The Oklahoma City Barons have been hampered by constant roster shuffling the past two weeks, but coach Todd Nelson said that's no excuse after a 6-0 to the Chicago Wolves on Friday night at the Cox Convention Center.
“Making any excuses because of call-ups or injuries, that would be taking the easy way out,” Nelson said. “Chicago was good tonight. They have (veteran) players that they go (sign). Those players have been around a long time. They showcased their skills tonight.”
With Edmonton experiencing a rash of injuries, the Barons are forced to rely on more young players. OKC's roster on Friday night featured nine players who saw time in the Double-A ECHL last season.
In contrast, the Wolves, the St. Louis Blues' AHL affiliate, have several NHL-tested veterans, including goaltender Jake Allen, who posted a 9-4 record last season in 15 game with the Blues.
“Those young guys getting an opportunity to play is going to really help us at the end of the year,” said Barons veteran forward Matthew Ford. “These guys are gaining valuable experience. (Saturday) will be the real test, how these guys respond. We can't hang our heads. We're playing the exact same team.”
After a scoreless first period, Chicago scored five goals in the second period. The Wolves scored four goals in the final nine minutes of the period.
“We weren't consistent with our system,” Nelson said. “That could be due to working with different lines all week, guys going to Edmonton, some guys coming back. Right now we don't have any continuity.”
Three Chicago players — veterans Alexandre Bolduc and Shane Harper and 20-year-old highly ranked prospect Ty Rattie — scored two goals each for Chicago, which had scored only 20 goals all season before Friday night's eruption.
Harper scored 51 seconds into the second period. Rattie scored with 8:51 left in the period to make it 2-0.
“Once they got that second goal, I think we let down,” Nelson said. “You can't do that. We have to have a push back. We had no push back whatsoever. We have to make things more difficult for them. We didn't have enough traffic in front of their net. They won the puck battles.”
Thirty-one seconds after Rattie's goal, Harper lit the lamp for the second time. Just 33 seconds later, Bolduc scored to make it 4-0. Late in the second period, Bolduc scored again. Rattie, who also had two assists, scored his third goal of the season early in the third period.
“We're upset with the way we played,” Ford said. “At times our effort was down. Our system play was one of the big things. They have some talent. To be successful we have to play our systems the right way.”
So what did Nelson tell the team after such a lopsided loss?
“I didn't tell them anything. There's not much to be said,” Nelson said. “We'll address things we have to fix at our meeting (Saturday). It's one of those games you have to learn from it but push it aside, forget it real quick because we play them again (Saturday) night.”