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Barons gain three points on week despite goal drought
Young team involved in three close games
11/28/04 - by Craig Haueter

If you like close games, the Cleveland Barons took all three games to the wire this week, gaining a win Friday night over Cincinnati and salvaging a point in a shootout loss to Houston Tuesday night. In a rematch with Cincinnati Saturday night, the outcome was not decided until the Mighty Ducks managed a pair of goals in the final four minutes of the third period. Despite a shot advantage of 112-89 over their three opponents this week, the Barons could only muster a total of seven goals in those three games, including just 1 power play goal in 13 chances.

Tuesday night, with just seven minutes to play in regulation, Tomas Plihal of the Barons muscled the puck through traffic in front of the Houston goal to give the Barons a 2-1 lead. However, the lead did last long. Houston's Matt Foy poked the puck past Dimitri Patzold to the tie the game up at 15:06 of the third. Rookie forward Riley Armstrong scored his second goal of the season for the Barons in the second period. After a scoreless overtime period, Houston easily won the shootout 3-1, with only Patrick Rissmiller able to convert a shot past Aeros goalie Mike Smith.

The save of the game belonged to Patzold as he stopped Christoph Brandner from point-blank range off a loose puck in the second period. Symbolizing the frustrations of struggling to score was Shane Joseph of the Barons who chopped his stick over the crossbar after a fruitless flurry late in the second period.

The first meeting of the season Friday night with intra-state rival Cincinnati produced a tight-checking, low-scoring affair, which the Barons won on home ice 3-2. The Mighty Ducks tallied the opening score with Michael Holmqvist finishing off a three-on-one break for Cincinnati with a wrist shot from 15 feet. Josh Prudden's second goal of the season would tie the game at 1-1 nearly three minutes later on a great individual effort. The second period saw both teams exchange goals as Tomas Plihal scored for the Barons off a rebound of his own previous shot. A defensive breakdown by Matt Carkner in his own end allowed Stanislav Chistov to navigate inside and feed a pass back to Aaron Rome for the tally with just eight seconds remaining in the period.

With under four minutes remaining in regulation, Shane Joseph of the Barons wristed home his first game-winner and fourth goal overall for the 3-2 win. Joseph skillfully settled a bouncing rebound off a shot from Grant Stephenson to beat Frederic Cassivi from between the faceoff circles. The Mighty Ducks made the Barons' faithful nervous in the final moments of the contest with a Cincinnati shot that crossed the goal line was disallowed due to a Mighty Duck dislodging the net off its moorings. The win snapped a 3-game losing streak for Cleveland and reversed what happened the previous two home dates--giving up late goals to lose. The two teams combined for a season-low 10 penalty minutes.

In the rematch Saturday night in Cincinnati, Joffrey Lupul scored two goals and Mike Ayers made 29 saves in his AHL debut as the Mighty Ducks defeated the Barons 4-2. For the tenth time this season, the Barons jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Aaron Gill redirected a wrist shot from defenseman Tim Conboy. Cincinnati countered with the tying goal at the midpoint of the first period as Lupul beat Dimitri Patzold for his third goal of the season.

Patrick Rissmiller re-established the Barons lead converting a "spin-o-rama" past goalie Ayers. However, with 12 seconds remaining in the period, Pierre Parenteau scored on a power play chance to tie the game up 2-2. Cincinnati would wait until 3:31 to play in regulation to score the deciding goal as Lupul registered his second goal of the night punching a rebound home. Joel Perrault added an insurance tally a minute later. Ayers, recalled from Dayton of ECHL earlier in the day, earned his first AHL victory.

Barons Notes

Despite the shootout loss to Houston Tuesday night, the Barons are sad to see the season series end so soon. Prior to Tuesday's game, Cleveland was a perfect 3-0-0-0 against the Aeros this season and had won six of the last seven meetings.

The Cleveland Barons Player of the Week is right wing Shane Joseph. Joseph had two assists the previous week in three games and an even plus/minus. The Minnesota State-Mankato alum had his four-game point streak snapped in Grand Rapids.

Houston goalie Mike Smith has to rank as one of the top AHL goalies in physical size. Listed as 6'3", Smith made openings hard to spot in the Houston net for Barons attackers. Beside stopping 40 Cleveland shots in the game, he also came up big in the shootout. Smith was a 5th Round pick by Dallas in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

Two reasons contributing to the offensive struggles of the Barons recently might be tendencies for the forwards to pass up close range shots on the power play, dishing the puck back to defensemen at the blue line and shot generally taken from poor angles along the side boards too deep toward the goal line. The Barons are off until next Friday night at home which allows much-needed practice ice team for the young squad.

Although rookie defenseman Josh Gorges has yet to score an AHL point, he continues to do everything else it takes to win. Notwithstanding a scoreless string of 19 games, Gorges has been perhaps the Barons most valuable skater according to Barons' coaches. Gorges played the previous four seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL and was signed as a free agent by San Jose.

Interesting statistic of the day: Dimitri Patzold and Nolan Schaefer have been excellent in the third period this season. Combined, the duo has stopped 174 of a possible 187 shots against them. That is good for a .930 save percentage.

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