Sunday, December 23, 2012

Schultz carries Barons to weekend split with Stars

On the heels of one of their worst performances of the season, the Oklahoma City Barons rebounded in time to salvage their weekend series with the Texas Stars. On the strength of a four goal first period and another two goal effort from Edmonton Oilers prospect Justin Schultz, the Barons proved to be too much for the Stars, cruising to an easy 6-2 victory.

Jordan Eberle picked up two more assists on the night, leaving the talented winger in a tie with Schultz atop the AHL scoring race. Their league leading total of forty points, is good enough for a ten point cushion on their closest competition, Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch.

Taylor Hall continued his impressive run down in OKC, picking up his ninth of the season, giving him twenty-four points on the year, despite having played just twenty games. The former first overall selection, is on the verge of cracking the top twenty in scoring and appears to be gaining steam with every game.

After showing little to no jump in dropping a 3-0 decision to the Stars on Friday night, Oklahoma City was all business from the opening whistle in the re-match. Schultz would open the scoring at the 3:34 mark, beating starter Cristopher Nilstorp with nifty little backhand, despite having all five Texas skaters surrounding him.

Just over a minute later, Hall would strike with the Barons on the man advantage, shoveling home a loose puck behind Nilstorp, after Eberle's initial shot beat the Stars tender but rang off the goal post. With an early two goal cushion already in the bag, Oklahoma City kept coming and went for the jugular.

Having just killed off a Josh Green tripping minor, Tanner House broke up ice on what would turn into a two-on-one break, with a hard charging Schultz jumping into the rush. After drawing both the defenceman and goaltender his way, House laid off a lovely feed to the silky smooth blueliner, who made a quick move in tight, before flipping home his second of the period.

Through twenty-eight games, the talented rearguard has now scored sixteen times and is on pace to shatter John Slaney's rookie goal scoring mark of twenty and quite possibly, his single season AHL mark of thirty, should the NHL Lockout run the entire season.

Before the period was out, House would sneak a shot through the Stars shell-shocked netminder, for his second of the year, making it 4-0. Nilstrop would finish off the remaining forty-nine seconds of the period but would be replaced by the highly-touted Jack Campbell, to start period two.

With this one all but over after twenty minutes, the Stars started to take over on the shot clock but the Barons would be the one's to add to their lead. After having all of two assists to show for his first twenty games of the season, Tyler Pitlick finally got the monkey off his back, slamming home his first of the year, to make it a five goal bulge.

A pair of goals from Reilly Smith cut the lead to three but a Mark Arcobello point shot found its way past a screened Campbell, to make it 6-2 and close out the scoring.

The two points pulled Oklahoma City to within a pair of the Stars for second spot in the South Division and keeps them in sixth place in the Western Conference. The victory not only allows the Barons to head into their Christmas break on a winning note but leaves them looking forward to their first post-Christmas game, as they pay a visit to these same Stars on December 27th.

With his first period marker, Hall has now climbed to within in six points of Johnson in the AHL scoring race, meaning the Barons could accomplish something very special...should the NHL Lockout wipe out the entire 2012-2013 campaign. With both Eberle and Schultz currently leading all American Hockey League skaters in scoring, the trio of Oiler youngsters have a legitimate shot of finishing the year 1-2-3 in scoring.

The Houston Aeros were the last club to nearly pull off the feat during the 2005-06 campaign, as Kirby Law and Erik Westrum finished the year as the league's top two scorers but former Edmonton Oilers forward Patrick O'Sullivan, fell just short of giving the Aeros a clean sweep, finishing three points back of former Detroit Red Wings and current Calgary Flames centre, Jiri Hudler.

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