Barons Sweep! Take Game Three In OT

‘Tis a glorious thing to behold, a team that can challenge opponents deep into games. That has been the case for much of the 2014-15 season, and now, suddenly, those moments include the Calder Cup postseason.

Last night, with the Rampage facing elimination, the Oklahoma City Barons won game three in overtime and have advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals.

Can we do this in reverse, Memento style?

Jujhar Khaira was injured in a game in early March when he was plastered into the corners allowing his elbow to soften the blow against the boards. Bad idea. Mid-Spring Break coach Gerry Fleming deemed Khaira a loss for the remainder of the season following that specific injury. The bummer of a sigh from fans in OKC was full and deep. We thought we had seen the last of young Jujhar, with whom we had high hopes.

Five minutes into game three’s overtime, Jujhar Khaira would knock in a rebound to defeat the Rampage who were up against a wall. The sweep was complete, but a bit of redemption was in store for Khaira who had both returned to action after a time away and scored his first postseason goal as a professional. Well done.

Prior to this wondrous moment in time, the Rampage evened the game with :58 remaining. Tom Rowe brilliantly waited until the on-ice matchups were to his liking, and he motioned for Dan Ellis to scamper to the bench. When he did, the Barons were unable to re-group as they fought hard against the onslaught of offense that finally emerged from the San Antonio forwards. Up a skater, Dylan Olsen would invigorate his team, and those fans in attendance, as the game would slowly creep towards sudden death overtime at one goal from each squad.

It was young Kellen Jones who scored the games opening goal after nearly forty minutes of scoreless hockey. Kellen, and his brother Connor, have now accounted for a combined three goals in only nine official shots on net. Love those two. (Prep your #MCM folks).

The struggle was real for the Rampage whom have dominated offensively for much of the season. Hate to grandstand here just a bit, but the game two loss seemed debilitating in some regards as the offense struggled to beat starting goaltender Richard Bachman.

By comparison, Dan Ellis did a terrific job fighting off Barons goal scorers for much of the game, and his work should not go unrecognized. He was sensational.

But let’s return to Bachman, who was good from the start, but magical in the third period where he faced 19 shots and only let in one (that :58 barn burning equalizer).

The steadiness he gave the team in game two carried over to game three where he played out-of-his-mind minutes against a team desperate to stay alive.

In all, it was a terrific performance by the Barons if not (again and again and again) a lucky victory. I think maybe I will stop calling these wins lucky because they happen far too often. Instead I will congratulate Gerry Fleming and the coaching staff for shoehorning Khaira into the lineup (on the fourth line), and offering three speedy lines who would carry the weight of the minutes. And defensively, there were minor issues, but what a “trap and sack” game the blue line played keeping the play in front of them as much as possible. When they did make mistakes, Bachman bailed them out, and this team continues to get better as the postseason marches on.

The game, in a nutshell, was one for the ages. On the other hand, the Rampage have toppled greatly having lost now six in a row after having a streak that featured nine wins in ten games. Ouch.

Their undoing has been nothing short of baffling. Yet the Barons took advantage of the opportunity, and seem like world-beaters at least for another week.

If things hold – Utica and Toronto win – the Rockford IceHogs will face the Barons in a seven game series. The IceHogs, also earning a sweep of their own, but against the reigning champs in Texas, are a quick, stout, impressive squad in the same vein as the Rampage. But whomever the opponent, the games will be worth watching.

Oklahoma City Barons Lineup:

R. Hamilton-Williams-C. Hamilton
K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford


Richard Bachman

Scratches: Betker, Pageau, Houck, Pinizzotto, Platzer, Ewanyk, Kessy, Ludwig, Chase, LaLeggia, Schaber, Yakimov, Gernat, Lain

Available Goaltenders: Rimmer

Game Two Rewind: Be Still, My Heart

Photo by Rob Ferguson. All Rights Reserved.

