The Oklahoma City Barons are 3-0 lifetime in early morning games. 2-0 at home, 1-0 on the road. With the odds in their favor, they’d embark on a 10:35am start in front of several thousand middle-schoolers, but would quickly be handed a clobbering blow c/o the Toronto Marlies who were raring to go. Coach Nelson made mention of the early start time in his pre-game interview. He said that the key was, “to make sure your guys are awake.” And judging by the first period alone, the Barons were not awake.
The first period began with a goal in the first 36 seconds and featured a former Oklahoma City Baron. A Will Acton goal was assisted by both Paul Ranger and former Baron Dylan Yeo. The first line of OKC looked a little gobsmacked by the early goal, but quickly made things right. Keith Aucoin would trip a Baron, and the team would take the PP unit to the ice early in the first. The puck moved quick, smart, and with intention – but the Barons would come up short on their first man advantage opportunity of the game. Martin Marincin would have a short-handed opportunity to even the score, but was denied by starting Marlies goaltender, Jussi Rynnas. Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a great opportunity on a give and go, but nicked the goalpost. Just when you thought the Barons defense was starting to look proper, the team gives up 3 straight goals to end the period. Nicolas Deschamps scores. Kenny Ryan buries a flukey goal off a won face-off. In comes Yann Danis to relieve Roy, and he lets in another one. This time from Greg Scott via a great assist from Nazem Kadri. Insult to injury, Marlies defender Jake Gardiner heaves himself towards Danis, and draws an offensive zone penalty from Colten Teubert. The period would end with the Marlies firmly in the lead, 4-0.
The first period intermission comments from Jordan Eberle were spot on. When asked about the lazy performance in the first period, and the potential sleepiness of an early game, he said, “It shouldn’t matter. We are pros.”
The second period began with some light rectifying. Taylor Hall hit Jordan Eberle in stride, and it appeared that a goal would be had. Instead it goes just wide. The Barons were all offense from the first second, and seemed intent on rescuing their team. Rynnas made several stops early in the period for the Marlies including a great chance by Curtis Hamilton that rebounded in front of the visiting goaltender. The Barons would have at least three chances on a tripping penalty drawn by Teemu Hartikainen, but they again were unable to dial one in. Yann Danis settled into a groove, and made some key saves at the mid-point of the second period to keep OKC alive. Matching roughing penalties for both teams gave us 4-on-4 hockey which plays to the strengths of the Barons. Each team had their chance to score, neither was able to actually do so. Dylan Yeo gets the whistle for a high stick, and the Barons get another opportunity to crawl out of the hole. Jordan Eberle on the left wing, gives a cross ice pass to Taylor Hall who then saucers it to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the score. The team finally solves Rynnas, and also gets some momentum in the game via a solid power play possession. Period two ends with the Marlies up 4-1, the Barons continuing to kill penalties, and the shot totals teetering towards the home team.
The third period began, and OKC would return to the power play after a Joe Colborne trip. With one second left on the man advantage, Martin Marincin whipped a shot on net, Mark Arcobello poked in the rebound, and the Barons chip away at the now two goal lead for the Marlies. Taylor Hall would be the bearer of a trip of his own, and the Marlies immediately responded on the power play. Mike Zigomanis, his second of the season, would put Toronto up by three. The Barons continued to drive the play. Some late period shenanigans occurred (including a bench minor to Dallas Eakins & subsequent removal from the game as well as multiple overlapping penalties) helped the case of the Barons. A Ryan Nugent-Hopkins power play goal went under review late in the third period. It was eventually ruled a goal, and the Barons inch closer, 5-3. With under 3 minutes left, the Marlies would give up another PP goal as the Barons rolled out the 6th skater. Jordan Eberle lasers a shot in and scores as the Barons inch closer, 5-4. With 13 seconds on the clock, Nugent-Hopkins works hard to stick in a rebounded puck with Danis on the bench. Suddenly the Barons have overcome a 4-0 deficit to tie it 5-5. The third period would come to a close, and the Barons completed a heroic comeback heading into overtime.
Eberle, Teubert, and company had some early shots that forced Rynnas to be sharp. Alex Plante would be called for a hook that gave the Marlies a power play to end the game, but the Barons survive. But as soon as Plante hits the ice, the Marlies win the game off a Jake Gardiner goal at barely even strength. The final score of 6-5 will forever be earmarked by an incredible comeback by Oklahoma City that fell just short.
Checking the box score, it was the NHL guys that got the job done, but also were responsible for some early ugliness:
Justin Schultz with 2 assists
Jordan Eberle with 1 goal and 3 assists
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with 2 goals and 2 assists
Taylor Hall with a goal and an assist
As pointed out on twitter, the Barons have three guys in the top three in overall AHL scoring.
Which begs the question, “How does this team lose?”. Plain and simple, they can’t defend well. Both defensemen and forwards are to blame for this. After the first period, the starting five were all -2. Even they have to carry the burden of “lumpy” defensive play.
Poor Olivier Roy. Rich Yann Danis. Roy let in three goals on ten shots. Yikes. And in trotted the reigning AHL goaltender of the year, and despite letting in three himself, he made important saves with the team’s back against the wall as only a vet can do. Not great, not good, but somewhere between so-so and okay.
Dallas Eakins was tossed for some jibber jabber from the bench. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was fuming in the locker room. Imagine if his team had lost. Toronto media would have some water cooler things to say.
Alex Plante isn’t solely to blame for the OT goal by Toronto, but he certainly is in the running for such a tag. That later period “lazy man” hook is hard to ignore. One moment a loss does not make, but that’s as close as they come.
Two weekend games ahead. Two important wins before Thanksgiving week. GO Barons!