Tend the Farm Kelly Cup Picks: 1st Round Edition

Your trusty Tend the Farm experts are weighing in on the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs! The Kelly Cup first round has already started and in honor of Mr. Patrick J. Kelly  and his sparkly Cup, the farmhands at TTF have picked the winners using coin flips, drawing straws and pure old guesswork with a bit of heart. Yes, we will fail miserably at times, but oddly enough, Eric and I both agree on all of our picks in this 1st round.

(The Small Tiny Print: TTF and its writers are not responsible for any harm that might come to your bank account if you take our picks to heart. We do, however, believe that the first moon walk took place on a soundstage in Hollywood, and that eating Pop Rocks with soda will cause your head to explode. Thus proving…we are experts!)

Eric’s Picks

| Western Conference: 1st Round (Best of 7):

Allen Americans vs. Tulsa Oilers – Allen

Rapid City Rush vs. Quad City Mallards – Quad City

Idaho Steelheads vs. Utah Grizzlies – Idaho

Ontario Reign vs. Colorado Eagles – Colorado

 

| Eastern Conference: 1st Round (Best of 7):

Toledo Walleye vs. Wheeling Nailers – Toledo

Fort Wayne Komets vs. Kalamazoo Wings – Fort Wayne

Florida Everblades vs. Orlando Solar Bears – Florida

South Carolina Stingrays vs. Reading Royals – South Carolina

 

Patricia’s Picks

| Western Conference: 1st Round (Best of 7):

Allen Americans vs. Tulsa Oilers – Allen

Rapid City Rush vs. Quad City Mallards – Quad City

Idaho Steelheads vs. Utah Grizzlies – Idaho

Ontario Reign vs. Colorado Eagles – Colorado

 

| Eastern Conference: 1st Round (Best of 7):

Toledo Walleye vs. Wheeling Nailers – Toledo

Fort Wayne Komets vs. Kalamazoo Wings – Fort Wayne

Florida Everblades vs. Orlando Solar Bears – Florida

South Carolina Stingrays vs. Reading Royals – South Carolina

Oklahoma City Welcomes Back Todd Nelson (Photos)

The Oklahoma City Barons defeated the Iowa Wild last night, but that wasn’t the highlight on the evening. Brossoit had an impressive game, earned another shutout, Joey LaLeggia scored his first pro goal, Musil added his second, and Andrew Miller had another multi-point affair.

Returning to the Cox Center for at least one night was Todd Nelson. No, not behind the bench, but in attendance to hand out the regular season player awards (voted on by fans; winners – Rookie: Brossoit, Offensive: Miller, Defensive: Davidson, MVP: Ford, Fan favorite: Ford, AHL All-Star: Hunt).

Todd Nelson was not required to do this, but rather a personal decision to honor both player and fans with whom he has been committed for so many years. His family still resides in Oklahoma, so it makes the return even more sweeter. I like high character moments that happen organically – this is one of those moments. Thanks, coach.

Photos by Steven Christy. All rights reserved. 

AHL Hockey: Apr 17 Barons vs Wild

AHL Hockey: Apr 17 Barons vs Wild

AHL Hockey: Apr 17 Barons vs Wild

AHL Hockey: Apr 17 Barons vs Wild

(VIDEO) Steve Pinizzotto Suspended Three Games

Steve Pinizzotto of the Oklahoma City Barons has been suspended three games by the American Hockey League under the guidelines of Rule 40.4 (Category III) that deals specifically with the physical abuse of an official.

Here is the official statement from the league:

The American Hockey League today announced that Oklahoma City Barons right wing Steve Pinizzotto has been suspended for three (3) games as a consequence of his actions in a game vs. Hamilton on Apr. 14.

Pinizzotto was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 40.4 after being assessed a game misconduct for physical abuse of an official (Category III).

Pinizzotto will miss Oklahoma City’s games Friday (Apr. 17) and Saturday (Apr. 18) vs. Iowa, as well as Oklahoma City’s first game during the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.

A repeat offender in this department, it is unsurprising that Pinizzotto gets three games. Those three games span the length of the remaining portions of the regular season, and in to the first game of the OKC Barons Calder Cup playoff series.