It’s too bad that Neal took the “How’d They Do That” caption in his rewind for Game One, because it completely fits my reaction for how Game Two happened. Game Two was split into two completely different games as the San Antonio Rampage controlled thirty-seven minutes, while the Oklahoma City Barons controlled the other twenty-seven. Even now, after getting to think about the game for this long, I still can’t get over how the outcome of the game came to be.

The first period completely belonged to the Rampage. The Barons defense was shaky, the offense couldn’t get anything going, and Laurent Brossoit had eighteen shots to deal with in the first twenty minutes. Goals from Connor Brickley and Corban Knight – on a power play – put San Antonio up 2-0 as the Barons headed to the locker room to sort things out.

Things continued in the same vein at the start of the second as San Antonio controlled the first 6:44, leading to a John McFarland goal and putting the Barons down 3-0. That led to Gerry Fleming deciding to pull Brossoit from the goal and replacing him with Richard Bachman.

Immediately put to the test, Bachman made some big saves against the onslaught from San Antonio, helping to begin the turning of the tides for the Barons. Two penalty kills later, the Barons got a chance on the power play themselves as Vincent Trocheck went to the box for a tripping penalty. Some great tic-tac-toe passing from Josh Winquist and Andrew Miller got the puck to captain Ryan Hamilton, who found the net behind Michael Houser to put the Barons on the board. After two periods, the Rampage held the lead, 3-1.

The only way I can really explain the third period is… wow. I joked in the second period for whoever abducted the Barons team from Game One to please return them. Little did I know, they listened. Oklahoma City tried hard throughout the third period, but Houser was able to keep the Barons at bay.

At the 15:00 mark of the third, the Rampage committed their fourth straight minor penalty with McFarland heading to the box for shooting the puck over the glass. It took 103 seconds of the power play for the Barons to break through, but Jordan Oesterle finally did it as he shot the puck off the post and into the net to make it a 3-2 game.

Over and over, the Barons tried, but the Rampage stood pat as the minutes and seconds ticked off the clock in regulation time. The Barons finally got their chance with Mark Mancari picking up a tripping call of his own, the Rampage’s fifth straight minor, and giving the Barons a power play with 41 seconds remaining. Gerry Fleming used his timeout, and pulled Bachman for the extra attacker.

Matthew Ford took the faceoff, won, and kicked the puck back to Jason Williams. Williams passed it off to Brad Hunt on the right point, Hunt sent it right back to Williams on the left. With the point shot, Williams put it right on Ford’s Andrew Miller’s [edit: The goal was later changed to credit Miller for the goal] stick for the tip, and the Barons tied the game just five seconds into the power play. With the late heroics, the game went to overtime with the game tied at 3-3. After being outshot 31-20 through two periods, the Barons outshot the Rampage 16-9 in the third frame.

Overtime began with the Barons rolling and riding the momentum from the third period. Finally, the Barons found themselves on a two-on-one rush. Sprung by Jordan Oesterle, Matt Ford brought the puck in on the left wing side with Connor Jones on his right. With Dylan Olsen back for the Rampage, Ford passed the puck over to Jones, and Jones ripped it past Houser to give Oklahoma City the huge come-from-behind win in Game Two.

The heart that the team showed in the final half of that game was unlike anything I’ve seen from this team in a long time. They never gave up, never surrendered, and fought their way back from the jaws of defeat. If the team keeps that level of intensity, that level of fight, that level of play – they are going to be a hard team to play against.

With the Rampage on the ropes, the series heads to the Alamo City for Game Three. Wednesday at 7:00 Central, the series continues from the AT&T Center with the Barons leading 2-0 in the best of five series.

Oklahoma City Defeats San Antonio In Game One

Photo by Steven Christy

The Oklahoma City Barons hosted the San Antonio Rampage in game one of the best of five series between the West Division rivals. The teams seem evenly matched, at this point in April, but one team would outlast the other in the final twenty minutes of game one.

The first period, with Dan Ellis in net for the Rampage, seemed to favor the Rampage early on as both Brad Hunt and Jason Williams would gift two power play chances for San Antonio. The Barons were able to deflect any trouble down a man, and Laurent Brossoit was dialed in like he has been over the last 20+ games of the regular season.

