ABBOTSFORD — The Edmonton Oilers fans who made a pilgrimage here in a couple of busloads came to see the stars of the future.
They probably didn’t bank on seeing them all on different lines.
The Oklahoma City Barons are a draw. Enough so about 80 Edmonton fans were willing to make a 14-hour trek. Enough so the Abbotsford Heat sold out their double dip against them before the day of the first game. That’s never happened before, not even with the Canucks farm clubs visiting.
It was quite a mix.
There were Canucks fans who showed up looking to give it to Justin Schultz for picking Edmonton over Vancouver when he had his choice in June. That’s understandable. The kid is smooth, clever and confident. If you were a Canucks fan and you were watching him control his side of the ice like it was a well-behaved dog on a lead, it had to have been frustrating. Especially when you consider this is a guy known for offence. But he didn’t tally a point, and he was the Barons’ best player.
But Schultz was scheduled to be the side show to the three amigos, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Not only are they the core reason Schultz signed in Edmonton, they are who the fans came to see. Though they preferably would have liked more than one of them on the ice at the same time.
That’s not what they got. Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins were kept on separate lines. The plan was to spread out scoring. Instead, they got none, losing 4-0 to Abbotsford.
As much as the Barons are a draw off the ice, they’ve been struggling on it. Coming in, they were off to a 5-4-0-1 start, sitting eighth in the standings. They’d scored 31 and given up 31. Turns out, you can’t skill your way up the AHL standings. Stars don’t equate to wins in a league that has an abundance of grinding, especially in Abbotsford. “It’s a little different, it took me a few games to get used to it,” Eberle said. “It’s a little more chip and chase. You got to work for what you get. But saying that, I think we have enough skill on our team where we are able to make plays.
“It’s definitely been a little bit of an adjustment.”
Seems it’s a lot harder to make the skill work when it’s spread all over the lineup.
What the Barons got, was skunked. They were outshot 36-23. They were out-chanced by a 2-1 ratio. And they were even out-skilled. The most remarkable play of the night was Sven Baertschi’s toe drag, spin move around Tanner House.
The Barons gave up a power-play goal with 1:10 to go in the first to the Heat’s Dustin Sylvester. They gave up another in the second when Ben Street scored.
With the Heat up 2-0, whatever swagger the Barons had from all their NHL experience was long gone. The Heat controlled the puck and the game. And did it with ease. In one sequence, they kept the Barons pinned in their own zone for three consecutive shifts.
Finally, a desperate Hall got a handle on the puck. But as he tried to skate with it across the blueline and make a play, Sylvester stripped him of it, and had a marvellous scoring chance of his own.
That was rough, but it got worse.
From behind his own net, Barons defenceman Martin Marincin tried a clearing attempt which re-directed off his own goalie and into his net. It was 4-0 and game over.
Yes, it was that kind of night.