The Oklahoma City Barons' frustration with the Houston Aeros continued Friday night at the Cox Convention Center.
A 3-2 American Hockey League loss in front of 4,098 fans was the most recent one-goal loss to the Aeros.
Houston has won eight of 10 meetings with Oklahoma City this season. Six of the eight losses have been by one goal. Another loss, on New Year's Day, technically was a one-goal loss, with the Aeros scoring an insurance empty-net goal in the waning seconds.
“It's weird,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “I'm having flashbacks to our first season, when Houston had our number all year. It's funny how things work.
“It's amazing we beat a team like (Western Conference leader) Texas seven times, the most losses they've had against any team, and we have a tough time against Houston. I don't know if it's because of how we match up or what.”
Team captain Josh Green said the Aeros are motivated by OKC dominating the series last season, including winning three of four in the first round of the playoffs.
“We took it to them pretty good last year,” Green said. “For some reason this year they've had an edge over us. I think they kind of remember what happened last year. But give them credit, they're a good team.”
Both teams scored a goal 17 seconds apart midway through the first period.
The Aeros took a 2-1 lead on Brian Connelly's tip-in goal midway through the second period, then built a 3-1 cushion on Mikael Granlund's goal early in the third period.
“We had him marked,” Nelson said. “Their defenseman (Steven Kampler) made a great play, throwing it to the far side. Granlund is pretty nifty around the net. That's basically one of those things where it's a one-on-one battle.”
The Barons clawed to within 3-2 with 5:37 remaining on Dane Byers' goal, which ended an 0-for-16 power-play drought. OKC, though, could not score the equalizer.
“They have some new personnel this year, some pretty good offensive players that play well when the game is on the line,” Green said. “We have to find a way to dig a little bit deeper. ... The road to the playoffs may go through Houston. We have to figure a way to beat those guys.”
The Barons begin a four-game road trip Saturday night in San Antonio. Three of the four opponents are among 10 teams battling for the final four playoff berths in the Western Conference.
“Now that we have our team pretty well set we can spend some time together on the road, go to dinners and kind of jell a little bit as a team and talk about what we need to do to get into the playoffs, chemistry-wise, things like that,” Green said. “It will be good to get away and just be the guys on the road.”
Following Friday's loss, the Barons are in a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot. Chicago, one of the opponents on the road trip, has three games in hand.
“There are a lot of similarities to this season as there was our first season,” Nelson said. “It was the same sort of scenario when we went up north and played those teams. We succeeded two years ago and need to do that again. ”