CLEVELAND — Turns out the Oklahoma City Barons are not going to steamroll through the American Hockey League.
The Barons were defeated 2-1 by the Lake Erie Monsters in their season-opener before 12,011 fans on Friday at the Quicken Loans Arena.
After erasing a 1-0 deficit, the Barons were burned in the final five minutes when defenseman Martin Marincin misfired on a shot in the Monsters zone. Andrew Agozzino converted the turnover into the deciding goal.
The Edmonton Oilers farm team has been anointed as the team to beat in the AHL this season and rightly so when the numbers are laid out in black and white.
The Barons had five first-round NHL draft picks in their lineup on Friday, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first pick overall in 2011, and Jordan Eberle, the Oilers' top pick in 2008.
The duo is spending the NHL lockout with the Barons, who have 16 players back from the team that came out of the AHL's Western Conference as the top seed last spring, bowing out to the Toronto Marlies on May 25. Toronto was swept by the Norfolk Admirals in the Calder Cup final.
Since then, the Barons have added: Justin Schultz, the unproven yet sought after free-agent defenseman the Oilers signed on June 30; Taylor Fedun, who was close to making the NHL roster before he shattered his femur; and of course, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, NHL award finalists both for their work in 2011-12.
In total, the Barons had five first-round selections in their lineup Friday plus another seven players selected in the second round (none lower than 48th overall).
But they couldn't start the season off with a win — not even with a last-minute power play and a sixth attacker.
After a scoreless penalty-marred opening period that saw the Monsters outshoot the Barons 12-10, Lake Erie's Bill Thomas, who played seven games with the Florida Panthers last season, got the game's first goal, putting away a puck that went in off Yann Danis' right pad.
Schultz, who was impressive in his pro debut, picked up an assist when he sent a quick feed over to Mark Arcobello on a 5-on-3, leaving the game in balance until 16:27 when Agozzino flicked the winner over Danis' right shoulder.
The Monsters and the Barons face off again on at noon Saturday, before the Oilers' AHL affiliate returns to Oklahoma City for its Oct. 19 home-opener against San Antonio in the Cox Center.