The series first goal would be scored by Brad Hunt (which appeared to be deflected in front by Ryan Hamilton; ultimately credited to Hunt) as he whistled a shot around Ellis at the 12:00 mark of the first frame.

The lead would be leveled by Vincent Trocheck after some wobbly defense by Dillon Simpson. The shot would clank off the left post of the Barons net, and bounce in behind Brossoit. With the game now tied at 1-1, both teams would suffer through some penalties, and the Barons actually had high grade chances to put their squad back on top. Yet the end of twenty minutes gave us a tie game.

Dan Ellis would be the saint of Rampage hockey to begin the second period. Stopping chance after chance after chance as the Barons pressured the puck at every turn.

Rocco Grimaldi would stick a thorn in the Barons side by scoring a wacky goal, knocking the puck out of the air and around Brossoit. With a 2-1 lead, and the knowledge of how good the Rampage are when leading after two (27-3-1-1), things would get dicey after forty minutes of play.

The penalty taking settled down, and even a goofy delay of game penalty by Martin Marincin was quickly squashed by the Barons penalty kill.

The third period again featured some incredible goaltending by Dan Ellis with whom the Barons were unable to beat often. The game plan shifted towards dropping the puck on his doorstep as much as possible, and that was a tough sell.

Josh Winquist was up to the task, scoring a power play goal from the right face-off dot to even the game at two goals a piece. Not long after, captain Ryan Hamilton willed a puck across the goal line to put his team up a goal with just over 5:00 remaining in the game.

The transition from down one to up one was monumental as the Barons seemingly had the Rampage against the ropes. Shane O’Brien would get five minutes and a game misconduct for a really nasty boarding incident on Ryan Hamilton. Woozy as a drunken sailor, Hamilton would make it to the bench while visiting Wonderland. The Barons seemingly had this one wrapped up, but with a bump along the way.

Then Curtis Hamilton would take a boarding penalty of his own in the final 90 seconds of the game. Things would get scary momentarily. Then Connor Jones scored an empty netter with the Rampage owning two extra skaters. Let’s add another, said Matt Ford, as the fan favorite gets one of his own.

The Oklahoma City Barons would defeat the San Antonio Rampage, 5-2, in game one of the best of five series.

Game two is Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Barons Starting Lineup:

R. Hamilton-Williams-Stretch
K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford
Moroz-C. Hamilton-Winchester



Scratches: Bunz, Rimmer, Betker, Pageau, Musil, Ludwig, Gernat, Khaira, Houck, Pinizzotto, Ewanyk, Kessy, Chase, Yakimov, Lain

The Barons Clinch, Reinforcements Arrive, Playoffs Ahoy

Photo by Steven Christy

“It’s Monday!” I shouted as I pulled out of my driveway this morning, an Oklahoma thunderstorm very present in my review mirror. As soggy Monday’s go, this one isn’t all that bad. Sure I’m up super early, I did not have time to brew a good cup of coffee, and the half-eaten breakfast I attempted to eat has somehow turned my stomach sideways, but things are on the up.

With Blues In by Art Pepper pumping through my bluetooth speakers this morning let’s celebrate the fact that our beloved hockey team, the Oklahoma City Barons, have made the playoffs for the fifth season in a row. This is an incredible accomplishment given a couple of things, but mainly the fact that their NHL counterpart has been a dumpster fire in that same span. Equipped with a ton of normally full time Barons, our Edmontonian brethren again watch from the sidelines of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they rouse themselves to cheer for their minor league club. That is a painful thing to do, and after five years it is becoming less enjoyable, and just gosh darn stupid.

I digress, the Barons have clinched, reinforcements are coming, and the playoffs are within spitting distance. Calder Cup Ahoy!

