Photo by Steven Christy
One game has been played between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Oklahoma City Barons in the season of 2014-15. It was Sunday, January 11th in Hamilton, Ontario when Andrew Miller had a two point night and two more goals were scored by Iiro Pakarinen and Jason Williams en route to a 3-0 domination of the Montreal Canadians farm team. That night Richard Bachman stopped 32 shots, including several early on that were season-long highlights, and the blue-line pushed back on Hamilton forwards allowing only six shots in the final twenty minutes of play. It was a spectacular performance.
A lot has happened since then – the Barons only clinched a playoff berth in the final four games, injuries have deconstructed them, and Richard Bachman might not be the #1. In all it has been a wild back-half to the AHL season, and one that has sent OKC into the sunset with much trepidation.
Tonight the Barons and Bulldogs play again, this time in Bricktown, but the teams look vastly different as the stakes down the stretch get much higher.
Hamilton still has a chance of making the playoffs. It is a slim one, but it is still a chance. Currently in tenth, but with a lone game in hand over Milwaukee, the Bulldogs are going to need help from the Marlies, and not the kind of help the Marlies want to give. With playoff clinching implications in mind, the Barons and Bulldogs might be in for one exciting game.
Led offensively by rookie dynamo, Charlie Hudon, and vet centerman T.J. Hensick the two have combined for well over 100 points and nearly 40 goals. They can play some hockey. Yet the team remains under 200 goals scored, but nearly 200 allowed. That’s an interesting crossing. Hudon, in particular, has cooled down in the back half of the season, and that has been problematic for the team. While the Nick Sorkin’s of the world pick up the slack, the struggle continues.
3-4-3-0 over their last ten games, clearly congruence is a major issue, and this has been a battle all season. Yet they were able to defeat Texas this week, so the team is certainly capable.
Oklahoma City has earned the right to play in the AHL postseason for the fifth time. Quite the achievement indeed. But things were dicey down the stretch, but now they have the opportunity to play with full belly of steam.
The return of Marincin, Musil, and Davidson will help mightily on the defensive side of the puck. Likewise, bringing Curtis Hamilton back in (after his first NHL stint) makes the offensive side of the puck just a tad more robust. With Bachman awaiting the arrival of his first born child, the Barons will rely heavily on Laurent Brossoit who gets the start tonight (27th in 28 games, yowza).
Rumored to be practicing is Kale Kessy, and if he is available for the postseason then the Barons will have a host of depth players on standby.
The good news, again, for OKC is that they can steady themselves in the final three games. They’ve had a brutal February through March, but April brings showers of blessings. Here is hoping that the team is prepped and ready for a battle.