There was a day, believe it or not, where hot pink pants and green sweatshirts were things people thought were good ideas. Likewise, pick-up basketball games were places for young love to blossom. A time, a place, a moment where bad haircuts, and helium filled boys singing songs about 1950’s values in 1985 were commonplace. Love it, hate it, despise it, you can’t turn off a New Edition song even if you wanted to.
The precursor to the boy band explosion of the late 80’s and 90’s and beyond, New Edition was a “R&B” group with a noticeably young sound, content ripped from an Archie comic, and over confidence oozing from every fiber of every second of every single. They knew they were a marketable brand, and boy did they sell it.
DeVoe, Brown, Bell, Bivens, Tresvant made up the first incarnation of the super pop group that was created by childhood friends in an attempt to replicate a new edition of the Jackson 5. That’s quite the uphill battle, but they gave it a go, and it spawned some sugary tracks.
One in particular remains my favorite, and it starts and ends with Cool It Now.
First, this video. It’s just a national treasure. If the word rad had a visual definition, this moving picture show would be it. It’s super cheesy, but watchable on every level. You sit, you listen, you feel awkward, you laugh, you sing a long – it’s a full range of wacky emotions. And I suppose that’s the intended prompting. But hey, in 1985 THIS was the jam (or so I’ve been told).
A song about young love, and chilling out, tapping the brakes, cooling it now. It’s really an attempt to guard the entire hormonal experience knowing full well that’s likely an impossible task. When the synthesizer pops and the mono bass line thumps, you’ll hear the phraseology “You gotta cool it now, Oh watch out, You’re gonna lose it now”. Yet at the same time you know that’s a lost cause.
You too, Oklahoma City Barons, will likely attempt to cool things down. I say, “Why fight it?”. Rip a hole in the AHL atmosphere and make a run for 4th in the West when most said you couldn’t make it to the 8th. Show the world what you’re capable of. Flex the Hartikainen muscle. Lambast with some Lander. Stretch out wins with some, well, Stretch. Rajala like you’ve never Rajala’d before. Yann instead of yawn. You know you can’t fight the urge, so just do it. (Also, British Knights are now required post-game attire).
Two games are on the schedule this weekend, and both are road trips to the nether regions of the northeast.
First up are the Rochester Americans on Friday night. Their 82 points place them just behind the Barons whom also have 82 points (but own the tie breaker). With both teams peaking at the right time (OKC now 7-2-0-1 in last ten; Rochester 7-3-0-0) they’re a very potent matchup in terms of what is at stake. The last time these two met was less than a month ago, and the Barons gave away two points by giving up a two goal lead to eventually lose in a shootout. And like so many of the Midwest and North opponents that the Barons face, a twice-a-year matchup becomes problematic for both sides. You just aren’t that familiar with each other. It could go either way.
Mark Mancari is the Amerk to shut down. 21 goals, 38 assists, 6 power play goals, 18 power play goal assists, and a full 70 games played – he’s a very very capable offensive player. But the team as a whole has been a scoring juggernaut of late averaging over three goals a game which has them near the top in the entire league in goals for. So obviously a lot of things weigh heavily on the Barons defense as well as both Yann Danis and Niko Hovinen whomever gets the start (likely Danis).
One of the best power play units in the business can cripple teams quickly, especially those that are prone to many mistakes. Fortunately, OKC has been able to keep the PIM totals low while being very aggressive offensively. One of the ways that they have done this is by moving the puck quickly from defense to offense. Which is a vast change to the way they were playing when they hit the skids. Move quick on the puck and off the puck against Rochester has to be a part of the winning equation.
Defensively the Americans are pretty solid as well. Brayden McNabb plays an upbeat style akin to Justin Schultz, and he’s got the numbers to further prove that point. A total of 36 points with 31 being assists suggests that he’s a quick puck mover. And that he is.
In net, you take a long hard look at two of the best this league has to offer. Recently acquired from the Wild organization, Matt Hackett again will look to spoil a Barons “good” moment as he did for so many seasons as a Houston Aero. But don’t forget, David Leggio is no slob. He’s quickly become one of the stand out goaltenders in the league. Here’s a bit on him from the Amerks website:
David Leggio, who’s won three of his last five starts, continues to lead all AHL netminders in wins (36), saves (1825), minutes played (3555:53), shots faced (1977), while placing sixth with a .923 save percentage. He also boasts the second-best shootout record (8-1) among goaltenders, having stopped 39 of 50 shooters for a .780 save percentage. Leggio is 19-3 all-time in AHL shootouts and has won 12 of his last 14, including this past Saturday in Adirondack.
He’s legit, and the tandem is one heckuva backstop. THAT is going to be an interesting wall to break down.
And then there’s the Hamilton Bulldogs. The team that has long since been removed from any type of playoff contention, they’ll face OKC on Sunday afternoon. For Hamilton the road has been treacherous for much of this season. They’ve just not found ways to win consistently, and they own the worst record in the league as we speak. Being one of only two teams in the Western Conference to end the season under .500, Hamilton is not having the season it wanted by any stretch of the imagination. And with the off-balanced scheduling the league insists on surrendering to teams, the Barons play the Bulldogs on away ice for only the second time this season, but also the second time in ten days.
Previously the Barons beat them handily, 4-1. The Barons scored three goals in the third period (two empty netters) to finish off the team, and start the run of winning four of the next five games. Yet I remain convinced that this team squeeks out victories ocassionally because of Dustin Tokarski, their dynamite of a goaltender. He doesn’t get much credit, but his SV% is in the right spot. He just doesn’t have the supporting cast to score a bunch of goals. The teams leading scorer, after all, is Patrick Holland and he has only accumulated 28 points all season.
So the Barons will get Anton Lander back from Edmonton, and that’s good. But it does pose a bit of a logjam at center. Arcobello, Lander, Stretch, CVV, Martindale, House are your Barons centers. Stretch can easily play wing, and I remain sold on the idea that this would be good for him. Martindale and House are likely to be the odd men out, and that’s kind of a bummer. Both had been playing really well in-step with the rest of the team’s hot streak. At least on the northern road swing we won’t see much tinkering in the lineup because the body count travelling is smaller, but the team has been playing so well I wouldn’t dare tinker too much.
Likely Barons Lineup:
Philippe Cornet – Mark Arcobello – Jonathan Cheechoo
Toni Rajala – Anton Lander – Teemu Hartikainen
Curtis Hamilton – C.J. Stretch – Tyler Pitlick
Darcy Hordichuk – Chris VandeVelde – Antti Tyrvainen
Scratched: Green (injured), Eager (injured), Pelss, Martindale, House
Martin Marincin – Taylor Fedun
Randy Jones – Alex Plante
Brandon Davidson – Garrett Stafford
Scratched: Ringwald, McFaull, Deck, Hotham, Leach, Teubert