Here is a quick video of the incident, and although it doesn’t show everything, it does give a quick glimpse in to how the situation bubbled over (especially with the refs and linesman):

Final Regular Season Homestand Begins Tonight, Bulldogs Welcomed

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.

A good report on the team can be found here.

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.

2014-2015 AHL Upper Deck Set Now Available

The 2014-2015 Upper Deck AHL Hockey Hobby Box is now available, and by golly it features six up and coming Oklahoma City Barons. Featured in the set are Juhar Khaira, Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander, Martin Marincin, Laurent Brossoit, and Mitch Moroz. Absent are likely candidates in Bogdan Yakimov and Oscar Klefbom.

The set features a 100 player base set with 50 short prints that fall one per pack. The short prints that feature OKC Barons on them are Brossoit and Moroz, two interesting choices.

Here is the full description on the set that sells for $59.99 via AHLStore.com:

The 2014-15 AHL set by Upper Deck has arrived. Collect current AHL stars and future NHL players in this 100 player base set.

These are joined by another 50 short prints that fall one per pack. Although in shorter supply, SP cards shouldn’t be extremely tough to land compared to the regular base cards.

Autographs fall under two umbrellas. The first are Base Autograph Parallels (1:6 packs) that give a signature spin on the base set. They’re joined by Future Stars Autographs (1:12 packs).

AHL Team Stickers land three per box. Showcasing the league’s squads, there are Logos (1:7), Alternate Logos (1:14) and Vintage Logos (1:40).

Sticking with a similar team-focused theme are Manufactured Logo Patches.

Landing 1:60 packs, they’re the toughest thing to pull from 2014-15 Upper Deck AHL Hockey. A total of 30 cards are in the set.

Each box contains 20 packs of cards with 5 cards in each pack. Upper Deck is an official licensee of the AHL.

The Barons Clinch, Reinforcements Arrive, Playoffs Ahoy

Photo by Steven Christy

“It’s Monday!” I shouted as I pulled out of my driveway this morning, an Oklahoma thunderstorm very present in my review mirror. As soggy Monday’s go, this one isn’t all that bad. Sure I’m up super early, I did not have time to brew a good cup of coffee, and the half-eaten breakfast I attempted to eat has somehow turned my stomach sideways, but things are on the up.

With Blues In by Art Pepper pumping through my bluetooth speakers this morning let’s celebrate the fact that our beloved hockey team, the Oklahoma City Barons, have made the playoffs for the fifth season in a row. This is an incredible accomplishment given a couple of things, but mainly the fact that their NHL counterpart has been a dumpster fire in that same span. Equipped with a ton of normally full time Barons, our Edmontonian brethren again watch from the sidelines of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they rouse themselves to cheer for their minor league club. That is a painful thing to do, and after five years it is becoming less enjoyable, and just gosh darn stupid.

I digress, the Barons have clinched, reinforcements are coming, and the playoffs are within spitting distance. Calder Cup Ahoy!

This weekend it was a bit dicey in terms of when and where the Barons would finally seal up that playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their fall has been nothing short of epic, really it has, from the top spot in the Western Conference to somewhere around sixth to seventh. The team has won twice in their last ten games, six times in their last twenty, and lost nearly half their games by multiple goals in that same duration. Surely the mid to late February slide happened for a reason? It sure did. The team lost key components both to injury in the minors and injury in the majors, but this is nothing new for the Oklahoma City Barons who have a long-standing tradition of signing players late in the season to help combat the losers edge. But seasons gone by had a magnificent coach in Todd Nelson, and a GM specifically assigned to minor league detail. Both of those went out the door last summer or around Christmas, so the times they are a changin’.

The depth of the injury still seems insurmountable for OKC, but reinforcements are on the way. More on that topic in the coming paragraphs.

Rolling into the weekend the Barons had lost two straight. Once to the lowly Charlotte Checkers and a four goal loss to the Iowa Wild. Prior to the game they won on April 2nd (Charlotte in OT, nonetheless), the Barons had toppled headfirst into a seven game losing streak. The stretch was brutal, but the glorious lead they had built in the standings helped, and it took a Saturday win in Chicago to finally seal the deal. The Barons have a final homestand stretch, three games in just four days, that will round out the regular season.

