MILWAUKEE - Although the home team had a two-goal lead for over 50 minutes of the game, the Oklahoma Barons ultimately took a 3-2 victory in the shootout against the Milwaukee Admirals. Victor Bartley and Kevin Henderson contributed goals during regulation, while goaltender Jeremy Smith made 35 of 37 saves. Although he took his first loss in six games, Smith was nothing short of impressive in net, and coach Evason praised his efforts in the post-game interview.
"We thought he was real good. He had to make some tremendous saves to keep us in the hockey game. Eberle probably could've scored five or six goals himself, so we're pretty happy."
The Barons are certainly benefiting from the current NHL lockout, as the team boasts quite the firepower with stars like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Four of the top twenty scorers in the league are on the Oklahoma City roster, as well as the league leaders in goals (Jordan Eberle - 24), assists (Justin Schultz - 28) and power play goals (Taylor Hall - 8).
Badger fans recognized a familiar face in navy and copper, as former UW-Madsion standout Justin Schultz signed with the Barons parent club Edmonton Oilers over the summer. The two-time Hobey Baker finalist has tallied 46 points (18g-28a) in 33 games with the Barons this season.
A big hit on Eberle indirectly led to an Admirals goal midway through the first period. Michael Latta landed a huge hit on Eberle on the Admirals end, which defenseman Alex Plante took exception to. After declining an invitation to drop the gloves, Plante was assessed a minor for roughing to give Milwaukee their first man-advantage of the game. Forwards Taylor Beck and Chris Mueller passed the puck down to Victor Bartley, who chipped it in past Barons goaltender Olivier Roy for his fifth of the season.
The self-proclaimed sometimes-hot head Latta impressed coach Evason by keeping his cool with Plante, which was rewarded handsomely by the power-play that resulted in the Bartley goal.
"Latta was very intelligent, that's exactly what we want from our group. If you've got to stand up for yourself or your teammate, go at it, but in that situation, that's perfect. He restrained himself from doing anything and we scored because of it."
Latta credited Evason with taming his temper on the ice, and it certainly paid off.
"I kind of have a hot head sometimes, and this year he's really helped me. His big thing is helping me pick when i fight, because we don't really have a fighting team here. My job was to shut down the top line tonight with Van Guilder and Henderson, and it just wasn't the right time or the right player. If [Taylor] Hall comes over and wants to fight me, I'll give him a go, but it just wasn't a good trade off at that point in the game when they are kind of flustered after I made some nice hits on them. At that point of the game, there was just no point of me fighting there."
Forward Kevin Henderson gave Milwaukee a two-goal lead after potting a misplayed puck behind the Barons net. Roy attempted to clear the puck during the Barons power-play, but Henderson got his stick on it and lit the lamp unassisted at the 11:08 mark of the second period.
After nearly 50 minutes of play, Oklahoma City put their first goal of the game on the board courtesy of Taylor Hall. With Michael Latta serving a double-minor for high-sticking, the Barons failed to beat Smith until the final :15 of their advantage. Hall took a pass from Mark Arcobello, and fired a wrister from the near circle to cut the Admirals lead in half.
Oklahoma City took advantage of a power-play late in the third period and scored the equalizer just :15. Jordan Eberle took a pass from Justin Schultz and beat Smith with a wrister from the bottom of the near circle to send the game into overtime.
An undecided overtime led to a shootout, where Oklahoma City took the win in six rounds. The Barons saw shootout tallies from Magnus Paajarvi and Justin Schultz, while the Admirals got their lone goal from Austin Watson.
Including the overtime period, the Admirals registered the lowest total shots on goal of the season with just 17 shots, 13 of which were during regulation. Prior to tonight's game, the lowest SOG was 20, which happened back on November 25th in Grand Rapids. Barons goaltender Olivier Roy ended the night with 15 of 17 saves plus making saves on 5 of the 6 shots he faced in the shootout.
The Ads round out the weekend with a 3:00pm game against the division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins are 7-3-0-0 in their last ten, including tonight's 4-3 shoot out win at Chicago.