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Recap: OKC Barons @ Amerks 01/20/12

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“If I could be just what you need, maybe we’d be better off.” (Green River Ordinance, Learning)

A full house for round two

I feel like the Amerks are singing the fans that song lately. Anyhow … yesterday afternoon, an unexpected tweet came across my feed: Derek Whitmore (@dwhitmore21) boldly stated:

My initial reaction was “Oh, man. Derek. You’re going to regret that …” I’m alright with admitting that I was wrong, however. Hey! There’s a first time for everything!

The Amerks team that came out against the Barons last night, for the second straight night, was a completely different Amerks team. Of course, you might not know that, if all you looked at was the box score. The Amerks fell again to the Barons, this time with a 4-2 tally, but the Amerks looked so much cleaner. I mean, some nights you’re on and some nights you’re off and tonight the Amerks looked so much closer to “on” than whoever those imposters were two nights ago. I think the biggest difference was that last night’s game wasn’t one in which the Amerks sat back and let themselves be walked all over. Not wasting much time, Igor Gongalsky dropped the mitts with Taylor Chorney 55 seconds into the game. Gongalsky, who is on a 25 game PTO from Gwinett, was brought to Rochester to be a physical presence and it was felt. Was it delayed retribution for the Rankin hit from December? I don’t know, but Gongalsky made light work of Chorney.

The Barons opened up scoring at 6:19 in the first, and Rochester was left to play catch up the rest of the game. For a team that was constantly behind in score, however, the Amerks were right in the game, up until the final seconds of play. The first period was certainly not one of their finest, but shots on goal remained about even throughout the game and the physical aspect that was missing a couple of nights ago seemed to come back. The Amerks came alive in the third period, and may have forced the game at least to a tie if they had played that way all night. I don’t know what’s worse – watching them only play decent in the second half of the game or watching them throw a second period down the toilet, as they’ve been known to. Either way, the “semi-decent” play of on Thursday was replaced by half-way decent play last night, and that means we’re getting somewhere.

Unsurprisingly (I know, I’m psychic), Drew MacIntyre started in net. He played some solid goalie, but he just lacks the pizzazz and Hasek-ness that Leggio brings. Maybe I’m partial to Leggio for some reason (it’s his hair), but I enjoy watching him play more than DrewMac. Mac was the goalie for the job against the Barons that game, though, and Leggio will likely benefit from a few nights off. The d-men were SO much better, although the openings left by Finley and Morrisson continue to be felt. Schiestel was back in the line up, which was helpful. Morrisson serves the last game of his suspension tonight.

Game notes … After Kassian’s temper tantrum that was thrown in front of the guys at WGR, he did step up his game just the tiiiiiiiniest bit. He notched himself an assist, and he brought a bit of that physical game that we’re all expecting of him, but it still wasn’t enough for me. He looked out of place on the ice nearly the entire night, like a little kid thrown into a man’s game. I don’t know if he’s trapped in his own head or if he’s having some bad nights, but something’s gotta give for this kid. He also managed to land himself a 10-minute misconduct, likely due to some words exchanged with the Barons bench. … Jon Parker was a healthy scratch to make room for Riley Boychuck, who was scratched Thursday. It didn’t seem that Boychuk was on the ice as much Friday as Parker was Thursday, but don’t quote me on that (TOI is not listed in the AHL box score) … Mike Ryan continues to be scratched, although word on the webs yesterday was that he continues to participate in regular team practices. Maybe one day he (and his eyebrows) can play in an actual game.

The Amerks jumped on a bus immediately following last night’s game and will spend their next four games, leading into the All-Star break, on the road. They play the Grand Rapids Griffins tonight and Wednesday nights, the Syracuse Crunch on Friday the 27th, and the Toronto Marlies on the 28th. My family and I will be venturing into the Great White North (and my favorite city ever) to watch the Amerks take on the Marlies in TO, shop at Lobloaw’s in the old Maple Leaf Gardens, and eat dinner at Gretzky’s, so I’ll have a “home away from home” post following that game.

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