Alex Plante has been a mainstay of Barons hockey for the entire life of the Oklahoma City Barons organization. He’s been a solid contributor to the city, the team, the fans, and his teammates. Unfortunately for Alex, it appears that his time with OKC (as well as the Oilers) will end on a terrible note.
Via Mike Baldwin at the Daily Oklahoman, Alex Plante suffered a broken jaw after taking a puck to the face in Game #2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup against the Charlotte Checkers. The injury he sustained was substantial enough that he’ll be having surgery today to repair portions of the jaw. This is unsettling news because Plante had suddenly become a key part of the shut-down portion of the Barons increasingly youthful defensive core. Having rotated as the 6/7 defenders with Colten Teubert, Plante found another gear late in the season and won the job for what would be the postseason run.
In Plante’s absence, Teubert becomes the deep pairing shut down guy, and Coach Nelson was honest in his assesment of how he’ll be used in the lineup.
Over the weekend, with both NHL parent clubs out of the playoffs, the Charlotte Checkers and Oklahoma City Barons made roster additions that only make both teams better. In a 1-1 series tie, the 4/5 quarterfinal of the Western Conference now turns to three straight in Charlotte after an opening two-step in Oklahoma City. The first game was decided in sudden death, the other featured a monstrous night for Mark Arcobello, and a three goal victory. Both were very entertaining games, and believe me when I say this – the next three will be even more entertaining.
The Edmonton Oilers have announced the addition of Anton Lander to the Oklahoma City Barons. Teemu Hartikainen, sent down prior to the last two games by the Oilers, will be joined by solid center Lander where the two are likely to play alongside each other (Toni Rajala on the opposite wing, please).
After a heart-breaking sudden death overtime loss, the Oklahoma City Barons looked for a bit of redemption in game two of their quarterfinal series against the Charlotte Checkers.
Redemption is a dish best served with five straight goals.
Mark Arcobello would score a hat trick in the third period en route to a Barons steam rolling victory over the Checkers, thus escaping the dreaded “gotta win three straight” scenario that occurs when you play a quick, five game series.
The first period was a complete flip flop of both team’s performances the night before. On Friday, it was the Barons triumphantly poaching the center of the offensive zone, and taking every chance to rifle a shot. All while the Checkers played off their back foot. Completely mirror those instances and that’s what you had on Saturday evening.
Oklahoma City allowed a wide open canal for Charlotte to careen through with very little agitation. So much so that the Checkers jumped out to a 2-0 lead halfway through the first period on goals from Sean Dolan and Zach Boychuk. With the shots heavily favoring the away team at 20-5, it was a sight for sore eyes when Jonathan Cheechoo scored the first goal of the evening for the Barons with around three minutes remaining in the period. Assists care of Toni Rajala and Mark Arcobello ended the period with the Checkers on top 2-1.
A four versus five matchup is sometimes hard to get a full grasp on when you’re simply working from a paper box score, and an armful of stats. Many times there is a great divide among the two teams, and that’s immediately known from the time the puck is dropped until the final horn sounds. Then there are time where both squads resemble each other just enough, and match up so well that the closeness of their seedings are spot on.
Friday night, in the opening round of the Calder Cup series between the Checkers and Barons, the two teams couldn’t have been more akin to one another.
The first period was an excellent one for the home team, and a semi-good one for the visitors. Ultimately the Barons would take each opportunity afforded them to really beat the Checkers at their own game. One way they appeared to accomplish this task was in the number of attempted long passes. Doing so allowed the Barons to move the puck quickly up ice, and nudge the defenders back on their heels.
The Edmonton Oilers have two games left in the shortened NHL regular season. They’ll face the Minnesota Wild on Friday and the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. At that same time, their affiliated AHL team in Oklahoma City will start their Calder Cup postseason march, and they’ll do so with the help of Teemu Hartikainen.
Sent down to OKC today, Hartikainen will instantly make the Barons a better team, as he’s been prone to do for the last three seasons.
Despite the Edmonton view on things, Hartikainen has been one of the most successful players to have played in Oklahoma City in the last three years. A tough guy with some incredible skill, he’s been unable to jump the hurdle to make himself a full-time NHL player.
