C.J. Stretch was hanging out at his home in Irvine, Calif., Monday morning when he received a call from Barons general manager Bill Scott.
On Tuesday night, Stretch scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in Oklahoma City's 3-2 win over the Texas Stars at the Cox Convention Center.
“My goal all year was to get called up. I didn't care which team,” Stretch said. “I've heard great things about this organization. When I got the call, I was pretty excited.”
After Scott called, Stretch, a 23-year-old left winger, hurriedly packed his bags. The California native, playing for the Ontario Reign in the East Coast Hockey League, caught a flight to Phoenix, then a connecting flight to Oklahoma City.
“It was right when that storm was coming in,” Stretch said. “Looking out the window it was snowy and really windy. You couldn't really see the ground until you landed. But I got here.”
Stretch checked into his hotel around 11 p.m. He officially signed with the Barons after Tuesday's morning skate.
A few hours later, he scored off a pass from team captain Josh Green with just under three minutes left to give OKC a 3-1 lead.
“It's huge to get that first one out of the way to get my confidence up,” Stretch said. “It's great to be playing with two skilled players (Green and Toni Rajala).”
Stretch's goal proved to be pivotal when the Stars scored with 33 seconds left.
“He played well all game,” said veteran defenseman Brett Clark. “He was in the right position. Greeny made a great pass to him. And you can tell he's a goal scorer. That was a huge goal for us.”
One of the top scorers in the ECHL with Ontario, a team in the Los Angeles area, Stretch has scored 60 points in 57 games with the Reign.
“He's the fourth-leading scorer in that league,” Scott said. “He has some grit and energy. We wanted to bring him in and see what he's got to see if he can prove himself at this level.”
Veteran defensemen Randy Jones and Clark were involved in OKC's first two goals.
Clark, who has played in 681 NHL games, scored his first Barons goal on a pass from Philippe Cornet to put OKC up 1-0. After the Stars tied it, Jones set up Tanner House for a 2-1 lead. Stretch scored an insurance goal.
“It was a huge goal,” Nelson said. “That's why we got him here. We wanted to get more secondary scoring. Besides that, I liked his defensive play. He looked very comfortable out there. He looked composed.”
Texas has been the AHL's hottest team and soared to the top of the Western Conference. It was only the Stars' second regulation loss in their last 15 games.
The Barons have been equally as hot at the Cox Center, extending their season-best home winning streak to five.
“To be honest I was quite worried about this game,” Nelson said. “Anytime you do a home-and-home (with Houston) like we did last weekend it usually takes two or three days to recover from it. I could tell the guys weren't as energetic as they can be.
“I'm very happy with the win. The guys gave me what they had. And Stretch scored the big goal. ”