Barons Sweep! Take Game Three In OT

‘Tis a glorious thing to behold, a team that can challenge opponents deep into games. That has been the case for much of the 2014-15 season, and now, suddenly, those moments include the Calder Cup postseason.

Last night, with the Rampage facing elimination, the Oklahoma City Barons won game three in overtime and have advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals.

Can we do this in reverse, Memento style?

Jujhar Khaira was injured in a game in early March when he was plastered into the corners allowing his elbow to soften the blow against the boards. Bad idea. Mid-Spring Break coach Gerry Fleming deemed Khaira a loss for the remainder of the season following that specific injury. The bummer of a sigh from fans in OKC was full and deep. We thought we had seen the last of young Jujhar, with whom we had high hopes.

Five minutes into game three’s overtime, Jujhar Khaira would knock in a rebound to defeat the Rampage who were up against a wall. The sweep was complete, but a bit of redemption was in store for Khaira who had both returned to action after a time away and scored his first postseason goal as a professional. Well done.

Prior to this wondrous moment in time, the Rampage evened the game with :58 remaining. Tom Rowe brilliantly waited until the on-ice matchups were to his liking, and he motioned for Dan Ellis to scamper to the bench. When he did, the Barons were unable to re-group as they fought hard against the onslaught of offense that finally emerged from the San Antonio forwards. Up a skater, Dylan Olsen would invigorate his team, and those fans in attendance, as the game would slowly creep towards sudden death overtime at one goal from each squad.

It was young Kellen Jones who scored the games opening goal after nearly forty minutes of scoreless hockey. Kellen, and his brother Connor, have now accounted for a combined three goals in only nine official shots on net. Love those two. (Prep your #MCM folks).

The struggle was real for the Rampage whom have dominated offensively for much of the season. Hate to grandstand here just a bit, but the game two loss seemed debilitating in some regards as the offense struggled to beat starting goaltender Richard Bachman.

By comparison, Dan Ellis did a terrific job fighting off Barons goal scorers for much of the game, and his work should not go unrecognized. He was sensational.

But let’s return to Bachman, who was good from the start, but magical in the third period where he faced 19 shots and only let in one (that :58 barn burning equalizer).

The steadiness he gave the team in game two carried over to game three where he played out-of-his-mind minutes against a team desperate to stay alive.

In all, it was a terrific performance by the Barons if not (again and again and again) a lucky victory. I think maybe I will stop calling these wins lucky because they happen far too often. Instead I will congratulate Gerry Fleming and the coaching staff for shoehorning Khaira into the lineup (on the fourth line), and offering three speedy lines who would carry the weight of the minutes. And defensively, there were minor issues, but what a “trap and sack” game the blue line played keeping the play in front of them as much as possible. When they did make mistakes, Bachman bailed them out, and this team continues to get better as the postseason marches on.

The game, in a nutshell, was one for the ages. On the other hand, the Rampage have toppled greatly having lost now six in a row after having a streak that featured nine wins in ten games. Ouch.

Their undoing has been nothing short of baffling. Yet the Barons took advantage of the opportunity, and seem like world-beaters at least for another week.

If things hold – Utica and Toronto win – the Rockford IceHogs will face the Barons in a seven game series. The IceHogs, also earning a sweep of their own, but against the reigning champs in Texas, are a quick, stout, impressive squad in the same vein as the Rampage. But whomever the opponent, the games will be worth watching.

Oklahoma City Barons Lineup:

R. Hamilton-Williams-C. Hamilton
Winquist-Stretch-Miller
K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford
Moroz-Khaira-Winchester

Davidson-Hunt
Simpson-Musil
Marincin-Oesterle

Richard Bachman

Scratches: Betker, Pageau, Houck, Pinizzotto, Platzer, Ewanyk, Kessy, Ludwig, Chase, LaLeggia, Schaber, Yakimov, Gernat, Lain

Available Goaltenders: Rimmer

With Oklahoma City Up 2-0, Game 3 Should Be A Dandy

The Oklahoma City Barons may be up on the San Antonio Rampage two games to none, but that doesn’t mean that this series is over. It certainly means the Rampage have an uphill climb, but it certainly isn’t over.