If the season ended now, and the playoffs began tomorrow, the Oklahoma City Barons would square off against the Grand Rapids Griffins. I shudder at that statement. But I shudder knowing that the top four in the standings (San Antonio, Utica, Grand Rapids, and Rockford) continue to jockey for position and remain separated by at least a standing point or less. Yikes.

Rampage. Utica. Grand Rapids. Rockford. All of those teams have a way of manhandling the Barons at times, and the reinforcements those teams will receive deeper in to the playoffs only makes them more deadly.

If you are twisting my arm, asking me to pick an opponent, I’m certainly not going to say San Antonio. Maybe Utica, maybe Rockford.

Here are the top four in the West, and their season long W/L records against the Barons:

San Antonio 9-1-2-0
Utica Comets 1-0-1-0
Grand Rapids Griffins 2-2-0-0
Rockford IceHogs 2-1-1-0

As you can see, the Rampage have dominated OKC while the North and Midwest opponents give us some hope. Yet prepping for a team you do not see much in the regular season is a tough go for any coach. Regardless, our Barons are in!

Meanwhile the Edmonton Oilers ended their season at the hands of the Canucks (replusive), and thus players like Curtis Hamilton, Brandon Davidson, Martin Marincin, and David Musil return to the confines of the Cox Center.

The defensive players are the biggest “gets” here because OKC has really struggled to move pucks carefully while defending their own zone. These three running at full steam with one another will make the life of Brossoit and Bachman much more enjoyable.

Curtis Hamilton has been a good swiss army player for OKC with an increased scoring upside (sometimes), so he again goes back into the quiver where OKC is building depth.

Available Forwards This Week:

Ryan Hamilton, Jason Williams, Andrew Miller, Josh Winquist, C.J. Stretch, Steven Pinizzotto, Kellen Jones, Connor Jones, Matt Ford, Mitch Moroz, Travis Ewanyk, Brad Winchester, Curtis Hamilton, Jackson Houck, Chase Schaber, Kyle Platzer

Available Defenders This Week:

Brad Hunt, Nick Pageau, Jordan Oesterle, C.J. Ludwig, Dillon Simpson, Joey LaLeggia, Brandon Davidson, Martin Marincin, David Musil

Available Goaltenders This Week:

Richard Bachman, Laurent Brossoit, Ty Rimmer

Injured List This Week:

Jujhar Khaira, Kale Kessy, Akim Aliu, Bogdan Yakimov, Martin Gernat, Tom Mele, Kellan Lain

The Barons play three games this week including Tuesday against Hamilton and Friday / Saturday versus the Iowa Wild.

Brad Hunt Named First Team AHL All-Star

Brad Hunt, defenseman for the Oklahoma City Barons and occasionally the Edmonton Oilers, has been named first team AHL All-Star for the season of 2014-15. In 57 AHL appearances this season he earned seventeen goals and 31 assists which places him second in defensive scoring. Chris Wideman is the other first team defender, and he remains the lone blue-liner ahead of Hunt (54 points in seventy games).

I get it, I really do, it is easy for voters to name Hunt and Wideman defensive first team when all these guys do is score goals. A) It is hard to actually grade defenders on other teams based on play when it is difficult to catch those games (live streaming still expensive, and rough). B) Evaluating defenders is just easier when you look at goals and assists. “More data! We need more data,” cries can be heard from my rooftop. Indeed, the way of analytics has yet to seep into the AHL game leaving most of us to fend for ourselves (myself included).

The irony is that Hunt isn’t even the best defender on his team, let alone one of the best in the AHL. But credit where credit is due, the man scores goals, and the Barons have needed goals in a bad way. We will take them. I just continue to wonder what “good defenseman” means these days.

