Oh the sweet taste of victory. How my senses long for your sweet lingering presence. ‘Twas a fleeting moment this weekend, but your potent aroma left my thoughts as soon as you let in a few leaky goals. Fin.
After beating the Houston Aeros at their own game (protect, PROtect, PROTECT) the night before, the Houston Aeros gave it right back on Saturday night in the Toyota Center. The Barons would go scoreless on the power play as the Houston Aeros held on to a victory on the wings of a two goal opening period with a final score of 2-1.
The first period was the best of times and the worst of times for Oklahoma City. Owning the puck possession for the first ten minutes was good. Some incredible forward play was good. Fading for two shifts, letting in a goal, and seeing the momentum swing is not good. And that’s what happened. The Barons, having their defense around the net suddenly fall apart, gave up a goal to Aeros’ newcomer Dan DaSilva in his debut with the team. Martin Marincin would give a really long distance pass to Mark Arcobello that just missed the blade of an Aeros defender, and eventually the show was walloped in behind Matt Hackett. Despite scoring a goal off a fluky pass Houston still owned the momentum. And they’d carry that through the final moments of the period as Steven Kampfer scored a through-traffic goal, his first of the year. OKC indeed scored a goal, owned half of the first period, but they’d lose a grip on the confidence as Houston takes a 2-1 lead after the first frame.
In the second period, the toll of a home and home with long travel in between became apparent. Both teams were skating long strides back and forth across the ice. And the Barons were given every opportunity to strike hard on the Aeros. Three straight power play opportunities, all killed with very little struggle. And the entire period felt like a wet blanket for both squads. The Aeros would take seven shots and the Barons would take eleven, but the score would remain 2-1. A one goal game is a common occurrence when the Aeros and Barons meet, and this one is destined to end in a similar fashion.
In the third period the Aeros hunkered down, while the Barons drove the puck up and down the ice. They’d end the night with 37 shots on Matt Hackett, and thirteen in the third period. But for a solid twenty minutes they couldn’t find the back of the net despite an additional power play opportunity (they’d go 0/4 on the night). The Houston Aeros would beat the Oklahoma City Barons 3-1, and the team continues to struggle to find consistency.
Yann Danis is a good goaltender. But he’s not having the season we all hoped he’d have. Case in point. Tonight, he let in at least one maybe two that he would have stopped last season. He’s lost the nickname Mr. Sturdy. He faced just north of twenty shots, and let in three. He, and Niko Hovinen, struggle in games where the puck doesn’t angle their way often. Hovinen has been worse in this department, but Danis isn’t far behind. When the team desperately needs points, especially inside their division, both goaltenders are going to have to steal some down the stretch.
The lone goal came on a fluky pass from Martin Marincin that just fell beyond the stick of an Aeros defender, hit Arcobello in stride, and he made a dandy of a move to beat Matt Hackett. Other than that, the Barons didn’t have many clear breakaways despite shooting the puck a ton. And that leads to another interesting point about scoring chances. The Barons assume that dropping the puck in on the net causes good things to happen. In most cases that works. But for this team, they only are as good as the quality of their chances. And tonight, they didn’t have a high number of “in close” chances. That’s not good. The Wild, I mean Aeros, stripped down their game after taking a lead, and the Barons couldn’t get the guns a blazin’. I’d like to have seen some sincere crashing of the net. It wasn’t meant to be.
Randy Jones is playing much better these days, but he’s nowhere near the level of the other newcomer, Brett Clark. Jones has received high minutes, PP quarterback responsibilities, and lots of opportunities to improve. He’s done that. But he’s still not playing where I think he can be.
The lines were tinkered just slightly to allow for Eric Hunter to enter the lineup for the injured Kristians Pelss. Rather than moving Josh Green back to the wing, they elected to put Hunter in that spot. Albeit on the third line with Ryan Martindale and Curtis Hamilton. Dane Byers got the second line treatment, replacing Pelss. Scratched was Darcy Hordichuk, to keep the vet level even per the rules of the AHL.
Also scratched was Taylor Fedun and Nathan Deck, who are both solid puck handlers. Fedun, in particular, had a decent game the night before, and seeing him scratched bothers me. Deck, on the other hand, just signed a new contract, and has been scratched two nights in a row. I’d rather see Deck make the lineup nightly because he’s been an important key to success in past games.
The slow paced February gives way to a hectic March. The Barons embark on a whirlwind schedule on Tuesday, at home, against the Texas Stars. They then play Saturday in Texas, and Sunday and Monday in Charlotte. The next weekend it’s Friday and Saturday at home against Rockford, Sunday and Tuesday in San Antonio. The AHL game the team a break in February, and they intend on breaking them completely in March. Boot. Straps.