This weekend it was a bit dicey in terms of when and where the Barons would finally seal up that playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their fall has been nothing short of epic, really it has, from the top spot in the Western Conference to somewhere around sixth to seventh. The team has won twice in their last ten games, six times in their last twenty, and lost nearly half their games by multiple goals in that same duration. Surely the mid to late February slide happened for a reason? It sure did. The team lost key components both to injury in the minors and injury in the majors, but this is nothing new for the Oklahoma City Barons who have a long-standing tradition of signing players late in the season to help combat the losers edge. But seasons gone by had a magnificent coach in Todd Nelson, and a GM specifically assigned to minor league detail. Both of those went out the door last summer or around Christmas, so the times they are a changin’.

The depth of the injury still seems insurmountable for OKC, but reinforcements are on the way. More on that topic in the coming paragraphs.

Rolling into the weekend the Barons had lost two straight. Once to the lowly Charlotte Checkers and a four goal loss to the Iowa Wild. Prior to the game they won on April 2nd (Charlotte in OT, nonetheless), the Barons had toppled headfirst into a seven game losing streak. The stretch was brutal, but the glorious lead they had built in the standings helped, and it took a Saturday win in Chicago to finally seal the deal. The Barons have a final homestand stretch, three games in just four days, that will round out the regular season.

If the season ended now, and the playoffs began tomorrow, the Oklahoma City Barons would square off against the Grand Rapids Griffins. I shudder at that statement. But I shudder knowing that the top four in the standings (San Antonio, Utica, Grand Rapids, and Rockford) continue to jockey for position and remain separated by at least a standing point or less. Yikes.

Rampage. Utica. Grand Rapids. Rockford. All of those teams have a way of manhandling the Barons at times, and the reinforcements those teams will receive deeper in to the playoffs only makes them more deadly.

If you are twisting my arm, asking me to pick an opponent, I’m certainly not going to say San Antonio. Maybe Utica, maybe Rockford.

Here are the top four in the West, and their season long W/L records against the Barons:

San Antonio 9-1-2-0
Utica Comets 1-0-1-0
Grand Rapids Griffins 2-2-0-0
Rockford IceHogs 2-1-1-0

As you can see, the Rampage have dominated OKC while the North and Midwest opponents give us some hope. Yet prepping for a team you do not see much in the regular season is a tough go for any coach. Regardless, our Barons are in!

Meanwhile the Edmonton Oilers ended their season at the hands of the Canucks (replusive), and thus players like Curtis Hamilton, Brandon Davidson, Martin Marincin, and David Musil return to the confines of the Cox Center.

The defensive players are the biggest “gets” here because OKC has really struggled to move pucks carefully while defending their own zone. These three running at full steam with one another will make the life of Brossoit and Bachman much more enjoyable.

Curtis Hamilton has been a good swiss army player for OKC with an increased scoring upside (sometimes), so he again goes back into the quiver where OKC is building depth.

Available Forwards This Week:

Ryan Hamilton, Jason Williams, Andrew Miller, Josh Winquist, C.J. Stretch, Steven Pinizzotto, Kellen Jones, Connor Jones, Matt Ford, Mitch Moroz, Travis Ewanyk, Brad Winchester, Curtis Hamilton, Jackson Houck, Chase Schaber, Kyle Platzer

Available Defenders This Week:

Brad Hunt, Nick Pageau, Jordan Oesterle, C.J. Ludwig, Dillon Simpson, Joey LaLeggia, Brandon Davidson, Martin Marincin, David Musil

Available Goaltenders This Week:

Richard Bachman, Laurent Brossoit, Ty Rimmer

Injured List This Week:

Jujhar Khaira, Kale Kessy, Akim Aliu, Bogdan Yakimov, Martin Gernat, Tom Mele, Kellan Lain

The Barons play three games this week including Tuesday against Hamilton and Friday / Saturday versus the Iowa Wild.

Barons Lose To Marlies, Lose Fifth Straight

The Oklahoma City Barons, and their wispy lineup, came to Toronto for a day-game somewhat ready to battle the Marlies. Historically speaking, Ricoh Coliseum is brutal for OKC, and the day would start rather comely, but end in an eerily familiar demise.

The Barons would lose their fifth straight, giving away two straight goals in the third, to be overtaken by the Toronto Marlies 3-2.