The heroic comeback on Saturday evening was nothing short of remarkable. Yet it was also extremely lucky. The players who are most likely to score throughout the season are the players also scoring in the post season. Ryan Hamilton with two power play goals and three points. Matt Ford, Andrew Miller, and Brad Hunt with three points in two games. There is Connor Jones with two goals on just two shots including the game winner on Saturday night. Jason Williams, Josh Winquist, and Jordan Oesterle have all contributed. In all, the post season has begun remarkably well. But then there is luck.

Laurent Brossoit was yucky to start game two after being amazing in game one. The decision to pull him after 20+ minutes, facing 24 shots, and letting in 3 was an interesting choice. But one that paid off for Gerry Fleming. Richard Bachman came in at the relief position and was magical. “The Biz” seems ready to make his mark on the Calder Cup run so I expect him to start game three with Dan Ellis (according to Dan Weiss, PxP fella for the Rampage, all-around good guy) at the other end.

In come some interesting players for the Rampage, as they shake things up in their not-so-triumphant return to San Antonio.

Namely Kyle Rau whom was drafted #91 in 2011, just one spot ahead of another collegiate prospect on the Oilers farm, Dillon Simpson. Rau is a 40+ points per season player in four straight at the University of Minnesota. The Big Ten is a competitive league, but it is not producing national titles (save for Michigan, the dominate performer). Yet he is a shifty player, good hands, sort of small, but powerful, and gives Gerry Fleming and crew something to really think about. I like it for the Rampage.

Ryan Hamilton is good to go, as is most of the team. A quick scouting report from practice this week says all are ready to go (those who played in games one and two).

It will be very interesting to see if San Antonio can play deep in this one. To go deep teams have to be able to defend and get solid goaltending. These are two leaky tires in the recent drive of games one and two. Can they fix it? Yes, they are the Rampage. Will they is the question.

The Rampage will raise their Western Division banner this evening, and congrats on a truly historical season for the Rampage. A banner year, a banner season, a banner team – they continue to play with pride. Don’t think for a moment that they will not go out with a fight.

Let Us Visit The Symphony (And Hockey Third Periods)

Third periods. You could call it the most important twenty minutes of a hockey game. The escalation of the game should build like a beautiful symphonic expression telling an elaborate story.

The string section slowly glides as the viola tickles your eardrum. The cellos play a melodious rhythm that resounds through your inner being. The light thud of the bass gives way to the sudden full-bodied sound of the bassoon.

Next comes the piercing sound of the flute and piccolo, and the sensation that something great is about to happen. As they twinkle, almost sparkle, behind the wood apparatus that accompany them, the movement pauses momentarily as if needing a breathe.

The sound of metallic staccato notes fills the upper reaches of the auditorium. The trombone and the tuba play in perfect synchronicity as the piece of music turns to pure art. Each part of the brass section works in harmony – forming notes and thoughts and memories – as you begin to understand a story being told where there are no words and there are no pictures.

Finally the percussion, and the overwhelming clamor that completes the entirety of the performance. Always a show-stealer, the shakers, the xylophone, the cymbals, the timpani bang out rhythmic noise that beg you to listen. Thumping and dancing along, you almost visualize the notes as they play. As if they are hanging over the heads of each musician in the form of a talk bubble.

With each section moving along at the same pace, the same rhythm, and the same accordance, you notice that the end is near. The music is nearing the crescendo – the loudest moment – as you begin to sit forward in your seat. A stanza passes, you wait. A second frame begins and you wait. By the third you are anxiously awaiting the resounding gong, but you remain on the edge. By the fourth you exhale. Every instrument strikes the final note in beautiful harmony, the conductor raises his hands in the air, and the music drops.

It is over.

The auditorium erupts with praise and shouts. The overwhelming experience brings tears to your eyes as you well up with joy.

