The points were earned last night that were needed. With the Oklahoma City Barons officially nabbing a playoff spot the night before with a victory over the Abbotsford Heat, the Barons had one more game to deal with during the regular season. Facing the Houston Aeros, and Josh Harding (on a conditioning stint; MS treatments), the OKC Barons would take care of business and eventually win 3-0.
Niko Hovinen enters the rotation prior to the postseason beginning, and a few Barons regulars sit out for an extra days worth of rest. But it didn’t matter much as the Barons dominated the Aeros for much of the game with their high shot totals, solid penalty kill, and propensity to just do nice things.
Josh Green and Jonathan Cheechoo were the high profile healthy scratches in addition to Brandon Davidson and Martin Marincin on the defensive side, who have been heavy regulars. Yann Danis gets the rest, and Niko Hovinen finally has a chance to start prior to the postseason, and the stars were beginning to align.
After a “feeling out” first period things went the way of the Baron after Toni Rajala scored a goal near the front half of the second period. Then not only did the game go the way of the Baron, but the way of Chris VandeVelde. CVV would have his second two-goal game in back-to-back nights as he’d net a short-hander near the end of the second period, and a late third period even strength goal.
Some rough stuff and goofyness from Darcy Hordichuk (fighting) and Ben Eager (20:00 mark attempted spearing double minor) excluded, the Barons rolled hard on the Houston Aeros.
But in all it was another statement game from the Barons who could have placed between 5th and 8th based on a win or a loss (and a few other things). The team would seal up the 5th seed in the Western Conference, and win a date with the Charlotte Checkers in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The games start Friday and Saturday in Oklahoma City as part of the AHL’s ludicrous “we want to save $$” opening round that is only a best of five with the “lesser” team beginning at home. Yes, it’s silly. Yes, it’s ridiculous. Yes, I’m glad the team made the postseason for the third straight time.
The playoff roster is set, but here’s a bit of good news for the Barons post season (via NewsOK):
The Oilers are expected to reassign forward Teemu Hartikainen and Anton Lander to Oklahoma City.
Even though Edmonton will mathematically be eliminated from the playoffs mid-week, the Oilers are dealing with injuries so Hartikainen and Lander could miss Games 1 and 2 and join the Barons after the NHL season ends this weekend.
“They will be welcome additions,” Nelson said. “If we do get some guys back from Edmonton, they’ve been part of this run the last couple of months. It’s not like the first year when we got back six or seven guys for the playoffs and had to try and find that chemistry.”