We will get to the sideways lineup in just a bit, but let’s begin with David Ling. The 40 year old, whom was subject of much a joke on twitter, would score the games first goal. It was a vintage rifle of a shot, that awakened our senses quickly at such an early start time in Toronto. Yes, it was a great shot, and yes it was surprising, but the remainder of the game would be tepid both for Ling and for a handful of the other OKC Barons.

Following Ling’s goal in the first period was Troy Bodie nearly two minutes later to bring Toronto neck-and-neck with the Barons. It ’twas a sluggish start for the Barons, the Ling goal aside, as they would barely unfurl eight shots, and quietly rely on Laurent Brossoit to mop up the sleepiness in front of him. Twice the post would be “rung” in the first period, and the fact that we would end the first twenty minutes with a tie game was a remarkable feat. 14 of 15 for Brossoit in period one. A 1-1 tie.

The second period gave Josh Winquist his seventh goal of the season, and another lead for the Oklahoma City Barons. Winquist, who entered the lineup over Jackson Houck, is now clinging to a five game point streak when it seems that the world is caving in on the team around him. The perfectly saucered pass by C.J. Stretch caught Winquist in front of the net, on one of the best shifts the Barons would have on the night. Unfortunately, it was the final goal the Barons would score. The second period ended 2-1, Barons.

The third period was poor defensively for OKC, which happens to depleted teams, and Byron Froese would pot his 13th and 14th goals of the season. Froese, putting up the best numbers of his career, made two different defensive pairs look silly as the Barons attempted late game line changes. Likewise, Brossoit fell to the wayside stopping only 7 of 9. It is easy to point to defense and goaltending for losses, but the forwards weren’t helping much either. The center position, without Bogdan Yakimov, is lacking a good two-way game. So much so that speed and wings force the team in to way too many mistakes.

The third periods ended with the Marlies on top 3-2, and the Barons losing their fifth straight.

Wednesday Lineup:

R. Hamilton-Williams-Ling
Winquist-K. Jones-Winchester



Scratches: Jackson Houck (healthy), Chase Schaber (sickness), Gernat, Yakimov, C. Hamilton, Aliu, Khaira, Mele, C. JOnes, Pinizzotto, Kessy, Lain (injured).

The weird thing about these scratches is Yakimov and C. Hamilton. They were listed as “out by sick” in previous games, but now are listed as injured. Either someone labeled them incorrectly or something else is amuck. Concussions? Perhaps. Undetermined injuries? Perhaps. Regardless, the Barons have lost much of their core, and that’s rough.

Barons Lose Thrice, Injuries To Blame

Photo by Steven Christy

It’s Monday. That phrase, in and of itself, will bring you to your knees. The bellows of the weekend seem like a faint whisper in the distance, and you can tell by the size of my Starbucks flat white this morning that the start of the work week is throttling my every sense.

I’ve queued up my favorite tracks by Tralmpled by Turtles, I’ve blown my nose twice (thanks elm trees, you scabs), and I’ve begun to reminisce about the weekend that was Barons hockey at the incomparable Cox Center.

The back-end of a seven game homestand is supposed to be fun, fan-fueled, and foxy. Instead it was feeble, fragile, and just plain frowzy. Three games in three days is tough, but is usually manageable at home (your own bed, your own shower, your own food, your own XBOX). Yet the Oklahoma City Barons have been bit by the injury bug, nay they’ve been doctored on using those grabby tweezers in the game ‘Operation’. Yet Jujhar Khaira has actually injured his real elbow, and not his “funny bone”, and poor Akim Alium only wishes he had butterflies in his stomach and not a concussion-like situation.