He’s trying to figure out what a gritty, strong power forward does and what’s connected to that. What’s important for him is to continue to manage the puck in all three zones.
If you’ll recall, it took about a season and a half before Hartikainen really got a feel for what the Oilers wanted him to do which was not to score goals, but be a hard edged forward on the boards and in front of the net. Scoring goals also would help his cause too. Now he knows the what, it’s up to him to figure out the how. That starts again this weekend.
General Manager Craig MacTavish announced today the Edmonton Oilers have assigned left winger Teemu Hartikainen to the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.
Hartikainen has appeared in 23 games with the Oilers this season; registering three points (1G, 2A).
Oklahoma City. A place where the wind sweeps down the plains, where the wavin’ wheat smells sweet, and the wind always comes right behind (and before and during) the rain. A town that I’ve called home for the better part of half of my life, and where my family has grown. A destination that’s gone from cow town to oil town to new energy to professional sports market to a new business promoter and beyond. A spot on the map where, despite these changes, it’s the people that have gone unchanged since statehood in 1907. A spirited outpost that is more than a wild west gong show of old. A locale that isn’t the first place one points to and says, “I want to live there!”, but when they leave those same people say, “I want to go back there!” And truthfully there’s no better time to be in Oklahoma than now.
Lost in the sea of NBA playoffs, Sooners quarterback controversy, Cowboys recruiting news, and other various sports meanderings are the Oklahoma City Barons. The newest sports franchise in OKC that in three years has made the playoffs, and had some pretty memorable moments along the way. So today, we few who follow, love, cherish, and promote the Barons better than any other single entity in the metro area, look forward to a quick five game quarterfinal series against the Charlotte Checkers. With the Calder Cup being the final destination, I boldly declare this the year of the Western Conference! No more Eastern Conference domination, it’s time for a non-traditional hockey market to punch the league in the jaw, win the whole thing, and ease my fears that the AHL is becoming a New England-y league. And I think our Barons have a real shot to make that happen. But first, the race flags.
The Checkers roster has gone through a ton of changes this year, but they’ve had a lot of guys who have consistently produced and one of those players is Chris Terry. He currently leads the team in goals with 25 and has 60 points in 70 games. You could make the case that Terry has been Charlotte’s best player this year, as he has managed to produce even after Charlotte’s roster changes and having to adjust to different centers. Of course, it helps that Charlotte is a very strong team down the middle and their center depth has helped them survive this wave of injuries. Both Brett Sutter and Jeremy Welsh have been strong pivots for Charlotte and their depth will get even better once Riley Nash returns. The mid-season acquisition of Luke Pither also helped them, as he has been almost a point-per-game player since being traded for.
One area where the Checkers are at a disadvantage is goaltending because both of their starting goalies were lost to the NHL and they can’t get Justin Peters back without him passing through waivers. This means their goaltending tandem will consist of John Muse, Rob Madore and Mike Murphy. Muse helped the Everblades win the Kelly Cup last year, but he has a sub-.900 save percentage in 16 AHL games played this season so that is a concern. Madore, on the other hand, has been fantastic in nine games played with the Checkers this year but one has to wonder how long he will be able to hold up since this is his first year in the AHL. If he doesn’t pan out then they can always turn to Murphy, who has playoff experience but is rusty from not having played many games in awhile.
Murphy, the Carolina Hurricanes’ first-round draft choice (12th overall) in 2011, has only been with Charlotte for a little over a week after his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers, lost in the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. Thanks to a solid AHL debut last week (two assists in three games) and some injuries on defense, it looks as though he may again fill a key role as the Checkers begin their quest for the Calder Cup against Oklahoma City this weekend.
The Checkers will be adding to their offense. Riley Nash and Tim Wallace were sent down on Wedneday and Nicholas Blanchard is expecting to rejoin the team once the NHL regualar season is over. Nash has 37 points in 51 games in the AHL this season.
On offense, Charlotte is led by Chris Terry, Zach Boychuk and Zac Dalpe, who have all scored over 20 goals this season. Brett Sutter has scored 19 while adding 29 assists.
The Checkers feature a nice mix of skill and grit on offense, which will be crucial in a five or seven game playoff series.