Nonetheless, this is a good thing for Brad Hunt, and MacTavis

Full AHL 1st and 2nd team list:

2014-15 AHL First All-Star Team
Goaltender – Matt Murray, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
(38gp, 24-9-3, 1.50gaa, .943sv%, 12so)
Defense – Brad Hunt, Oklahoma City Barons
(57gp, 17+31=48pts., -6, 8 PPG)
Defense – Chris Wideman, Binghamton Senators
(70gp, 17+37=54pts., +5, 7 PPG, 3 GWG)
Left Wing – Chris Bourque, Hartford Wolf Pack
(67gp, 27+32=59pts., +2, 10 PPG)
Center – Andy Miele, Grand Rapids Griffins
(66gp, 24+43=67pts., +12, 8 PPG, 4 GWG)
Right Wing – Teemu Pulkkinen, Grand Rapids Griffins
(46gp, 34+27=61pts., +1, 10 PPG, 6 GWG)

2014-15 AHL Second All-Star Team
Goaltender – Jacob Markstrom, Utica Comets
(28gp, 19-7-2, 1.91gaa, .932sv%, 5so)
Defense – Colin Miller, Manchester Monarchs
(65gp, 17+30=47pts., +8, 10 PPG, 3 GWG)
Defense – Bobby Sanguinetti, Utica Comets
(58gp, 16+22=38pts., +22, 6 PPG, 6 GWG)
Left Wing – Shane Prince, Binghamton Senators
(67gp, 25+34=59pts., +6, 9 PPG, 5 GWG)
Center – Jordan Weal, Manchester Monarchs
(70gp, 19+46=65pts., +7, 8 PPG, 6 GWG)
Right Wing – Brian O’Neill, Manchester Monarchs
(66gp, 22+52=74pts., +25, 9 PPG, 7 GWG)

Richard Bachman Swapped (Or Loaned) For Brossoit, Curtis Hamilton Recalled

Richard Bachman has had a unbelievable two week stretch. Playing NHL minutes, the death of his brother, and the soon-ish arrival of his first child, Bachman is a guy with a ton of things going on in life. The way in which he has handled each reveals the boatload of integrity this guy has. In case you didn’t already know that. He has been “loaned” to the Oklahoma City Barons, swapped for Brossoit, meanwhile Curtis Hamilton is recalled.

We now probably know why the Barons posses three goaltenders in Rimmer, Bunz, and now Bachman – timing. In the event that Bachman is called to the side of his wife there will be two goaltenders on the farm. This is a precarious situation for OKC mainly because both goaltenders – Rimmer and Bunz – have played so few minutes. In all, the birth of your child is far more important than any hockey season or time in the NHL (seriously), and this is a timing issue more than anything else.

As for Curtis Hamilton, it was inevitable that the Oilers would get another back in their quiver with Andrew Miller positioned back in the minors. The swap isn’t necessarily a bad thing for OKC who gladly welcome back their leading scorer, while Hamilton earns another look see prior to the summer.

Andrew Miller Returns To OKC, Who Is Tyler Pitlick?

Who is this Tyler Pitlick you speak of? A former Baron, you say? He played with the Edmonton Oilers for a stretch this season? You don’t say. Indeed, Tyler Pitlick is in the news again, but this time for the right reasons. Announced today, Pitlick is coming off the injured reserve list. Suffering a spleen injury on New Year’s Eve, Pitlick will return to the Oilers lineup for a handful of games as the Oilers continue their death march towards the end of the 14-15 season. He was given a three month window post-surgery, and that moment has arrived.

Another bit of good news tied into the Tyler Pitlick announcement is that Andrew Miller will return to the OKC Barons, and just in the nick of time. Miller is the scoring forte the Barons need to crest the hill on their playoff push. Things are getting dicey, and his presence certainly will help a ton.

Miller is unavailable to skate tonight against the Rampage, but Joey LaLeggia has been confirmed as a “go”.

A Look At The Barons Roster, Rampage Tonight

Photo by Steven Christy

UPDATE: Kyle Platzer, recently signing an ELC with the Oilers, has been added to the ATO parade with the Barons. Likewise, Kevin Noble from the Tulsa Oilers has been signed to a PTO.

The Oklahoma City Barons host the San Antonio Rampage tonight. The team from the Alamo city has clinched a spot in the AHL postseason, and by golly tickets are already on sale. With that in mind, tonight’s game could be a tightly wound grudge match or an absolutely debilitating game for the Barons who are in desperate need of wins.

Let’s take a look at what we have to work with.