The time has come. You have made it. The journey is now complete.

This is hockey.

The Oklahoma City Barons have had a remarkable journey deep into games for much of the regular season. Nineteen times this season the Barons played a game into overtime. Thirteen of those games they won, thus putting them into the record books (at the twelfth win) as the team with the most regular season overtime victories. That’s impressive.

But put all of that overtime business behind just for a minute. Let us take a good, long, hard look at the third period. I think this team might be on to something (or just really lucky)

Here is the Barons scoring per period during the regular season:

1st Period – 65
2nd Period – 73
3rd Period – 72
Overtime – 14

The simple version here is that the Barons have scored over 220 goals with good numbers past the second period. That is important.

While the team did not lead the league in the goals, they certainly were able to generate balanced scoring across three periods, and produce late in games. That is not to be taken as a be-all-that-ends-all statement that the Barons refuse to be taken down late, just that they themselves can score in those moments.

What about the Rampage and period scoring?

1st Period – 65
2nd Period – 92
3rd Period – 76
Overtime – 9

In 248 goals score, the Rampage offense scored nearly 38% of their goals in the second period. Whereas the Barons seem a bit more balance, there is a large gap between second and third period scoring, and an even larger one between second and first period.

Again, this is a sweeping accusation, but I think it is important when pressed to the glass of the two games played in the postseason thus far.

So I got curious, and even more curiousier.

When comparing the goals per period in Barons vs. Rampage head-to-head opportunities, it appears the same trend sort of exists, albeit less dramatic

*Barons goals per period vs. Rampage

1st Period – 9
2nd Period – 11
3rd Period – 9
Overtime – 2

Rampage goals per period vs. Barons

1st Period – 11
2nd Period – 13
3rd Period – 8
Overtime – 2
Shootout – 2

Each team’s third period scoring and beyond seems pretty similar in the head-to-head games this season (twelve total).

*Keep in mind that I could be off a goal or two; difficult to find head-to-head goals in a tidy compartment at this time of the year

I think what these numbers tell us is that the Barons and Rampage play close games (something we already know), but also that in two postseason games we are moving towards uncharted waters, and certainly some incredible luck by the Oklahoma City Barons.

Through two games here are the Barons goals per period:

1st Period – 1
2nd Period – 1
3rd Period – 5
Overtime   – 1

And the Rampage through two postseason games:

1st Period – 3
2nd Period – 2
3rd Period – 0

So as the Rampage continue to score early in games, the Barons have found a ton of scoring past the second period. This, according to season-long projections, is a major anomaly. I realize comparing a 76 game season to two is about the dumbest thing you can do. Yet it does shed a tiny bit of light on how incredibly fortunate the Barons have been in the first two games.

Does this mean San Antonio has a chance to win three straight? Absolutely. Will they? It will be tough.

Goaltending, defensive pairs, transactions, forward positions, number of power plays versus penalty kills – these are just a few of my favorite things, or at least things I like to mention when we discuss period scoring.

The Rampage are a highly skilled team, pretty good in net, and for the most part entertaining to watch. They play a brand of hockey I really like. But for some reason they are unable to go deep. Perhaps injuries are to blame. Maybe the Barons are hitting their stride as the Rampage are headed down the long slide on the Chutes and Ladders game board.

Speculating on the outcome of the next three games is difficult. Knowing that the Barons have already won two makes things a bit more challenging for the Rampage. Do we look to historical information to figure out what plays out in game three? You can, but you probably will not like what you see. Unless the history lesson is less than a week old.

Game Two Rewind: Be Still, My Heart

Photo by Rob Ferguson. All Rights Reserved.

It’s too bad that Neal took the “How’d They Do That” caption in his rewind for Game One, because it completely fits my reaction for how Game Two happened. Game Two was split into two completely different games as the San Antonio Rampage controlled thirty-seven minutes, while the Oklahoma City Barons controlled the other twenty-seven. Even now, after getting to think about the game for this long, I still can’t get over how the outcome of the game came to be.

