Oklahoma City Barons coach Todd Nelson said it's not unusual for young players to have jitters during their first game of the season, especially if it's their first Triple-A game in the American Hockey League.
Such was the case for the Barons in their season opener Friday night at the Cox Convention Center. The Barons dug an early hole, rallied to tie the game early in the third period but lost 3-2 to the Charlotte Checkers.
The Barons got a couple of bad bounces to fall behind 2-0 in the first period but also were outshot 15-6 in the opening period.
“Our puck management wasn't very good. We had a lot of turnovers in that first period,” Nelson said. “Anytime you do that you end up playing in your zone a lot and that's what happened.”
The Barons dominated the final two periods, outshooting the Checkers 18-5 in the middle period. They tied it on Philip Larsen's power play goal just under seven minutes into the third period, but Charlotte retook the lead on Brody Sutter's goal with 5:16 to play.
“After the first intermission we started to take control of the game, and the third (period) we kept on coming,” Nelson said. “We got the big power play goal to tie it. It was going good. All of a sudden we took a penalty, and I think that killed the momentum a little bit even though we killed off the penalty.”
Veteran Ryan Jones, who has played 282 games in the NHL the past five years, scored OKC's first goal on a nice pass from Ryan Martindale.
“The first period is about what I expected,” Jones said. “There's always a team that seems to have that edge the first period for whatever reason and they get a bounce to get some excitement early on. And there's a team that takes a while to get going. We were the team that took a while to get going.
“After that first period I thought we played exceptionally well the past two periods. It was night and day the two hockey periods. There's no doubt if we can put 60 minutes together like we did the last 40 minutes we'll win a lot of hockey games for sure.”