There are no more than two ways about it. The Oklahoma City Barons are an up-and-down hockey team.
As for coach Todd Nelson, however, he has reason to get a little sideways about his American Hockey League club. One night, the Barons look like a so-so team that hovers around the .500 mark. The next night, they look like the predicted powerhouse that should contend for second consecutive division and conference championships — if not more.
Oklahoma City pumped in four goals during the first period Saturday night and went on to rout the Texas Stars 6-2 before 3,179 fans in the Cox Convention Center. The Barons snapped a two-game winless skid, which included Friday's shutout loss to the same Texas team. Justin Schultz had two goals, both in the first period, and goaltender Yann Danis stopped 39 shots for the game to help the Barons go into Christmas break with a 14-10-4 record.
“That's a lot better than last night,” Nelson said. “We got off to a great start. We won the battles. We put the puck on net. We just worked extremely hard, and we kept on going the whole game.”
Which is why Nelson is sometimes left scratching his head. The Barons managed just 12 shots after two periods Friday night; Saturday night, Oklahoma City had 14 tries on net in the first period, which included Schultz's goals and one each from Taylor Hall and Tanner House.
The Barons' four-goal explosion in the first was the franchise's best since October 2011, when it had six tallies in the first period against Texas. What's more, Oklahoma City was so dominant Saturday that goaltender Christopher Nilstorp, who started the game riding two consecutive shutouts, was yanked after the first period.
“Before last night (Friday), I didn't have these here,” said Nelson, pulling on a couple of gray hairs in his goatee. “We have been up and down. We weren't ready to compete Friday night, then tonight, everyone contributed. You don't expect a four-goal first period like we had tonight. That first goal by Schultz helped us early. We got a lot of confidence after that.”
Schultz's first goal came just 3:34 into the game. The second, about nine minutes later, gave him 16 this season.
“We worked a lot harder tonight,” the rookie defenseman said. “I think it was one of our better games all year. After last night (Friday), we had to take a good look in the mirror, look at the film and see what we did wrong. The boys are happy to get that win.”
Tyler Pitlick and Mark Arcobello added goals in the second and third periods, respectively, for Oklahoma City. Reilly Smith scored both Texas goals, one even strength and the other on the power play. The latter drew the Stars (15-9-4) within 5-2.
“It just comes down to hard work,” Nelson said. “The skill guys — it doesn't matter how much talent you have on your team. Everybody did not come out and have a good night on Friday. Tonight, everyone came out and had a good night.”