OKC Barons top Hamilton 4-1

by Michael Baldwin Published: April 2, 2013

Center Chris VandeVelde's primary job with the Barons is to kill off penalties, a unit that's been flawless the past seven games.

VandeVelde also chipped in a goal in the Barons' 4-1 win over Hamilton Tuesday night at the Cox Convention Center.

The Barons have won six of their last nine games. Two of the losses were in shootouts.

One key during the hot streak is Oklahoma City has killed off 24 consecutive penalties, including holding the Bulldogs to 0-for-4 with the man advantage.

“It's a huge momentum swing,” VandeVelde said. “It's just like last year, we need to be good killing penalties for this team to be good. To go seven straight (games) is a big accomplishment for us.”

OKC is still last in the American Hockey League in penalty killing but has shown dramatic improvement the past month.

The penalty killing unit set the tone early Tuesday when the Barons killed off a double-minor midway through the first period.

“Now when we take a penalty it's not like, ‘Oh my goodness,' ” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Now we go out, get the kill and move on. It's coming at the right time for our hockey team. That has to continue.”

The game was tighter than the score indicates. Veteran forward Jonathan Cheechoo broke a 1-1 tie midway through the third period. Brandon Davidson and Tanner House added empty-net goals in the final minute.

VandeVelde's goal, his third of the season, gave the Barons a 1-0 lead late in the second period. Toni Rajala kept the play alive. VandeVelde stuffed home a rebound off Teemu Hartikainen's shot.

“I was put in a different role tonight,” VandeVelde said. “Defensively, I still had to be strong. Toni and Hartikainen worked some magic. I was in the right place at the right time.”

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by Michael Baldwin
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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