Healthy RW – C.J. Stretch, Matt Ford, Brad Winchester, Travis Ewanyk, Kyle Platzer (ATO today)
Healthy LW – Ryan Hamilton, Curtis Hamilton, Kellen Jones, Mitch Moroz
Health C – Josh Winquist, Jason Williams, Chase Scahber, Jackson Houck

Josh Winquist has gotten a push lately, and has been showing great signs of improvement. I like that. But I like wins much more. Yet the minutes of Moroz and Houck continue to be protected, but with totals increasing as the injury situation continues to darken. I think you jumble the lines just a bit tonight against the Rampage. Facing a high skill, quickened team means that you gotta win face-offs promptly, and you have to be responsible with the puck. This team is super duper young, yet entirely capable of playing smart.

Healthy RD – Nick Pageau, Jordan Oesterle, C.J. Ludwig
Healthy LD – Brad Hunt, Dillon Simpson, Joey LaLeggia, Kevin Noble (PTO today)

Ironically enough Nick Pageau, only playing his fifth AHL game ever, and C.J. Ludwig are the only true right-handed defenders left in the quiver. The ATO of Denver graduate, Joey LaLeggia, gives the Barons another healthy defensive option. They most recently only played with five healthy blue-liners in a rotation that certainly made Gerry Fleming’s eyes bulge out of his head like Roger Rabbit. He made it work, and he is a better coach for doing so.

LaLeggia, like a lot of players entering in to the pro ranks for the first time, will likely get thrown in to the fire just a bit. If he does stay “true” left than I expect a pairing with Oesterle. Regardless of my opinion, just having the extra skater will help the freshening of the legs in almost all circumstances.

Goaltending – Laurent Brossoit, Ty Rimmer, Tyler Bunz

Brossoit is still the go-to guy. With Bachman returning soon to Edmonton following the death of his brother (prayers for Richard and Devyn and family) the OKC Barons will ride three backstops. Why Rimmer? First of all, the Bako season ends this weekend. They want to give him reps. Bunz is probably still the runner up, but Rimmer, as we have come to find out, is a runner up part B. I’m not convinced Rimmer will play (he hasn’t since mid-January), but he certainly is practicing with the team. You will recall that Rimmer has missed the bulk of the season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer (which he soundly defeated!).

I was asked earlier this week, “Neal, can Richard Bachman make this OKC Barons team better?” My response, “Absolutely.” But he doesn’t solve the major problems the Barons have. Those are three-fold.

1) Defensive Sloppiness

The Barons are defensively sloppy both at the forward position and certainly on the blue line. This has caused Laurent Brossoit to be stung early and often. 2-6-2-0 over the last ten games is frightening to consider. They have been outscored 33 to 24 including a 7-3 spanking over a week ago via Adirondack. About half of those games, however, are a one-goal loss or defeat. This tells me that the Barons are either really bad or they are extremely close to winning, and you can flip a coin as to which it might be on a given night. I point mostly to defense for the goals allowed problem.

2) Lack Of Scoring

Again, the stats above show that scoring is a major issue, but one that can sort of resurrect itself. Ryan Hamilton has been adding points as a good long-in-the-tooth AHL player should at this point in his career. Yet the Barons are getting scoring from Josh Winquist and Mitch Moroz, but other than Hamilton it is hard to tie down a specific goal leader. Andrew Miller and yes, Anton Lander and Iiro Pakarinen continue to leave major holes in the lineup. Andrew Miller is still the team’s leading scoring and he hadn’t quite reached the 60 game mark upon leaving for Edmonton. Jason Williams (49 pts), Matthew Ford (47), and Brad Hunt (47) are the only players with 40+ points on the season. Who will the team turn to? I’ll get back to you on that.

3) Injuries

Of course, injuries are killing this team. The list – Juhar Khaira, Steve Pinizzotto, Connor Jones, Kale Kessy, Akim Aliu, Tom Mele, Bogdan Yakimov, martin Gernat, Kellan Lain

Yowza.

The Rampage are just killing the averages, and lately seem unbeatable as they secured their spot as the West Division leader. Nine victories in a row, 43 wins on the season, one of the hottest teams in the league – you don’t want to face them in the playoffs. You also don’t want to face them if your team is skidding out of control heading in to the post season.

San Antonio is 8-1-2-0 against OKC this season. Six of the eleven games have been decided by at least a goal, but there have been some lopsided decisions of late including the February 28th win by OKC where the Barons scored four unanswered.

The game starts at 7pm central, and should be interesting given the newly added Houck and newly newly added Kyle Platzer. Go Barons!