There’s something about Houston. And no, it’s not the terrible traffic and the wonderful thought of attending Space Camp. No, there’s something about their minor league hockey team. They are giant killers. And they haven’t had a great December, but they remain a giant killer nonetheless. And more acutely, the Oklahoma City Baron giant with its highly entertaining top forward line. After beating the Barons 5 times this season (and only losing once), they’d do it again on New Year’s Day. They’d dispatch the Oklahoma City Barons with a final of 4-2, as they played a fantastic back-half of a hockey game.
Midway through the second period, the game was tied 2-2. Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle had notched a power play goal a piece. Sandwiched in between were goals by consistent Aeros scorers, Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle. Meanwhile both Yann Danis and Matt Hackett were playing well enough to keep the game tied. But it was the final period that pushed OKC over the cliff.
Jason Zucker, in unassisted fashion, netted a dandy of a goal on Yann Danis. Joha Larsson would send the puck into the empty net with Danis pulled to put the Aeros up 4-2 to end the game.
Jason Zucker stole the show tonight. Nearly had a wrap around goal in a semi-slow period for the Aeros (which they are prone to do), but would score a pair of really good goals and assist on the empty netter. This Aeros team continues to dominate the Barons, and tonight it was done at 5 on 5.
Tyler Pitlick only had one shot on the night, but he had flashes of being the prospect we saw in the playoffs last season. Strong to the net, unafraid to go to the boards, and skating hard through the offensive zone – we need more from Pitlick in all these areas in every game.
Defensively, this OKC team is terrible. Forget the loss of scoring if/when the NHL returns, this Barons team will continue to struggle on defense. Justin Schultz, who’s started to show some wounds to his defensive abilities, wasn’t solely responsible for both of the Aeros’ first two goals, but he didn’t make them more respectable. He finally has started to look like a pro rookie. Still capable of offensive firepower, but unable to consistently defend. THAT might be a problem.
OKC went 2 for 3 on the power play, but looked lost at times in even strength situations. For Houston, they committed few penalties, and thus kept OKC from additional power play opportunities. That’s tough to do when the Barons are speedy, but the most disciplined outfits can beat OKC with good goaltending and few mistakes.
In front of the net, the trend for the Barons has been to give up way too much space near Danis. Guys are wheeling and dealing in and out of the goal crease area, and that’s really ugly to watch. The Aeros have the Barons number, and a lot of it has to do with where they pick their skating spots. I’d like to see Teubert, Plante, Hendry, _______ name other sturdy defender here become smartly aggressive in this department.
Jason Zucker, a great scorer and equally as impressive setup man, has really come to life as a Minnesota Wild prospect. He’s hard to handle. And it doesn’t help much when opponents refuse or forget to shut him down.
January 4th, the Barons step out of the games against Texas and will face the stingy Grand Rapids Griffins.