The first period completely belonged to the Rampage. The Barons defense was shaky, the offense couldn’t get anything going, and Laurent Brossoit had eighteen shots to deal with in the first twenty minutes. Goals from Connor Brickley and Corban Knight – on a power play – put San Antonio up 2-0 as the Barons headed to the locker room to sort things out.

Things continued in the same vein at the start of the second as San Antonio controlled the first 6:44, leading to a John McFarland goal and putting the Barons down 3-0. That led to Gerry Fleming deciding to pull Brossoit from the goal and replacing him with Richard Bachman.

Immediately put to the test, Bachman made some big saves against the onslaught from San Antonio, helping to begin the turning of the tides for the Barons. Two penalty kills later, the Barons got a chance on the power play themselves as Vincent Trocheck went to the box for a tripping penalty. Some great tic-tac-toe passing from Josh Winquist and Andrew Miller got the puck to captain Ryan Hamilton, who found the net behind Michael Houser to put the Barons on the board. After two periods, the Rampage held the lead, 3-1.

The only way I can really explain the third period is… wow. I joked in the second period for whoever abducted the Barons team from Game One to please return them. Little did I know, they listened. Oklahoma City tried hard throughout the third period, but Houser was able to keep the Barons at bay.

At the 15:00 mark of the third, the Rampage committed their fourth straight minor penalty with McFarland heading to the box for shooting the puck over the glass. It took 103 seconds of the power play for the Barons to break through, but Jordan Oesterle finally did it as he shot the puck off the post and into the net to make it a 3-2 game.

Over and over, the Barons tried, but the Rampage stood pat as the minutes and seconds ticked off the clock in regulation time. The Barons finally got their chance with Mark Mancari picking up a tripping call of his own, the Rampage’s fifth straight minor, and giving the Barons a power play with 41 seconds remaining. Gerry Fleming used his timeout, and pulled Bachman for the extra attacker.

Matthew Ford took the faceoff, won, and kicked the puck back to Jason Williams. Williams passed it off to Brad Hunt on the right point, Hunt sent it right back to Williams on the left. With the point shot, Williams put it right on Ford’s Andrew Miller’s [edit: The goal was later changed to credit Miller for the goal] stick for the tip, and the Barons tied the game just five seconds into the power play. With the late heroics, the game went to overtime with the game tied at 3-3. After being outshot 31-20 through two periods, the Barons outshot the Rampage 16-9 in the third frame.

Overtime began with the Barons rolling and riding the momentum from the third period. Finally, the Barons found themselves on a two-on-one rush. Sprung by Jordan Oesterle, Matt Ford brought the puck in on the left wing side with Connor Jones on his right. With Dylan Olsen back for the Rampage, Ford passed the puck over to Jones, and Jones ripped it past Houser to give Oklahoma City the huge come-from-behind win in Game Two.

The heart that the team showed in the final half of that game was unlike anything I’ve seen from this team in a long time. They never gave up, never surrendered, and fought their way back from the jaws of defeat. If the team keeps that level of intensity, that level of fight, that level of play – they are going to be a hard team to play against.

With the Rampage on the ropes, the series heads to the Alamo City for Game Three. Wednesday at 7:00 Central, the series continues from the AT&T Center with the Barons leading 2-0 in the best of five series.

Game One Rewind: How’d They Do That?

Photo courtesy of Steven Christy

One game does not a series make, but one game does tell us a whole lot of things worth discussing. The Oklahoma City Barons defeated the San Antonio Rampage by a score of five goals to two on Thursday night to snatch the first go-round in a best-of-five series. The familiarity these two teams have with each other dictated a sure battle. The outcome, however, was quite different than I expected.

How’d they do that?

The 5-2 score is a bit of desert mirage. The games final two goals were empty netters (still count, of course) which means the actual score was closer than one sees instantly on paper. It is worth noting that the Oklahoma City Barons were down a goal with under ten minutes remaining in the game, and that the team also wouldn’t secure the lead until the final five minutes. That’s impressive.