Before we begin to digest the nuts and bolts of the week that was, let’s give a quick injury report:

Confirmed out for rest of season: Jujhar Khaira, Kale Kessy, Kellen Lain, Steve Pinizzotto

Confirmed as day-to-day: Akim Aliu

Confirmed illness over weekend: Curtis Hamilton, Bogdan Yakimov, Chase Schaber

Those missing brief minutes this week due to injury: Martin Gernat, Connor Jones

The we-aren’t-quite-sure-about-health list: Brad Winchester (played, but has been on/off injuries for months)

That’s eight players missing, two gimpy, but playing, and one still up in the air (although he seemed fine). When the dust settled on the weekend the Barons were playing a Ty Rattie-infused Chicago team with just eight forwards and six defenders (Brad Hunt playing wing). It also has given us a 19th straight start from Laurent Brossoit, and backup goaltender in Tyler Bunz that has yet to grab a start in months.


Coming off a loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday, the Barons would welcome the San Antonio Rampage and the Chicago Wolves twice. The nitty gritty on these matchups is that in the month of March – they matter. San Antonio is closing the gap on OKC in the West Division while Chicago is fighting tooth and nail for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With those team’s desperately wanting wins, and a depleted Barons squad trying to swat flys away from their high tower in the West, it quickly became a disastrous scenario.

Friday’s game against San Antonio was probably the most fairest of the maidens. The Barons would score once on the power play, and score twice in the opening eleven minutes of the game (thanks to Mitch Moroz and Jordan Oesterle). But the Rampage, having already scored the games opening number, would tie the game in the final minutes of the first period, and notch a short-hander on a brutal giveaway to start the second. Shane O’Brien would nearly be the goat for his team as he gave the Barons back-to-back penalties that allowed Josh Winquist to score a power play goal (assists to Jason Williams AND Laurent Brossoit, WOO!) to even the game. Both teams buttoned up their defense tight, goaltenders played a big part in that, and the Rampage and Barons would head to overtime. Two minutes in the Rampage score, and they would take a tight grip on the West Division lead. 4-3 in OT was your final with Brossoit stopping 31 of 35, and the Barons struggling to be “chancy” in the overtime frame (not taking a single shot).

Saturday the team felt the weight of a continued injury-riddled roster, but also a strengthening Chicago Wolves team, and the Ty Rattie’s of the world. The game would go deep without scoring, but eventually the team’s would each etch a goal in the third period of the game with Chicago scoring the equalizer in the final three minutes of the game. Brad Hunt was the lone goal scorer for OKC, and it came on the power play (the second in two nights, upside!). But it would be Ty Rattie, seemingly over his injury problems, with a sweet assist from Magnus Paajarvi to put the Wolves on top in overtime. The 2-1 loss for OKC saw little improvement from the night before, and actually seemed a bit worse.

After securing at least a standing point in the first two games of the three in three, the final game of the weekend was as hilariously dreadful as they come. But keep in mind, they can’t help themselves.

Sunday, the Barons would open the scoring in the first period. Jason Williams would rattle off the Barons third PP goal in three games, his 20th of the season, and it appeared the Barons would be “okay”. They weren’t. Chicago would score four straight goals including the 29th for the suddenly-really-good Shane Harper. Laurent Brossoit looked like he had been hit with a two by four after the second goal, and indeed the game rolled downhill from that point forward. The dust would settle, the Wolves would win 4-1, and young Brossoit would pull himself back together after facing nearly fifty shots on net.

In all it could have been much worse, but losing ground in the West was certainly not the plan. Take a gander at the OKC Barons lineups for each night:

Friday Night:

Scratches: Yakimov, C. Hamilton, Schaber, Aliu, Khaira, Pinizzotto, Kessy & Lain (all injured/sick)

Stretch; K. Jones
C. Jones-Ford



Saturday Night:

Scratches: Yakimov, C. Hamilton, Schaber, Aliu, Khaira, Pinizzotto, Kessy & Lain (all injured/sick)

K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford



Sunday Night:

Scratches: Gernat, Mele, Yakimov, C. Hamilton, Schaber, Aliu, Khaira, Pinizzotto, Kessy & Lain (all injured/sick)

K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford



The Barons skate on over to Toronto on Wednesday and Gerry Fleming promises to “pound the phone” and find players to fill a roster. He actually used those words – I’m not sure what they mean – but he used them.