The Checkers added arguably the Hurricanes’ best prospect in Ryan Murphy about two weeks ago to the defense after his team was knocked out of junior playoffs. Murphy only played in three games but recorded two assists and adds an offensive element to the defense.
The defense also has Marc-Andre Gragnani that can contribute in the offensive category. Brett Bellemore, who played a few games in the NHL this season is relied on for defensive play and will have to focus on Rajala for the Checkers to beat the Barons.
The Carolina Hurricanes have reassigned center Riley Nash and forward Tim Wallace to the Charlotte Checkers, the Canes’ AHL affiliate, which opens its Western Conference Quarterfinals series Friday at Oklahoma City.
Nash, 23, has posted NHL career highs this season with four goals, five assists (9 points) and 32 games played. With Charlotte, he set AHL career highs in assists (24) and points (37), and ranked fourth in assists and fifth in scoring among team skaters, despite playing 51 of the team’s 76 regular-season games.
Wallace, 28, scored one goal and earned one assist (2 points) in 26 NHL regular-season games with Carolina this season. The Anchorage, AK, native also scored nine goals and earned 13 assists (22 points) in 47 AHL games this season with Charlotte.
The Calder Cup playoffs begin in just a few short days, in case your were unaware. Yesterday I gave my rundown of the Eastern Conference side of the equation, and I picked the Syracuse Crunch to basically out score everyone on the planet, including the Providence Bruins (slight exaggeration)
Today the Western Conference is up, and this one will likely have me torn. It’s difficult to remove your team from your mental forefront having watched them under the microscope for 70+ games, but I find the opposite to be true in my brain – I’m highly critical of the team I follow, and perhaps a bit to a fault. After all, I know their ugly side as well as anyone. So the balancing act is delicate, but I’ll give it a whirl.
At last night’s Oklahoma City Barons weekly radio show, there was an excited glow about the next couple of weeks, but mainly for the opening series of the OKC vs Charlotte first rounder taking place this weekend. The best of five seemingly favors the team that is seeded higher (or is it lower), and in this case the Barons at #5 will start at home for back-to-back games over the #4 Checkers who’ll get the final three at home. OKC, out of the gate, will get two straight days of bonus hockey in the city. That’s huge for promotions, ticket sales, and overall hockey activity.
But before we get there (series preview, west predictions, etc. etc. is forthcoming), a bit of news from Edmonton that has huge implications on the Barons as they prep for the first round of the Calder Cup.
Courtesy of the Edmonton Oilers twitter feed, no OKC Barons will be recalled to be used in the final three games of the Oilers season. Via twitter:
Coach Krueger says there will be no more call-ups from the #OKCBarons in order to respect their AHL playoff prep for Friday
Prepare for half the roster to pull a groin, thus making a call-up necessary. Watch, it’ll happen.
The “no call-ups” statement is good. Yet this also means that Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen will stay put with the big club likely until the NHL season wraps up on April 27th, the day the Barons will head to Charlotte for Game #3 of the quarterfinals. It’s hard to argue a swap of two from the farm for two in Edmonton simply because the two in Edmonton are the two that belong there. And thus Nelson and his staff will focus on the current roster “as is”, and look forward to bringing back Lander and Hartikainen to only make the team even better.
The Calder Cup postseason is something that’s still relatively new to Oklahomans. Only three years in, the Barons have made the playoffs all three years, and have been everywhere from a number one seed to eighth in that span. A first round “roughy” with the Hamilton Bulldogs in year one, and a dramatic journey to the Western Conference Finals in another has brought us to 2013, and yet another decent spot in the postseason playoff picture. Very few teams can lay claim to such high success immediately after their creation. So we are entirely spoiled as fans of the American Hockey League living in Oklahoma City.
And so it’s that time of year again, when the Barons soldier through a first round playoff series, and attempt to even or best their amazing run of 2012. But before we do that, let’s take a look at the “other guys” in the same race as we.
Let’s go ahead and start with the Eastern Conference, because by default I don’t watch much EC hockey. And unless you won the lottery in October, and paid for an all team AHL Live subscription, chances are that you haven’t watched much either. Keep in mind, that the bulk of the Calder Cup winning comes from this conference. So it is pertinent that we explore the picks just a bit. So, we start there.