The biggest stat in game one, and it comes as no surprise to most, was penalties. The Rampage were mid-pack in the entire league in penalty killing to end the 14-15 regular season. This, of course, means that when they gift a man advantage to teams like the Barons, 16% of the time they give up a goal. For a team that was so dominate in the Western Division it is remarkable they survived. And while that 16% seems very small on a grander level, that accounts for 51 goals against in a 76 game season. By comparison, Oklahoma City let in 36 on the kill.

Those goals add up, and last night was exhibit A.

The Barons scored three times if you exclude the empty netters. Two of those goals were with a man advantage including the games opening goal for either team (Brad Hunt), and the Barons tying goal at 10:22 of the third period (Josh Winquist). Both were monumental moments for the Barons, and completely debilitating for the Rampage. This one stat alone – penalty kill vs. power play – might be what causes the Rampage to come undone.

But wait, there’s more.

San Antonio remains a highly skilled, highly pressurized team. They like to push the puck up the ice quickly, shoot quite a bit, and really attack the seams of opposing defenders. The Barons kept them at 31 total shots, which is quite a remarkable feat, and also killed all four penalties. I feel like Laurent Brossoit is probably in a really good place these days, but I imagine he will falter just a bit. When he does, things could get dicey.

I don’t anticipate the Rampage hovering near 60% on the kill for the entire series which tells me the Barons struck gold in game one, but if the penalties keep coming for the Rampage, and the Barons continue to score on the power play, this could be a quick series.

Hindsight is always 20/20. We know this. Both teams struggled to stay out of the box at important times, but the special teams award after sixty minutes of this series clearly goes to the Oklahoma City Barons. That is how you win a series. (five on five scoring still up for debate; more on that to come)

Oklahoma City Defeats San Antonio In Game One

Photo by Steven Christy

The Oklahoma City Barons hosted the San Antonio Rampage in game one of the best of five series between the West Division rivals. The teams seem evenly matched, at this point in April, but one team would outlast the other in the final twenty minutes of game one.

The first period, with Dan Ellis in net for the Rampage, seemed to favor the Rampage early on as both Brad Hunt and Jason Williams would gift two power play chances for San Antonio. The Barons were able to deflect any trouble down a man, and Laurent Brossoit was dialed in like he has been over the last 20+ games of the regular season.

The series first goal would be scored by Brad Hunt (which appeared to be deflected in front by Ryan Hamilton; ultimately credited to Hunt) as he whistled a shot around Ellis at the 12:00 mark of the first frame.

The lead would be leveled by Vincent Trocheck after some wobbly defense by Dillon Simpson. The shot would clank off the left post of the Barons net, and bounce in behind Brossoit. With the game now tied at 1-1, both teams would suffer through some penalties, and the Barons actually had high grade chances to put their squad back on top. Yet the end of twenty minutes gave us a tie game.

Dan Ellis would be the saint of Rampage hockey to begin the second period. Stopping chance after chance after chance as the Barons pressured the puck at every turn.

Rocco Grimaldi would stick a thorn in the Barons side by scoring a wacky goal, knocking the puck out of the air and around Brossoit. With a 2-1 lead, and the knowledge of how good the Rampage are when leading after two (27-3-1-1), things would get dicey after forty minutes of play.

The penalty taking settled down, and even a goofy delay of game penalty by Martin Marincin was quickly squashed by the Barons penalty kill.

The third period again featured some incredible goaltending by Dan Ellis with whom the Barons were unable to beat often. The game plan shifted towards dropping the puck on his doorstep as much as possible, and that was a tough sell.

Josh Winquist was up to the task, scoring a power play goal from the right face-off dot to even the game at two goals a piece. Not long after, captain Ryan Hamilton willed a puck across the goal line to put his team up a goal with just over 5:00 remaining in the game.

