ryan Martindale before rifling a shot around Monster tender, Sami Aittokallio for a 1-0 lead. Ten minutes later, Tyson Barrie evened the game by following a blocked shot on Olivier Roy. Brandon Davidson and Colten Teubert found themselves slightly lost on the play, and neither committed to a streaking Barrie. The first period would end in a one all tie, a fast and furious pace, and no penalties for either side.
The first period energy spilled over into the second. The Monsters scored at the under two mark on an Andrew Agozinno shot. But Justin Schultz and Magnus Paajarvi would score as Oklahoma City takes the lead back temporarily.
The third period was glamorless for the Barons penalty kill. Not once, but twice, the Barons we’re whistled for silly penalties that proved costly. Magnus Paajarvi, with an early third period board, allowed Thomas Pock to net a PP goal. Then it was Justin Schultz with a delay of game penalty that put Monsters D-man, Karl Stollery, in a position to score. Stollery’s goal lifted Erie past the Barons. The nail in the coffin came with Olivier Roy skating off the ice as Mark Olver scored an empty net power play goal to defeat the Barons 5-3.
The Barons power play went 0-2 on Saturday. That’s a total of 1 for 17 in four games played. I’ll give the team ten full games of mercy, but it’s inconceivable to think this team can’t score with an extra skater.
The PK got abused. 3/4 with all three in the final frame. Problematic. But, again, props to Lake Erie for mounting a strong comeback. Well done.
Schultz scores again, and now has four goals and two assists in four games. However, he cost his team tonight with the delay of game penalty. It happened at a moment where a momentum swing felt present. Inevitably it swung the way of the Monsters, and at full throttle.
Roy didn’t make the saves he needed to, and as many pointed out, he spent a lot of time on his knees. Stylistically speaking, that’s okay, but he seemed a bit over matched at times, as well as out hustled. He’ll be fine, but needs to adjust accordingly.
Lake Erie has surprised many, including the Barons. They are now 3 for 4, and will play both Texas and OKC in the coming half week. If they were to turn those two games into wins, I’ll not be the least bit surprised. New coach, Dean Chynoweth, has his boys ready and willing.
Tuesday the Barons again will play Lake Erie. Will Josh Green return? Seems unlikely given the injury to ribs, and the style of play that will be demanded of him.
There were a few inconclusive calls against both squads on Saturday night. The “checking to the head” committed by Kristians Pelss seemed the most over dramatic. But the ref clearly saw a forearm or elbow close in on the opposing players head, all while traveling through open ice. The league doesn’t smile on these types of situations, and typically punishes these youngsters early. Might we get a one-game suspension? I’d be north of a 50% chance if I were a bettor.