Rochester Loses, Charlotte Survives, Barons Win

Recently Frozen made it’s way on to DVD and into the hearts of the children in my home (previously into my wallet via the theaters), and if I’ve learned one thing from Olaf the Snowman it’s this…”all good things, all good things”.

On a rare Tuesday game in the minor leagues, the Oklahoma City Barons were able to outlast the San Antonio Rampage on the wings of two power play goals, and some really smart goaltending by the Wizarding World of Richard Bachman. THIS in fact nudges the Barons just a bit closer to a playoff spot, but with a few wrinkles.

I say that it was a rare Tuesday night, but it was nothing short of extraordinary for the six teams playing, three with serious playoff hopes. Rochester, currently in that coveted 8th spot in the West, was defeated by the burly Toronto Marlies. Charlotte, currently tied with Oklahoma City for the 9th spot (but own the tie breaker), beat Iowa by one goal to stay put in the standings. With the Rochester loss, it opens the door for the Checkers and Barons to duke it out in the finality of the 2013-14 regular season.

I mentioned this in the pre-game ramblings, but Charlotte is next on the sked for the Barons. They’ll face each other twice at home (OKC), and twice on the road (Charlotte) four of the next five games. Sandwiched in between is a Hamilton game played in the Cox Center. The league is salivating with the final playoff spot likely coming down to head-to-head matchups this late in the season. For the fans of both squads, we salivate, but then quickly reach for barf bags. NERVOUS.

The great news for OKC is that the team will play six of the next ten at home. After squaring off against Charlotte they make the gruelling trip to Abbotsford then back to Bricktown for three straight where the opponents are Texas (boo), and Iowa twice (yeah).

Charlotte has an equally as interesting schedule over the next couple of weeks. They play Iowa again tonight, head to OKC for two, followed by an appearance in San Antonio before heading back to their home ice for two more against OKC. Grand Rapids twice (eek), Milwaukee once (eek), and Rockford once (okay) has them rounding out the season with some really angry competition.

All things considered, Rochester is fading, but the Checkers and Barons seem to be headed towards greatness. The Barons need to escape better than 50% of the standing points in those games against Charlotte (duh), but they’ve gotta beat Hamilton in between. This really could come down to whether or not the Barons can beat Iowa twice in OKC. As insane as that sounds, sometimes the teams playing for nothing have a way of sneaking up on you. Let’s not do that.

The game won by OKC on Tuesday night featured only two power play goals, no even strength scoring, and lower-than-usual shot totals. The high chance offense that teams own for most of the season seemingly wanes as the postseason approaches. The careful approach to playing smart has benefited the Barons of late. Two different power play units scored on Tuesday, the first going to Matt Ford the second to Will Acton. Ford, a Rampage killer, now has eleven points in eleven games against San Antonio this season. He has been stifled in the lineup when Lander / Pitlick / Arcobello / Horak are healthy so to see him pick up the offensive slack lately is a really nice thing.

Ponder this statement for a moment. What if the Barons make the playoffs without Lander / Pitlick / Arcobello / Horak, are we ready to claim that he’s one heckuva coach? No Klefbom. No Marincin. One good goaltender. No Linus Omark. Nothing short of remarkable. As the team gets thinner the wins either increase or stay the same. How is this possible? Two constants – goaltending and coaching. Give Todd Nelson a gold star.