The transition from down one to up one was monumental as the Barons seemingly had the Rampage against the ropes. Shane O’Brien would get five minutes and a game misconduct for a really nasty boarding incident on Ryan Hamilton. Woozy as a drunken sailor, Hamilton would make it to the bench while visiting Wonderland. The Barons seemingly had this one wrapped up, but with a bump along the way.

Then Curtis Hamilton would take a boarding penalty of his own in the final 90 seconds of the game. Things would get scary momentarily. Then Connor Jones scored an empty netter with the Rampage owning two extra skaters. Let’s add another, said Matt Ford, as the fan favorite gets one of his own.

The Oklahoma City Barons would defeat the San Antonio Rampage, 5-2, in game one of the best of five series.

Game two is Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Barons Starting Lineup:

R. Hamilton-Williams-Stretch
Winquist-Platzer-Miller
K. Jones-C. Jones-Ford
Moroz-C. Hamilton-Winchester

LaLeggia-Hunt
Simpson-Marincin
Davidson-Oesterle

Brossoit

Scratches: Bunz, Rimmer, Betker, Pageau, Musil, Ludwig, Gernat, Khaira, Houck, Pinizzotto, Ewanyk, Kessy, Chase, Yakimov, Lain

Greg Chase & Ben Betker Join OKC For Postseason

Photo by Steven Christy

Wow. And thank you. Gerry Fleming, today on the Bob Stauffer helmed radio show Oilers Now, made mention of two Oilers prospects that will be joining the Oklahoma City Barons for their Calder Cup Playoff run. Both Greg Chase and Ben Betker will join the squad this week in anticipation of game one against the San Antonio Rampage in downtown Oklahoma City on Thursday evening.

Via Oilers Now:

Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 entry draft, Betker has played three straight, 60+ game seasons with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. Amassing 265 PIM, and just a scant over 50 points, Betker is a “heavier” type defenseman.

The Oilers, and to the same extent the Barons, have lacked a defender with his size and type for many seasons. As the prospect pool turned more towards puck movers rather than puck shakers, players like Betker squeeze in to an interesting niche which is always difficult to assess.

Signed to a contract by the Oilers in march of this year, Betker will be thrown in to live professional action sooner rather than later. Depth, in any playoff run, is going to be key for the longevity of the Barons during their Calder Cup push. Betker helps.

Good take on Betker at his signing date via Jonathan Willis

Then there is Greg Chase, one of the few forward prospects that seemingly stand out among the others.

Drafted the same year as Betker, Chase has spent the majority of his WHL career with the Calgary Hitmen where he played 214 games earning 177 points. Traded to Victoria after some undisclosed issues with the Hitmen, Chase settled in nicely for the remaining 46 games of the regular season where he recorded nearly a point per game. His goodness continued through two rounds of the WHL playoffs which ended after ten games, and a defeat at the hands of the Kelowna Rockets.

Chase is a feisty goal scorer, and fits in to a need systematically for the Oilers. They need a feisty player with zip who has good hands, great speed, and youth. Chase is going to give you all those things.

The 2013 Oilers draft class might churn out some gems, and these two players are worth noting as potential diamonds in the rough. Only time, and minutes in California next season will tell.

Meanwhile this really earns Oklahoma City good minutes from two potentially good players. Chase, having signed an ATO a season earlier, seems right at home against AHL competition. Shoehorning him in to a Barons lineup needing additional skill should be no problem.

“The AHL Wouldn’t Be Bad For My Game” – Kyle Platzer

Photo by Steven Christy

Kyle Platzer has come to life for the Oklahoma City Barons at a time where life has been needed. After competing for the second straight season in the OHL playoffs with the Owen Sound Attack, Platzer has already made a mark in the early throws of his professional debut with the Edmonton Oilers, and more specifically its farm team in OKC.

I was surprisingly fond of Platzer in a recent game, and I think most will agree that he has a tendency to fly under the radar just a bit.

In an online interview with hometown news outlet, The Record, Platzer spoke of his early days as a pro hockey prospect.:

After going scoreless in his debut, the centre potted a pair of goals in his second game with the Barons last week.

