The Oklahoma City Barons finally lost a game.
After a franchise-record seven-game winning streak, the West Division leading Barons lost 3-1 Friday night to the Midwest Division leading Charlotte Checkers.
The Checkers, playing their first game in a week, scored a goal in every period and led from start to finish over a Barons' squad that was playing their second game in as many nights.
“They definitely looked like they were the fresher team,” Barons' coach Todd Nelson said. “I didn't think the guys had a lot of juice in their legs tonight. I think it came down to just one team that was more rested than our team.”
Charlotte grabbed its third win in four games at the Cox Convention Center this season. The Barons are now 2-3-0-1 against a team they may face in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City plays the Checkers twice more this season. Both games are in Charlotte.
“They always play us tough,” Nelson said. “They are a good hockey team. They are second in our conference in points. We know going in against that hockey team we are going to have to play an excellent game. Tonight we were average and average doesn't cut it against a team like Charlotte.”
Nelson called the loss a reality check for the Barons.
“Sometimes when you go on streaks and you think you are too big for your britches,” he said. “I don't think it was so much that, but I think it was a reality check for us. We can learn from this. I think it knocked us down a peg. I don't think that is a bad thing.”
The Barons cut the Checkers' lead to 2-1 on a goal by Curtis Hamilton 18:16 into the second period, giving the 4,159 fans in attendance Friday some hope for a comeback win.
But the Checkers scored early in the third period and the Barons couldn't muster any offense after that.
“We had an opportunity, going into the third period down one goal,” Nelson said. “There's been some games where we've come back in the third period, but tonight it didn't happen for us.”
Even with the loss, the Barons still lead the American Hockey League's Western Conference in points and have the best record in the AHL. The Barons lead second-place Houston by nine points in the West Division.
“We are not satisfied with the outcome obviously, but we have created a bit of a cushion,” Nelson said.