“My roommate (defenceman Joey LaLeggia) told me I was going to score before the game,” said Platzer. “He said he just had a feeling.”

The former Waterloo Wolves product came across the ice and tipped a point shot for his first AHL marker in a 5-3 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs last Tuesday. He added his second of the game late in the third period as a trailer on a rush.

“I was hoping for overtime so I could try for the hat trick,” said Platzer, who finished with three points in four games for the Barons. “It was confidence boost to score. I feel like I belong here.”

The next day, the puck from his first tally was waiting for him in the dressing room before practice.

“That was a nice touch,” he said.

He also didn’t mix words when it came time to evaluate himself. He fully realizes the spot he is in, while understanding the need to better himself. He continues:

“My goal is to make the NHL,” he said. “I’m still a little undersized and not as developed as some of the men here. A year or two in the AHL wouldn’t be bad for my game.”

It is nice to hear a prospect speak realistically about organizational positioning. Platzer, a pretty smart fella in his youth, seems poised well beyond his years. And for now he is content to work on his game, even for the remainder of days in Oklahoma.

“The Barons have been awesome with me,” he said. “They’re teaching me things about the pro game.”

Keep an eye on Platzer, his positioning in the lineup, and his continued movement up the depth chart in the Oilers organization. I think he is a keeper.

(Thanks to the Waterloo Record for the bits and pieces of this great interview. Please read it in its entirety, and thank the author.)

Oklahoma City Playoff Opponent (And Schedule) Set

Photo by Steven Christy

The Oklahoma City Barons defeated the Iowa Wild in the final two regular season  games of the season. This also means that the postseason is upon us, and that the Barons have locked in their opponent.

Read carefully my friends, for the San Antonio Rampage are upon us.

In the scenarios that played out over the last two weeks none seemed more insurmountable than a first round, 2-3 formation, five game series with a team that has famously dominated the Barons. Keep in mind, the Barons and Rampage have played a whopping twelve times. The Barons have only defeated them three times in that same span, once in regulation. Woof. We will dive in to the details throughout the week, and leading to game one, but I already feel queasy.

You could look at the Barons over the last two months and weep salty tears but don’t. The team seems to have steadied an otherwise capsizing season thanks to goaltending – Brossoit has been really really good – and with some help defensively from the Oilers who again miss the playoffs and go full steam McDavid.

The sock lost in the laundry here, however, is coaching. Where Todd Nelson left off, Gerry Fleming has attempted to pick up. Gerry is a great coach, tutored by the best AHL coach in the last five seasons, and completely heralds the systematic approach to Oilers hockey that seemed to take shape with Nelson still on the farm. Yet I think there are roster tweaks, small moments in special teams play, and certainly late game momentum changers that he just hasn’t been able to solidify. That’s a problem. Not a big one, but a problem nonetheless.

In the end, Gerry will be fine. The Barons will play good, substantial hockey against the Rampage, and they will certainly make the five game early round a good outing.

Here is the postseason schedule:

Western Conference Quarterfinals – Series “G” (best-of-5)
3-San Antonio Rampage vs. 6-Oklahoma City Barons
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 23 – San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 25 – San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 7:00
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 29 – Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 1 – Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 7:30
*Game 5 – Sat., May 2 – Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 7:00

Because of “building availability” the AHL offers two options (with higher seed the decider) when it comes to postseason play. The teams can play 2-3 or 2-2-1. While I favor the second of those two options, you can see that the Barons open their series at home with an early weekend game on Thursday of this week despite being the “lower” seeded team. They will break one day, play Saturday, followed by a huge gap as they head south for a Wednesday game.

Time will tell, but the Barons have only won a single game in OKC (February 28th) against the Rampage so home ice advantage is laughable in series like this.

The other sad eyes moment here is knowing that the Barons, at least if a first round exit occurs, will end their franchise run on the road. How fitting. Boo.

All games will be broadcast via 96.1 KXXY or via the iHeartRadio and Live 365 streaming services. AHL Live is offering postseason games, but pricing and such have yet to be released.