The Oklahoma City Barons have clawed their way through a lot to get themselves into the Calder Cup Playoffs. Fighting through call-ups, other teams peaking, and their own scoring slumps, the Barons finish the 2010-11 regular season in 5th place of the Western Division. With the offset divisions, the AHL has it where the division with the 8 teams get an extra chance at a playoff spot. If the 5th place team in the bigger division finishes with more points than the 4th place team in the smaller division, they cross over and play within the smaller division. This was the case this year as the Barons finished with 91 points and the Abbotsford Heat(the Calgary Flames affiliate) finished in 4th place in the Northern Division with 86 points.
The final weekend was a big one for the Barons though. They started the weekend needing 2 out of 3 wins to virtually guarantee themselves a playoff berth. The game on Friday against San Antonio was the biggest to start. A win would put them in a great position to clinch on Saturday. The Barons came out hard and strong and got a tally on the board early with a goal from Ben Ondrus from a nice pass by rookie Tanner House. San Antonio would answer minutes later on a PP goal by Alex Picard. Colin McDonald would continue his hunt for the scoring title, scoring number 37 six minutes later and the teams headed to the locker room with the Barons leading 2-1. The 2nd period was all Colin McDonald as he would complete a natural hat trick, scoring at 2:45 and 18:34, his 38th and 39th goals. After 40 minutes the Barons lead by a score of 4-1. In the 3rd, Milan Kytnar would make it 5-1, picking up a Tanner House rebound. San Antonio would get one back as they break up a pass during a Barons PP and get a 2 on 0 rush, putting it past Jeff Deslauriers. The Barons would get it back 46 seconds later into the PP from Mark Arcobello, making it 6-2. Then just 2 minutes later, Colin McDonald would get his 4th of the night, number 40 on the season, and put the Barons up 7-2, which would be the final score. Brad Moran and Alexandre Giroux assisted on all 4 of McDonald's goals, JDD would make it 3 wins in a row.
Photo © Candace Riley
The next night, the Barons traveled to Cedar Park, Texas to take on the Texas Stars. After the win the night before, the Barons just needed a single point to clinch their playoff berth. The Barons wouldn't be content with just one point though, as Milan Kytnar and Colin McDonald would both score in the 2nd period and Jeff Deslauriers would pick up his 3rd shutout in 4 games as the Barons grabbed 2 points and a playoff berth. Colin McDonald's goal would be his 41st and the other player he was battling with, Nigel Dawes, would be held scoreless in his last season game, sending both players tied at 41 goals heading into Sunday.
The Barons headed to Houston to finish up the regular season. With the playoffs guaranteed, the team would sit 4 veterans, and allow the rookies a chance to play. Brad Moran, Bryan Helmer, and Alexandre Giroux would all sit in the press box for the game as Jake Taylor headed back to OKC to be with his wife as they celebrated the birth of their daughter. Martin Gerber would make his long awaited return, his first game after suffering a neck injury back in March against Grand Rapids. The Barons would start out well, taking a 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission with a goal by Mark Arcobello. The Aeros would storm back though, scoring 4 goals in the 2nd to the Barons 1 by Milan Kytnar. The 2nd period would end with the Aeros up 4-2. The Aeros would score twice more in the 3rd to make it 6-2 until the Barons' Colin McDonald would make it 6-3 with his 42nd goal of the season, clinching him the AHL Goal Scoring Title, the Willie Marshall award. 6-3 would be the final score though, to end the Barons regular season.
The Barons loss guaranteed them the 5th spot in the Western Division, crossing them over to the Northern Division. The Barons will take on the Northern Division champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs(Montreal Canadiens affiliate) in the 1st round. Credit to Patrick Williams of The Hockey News for this stat, this is the 4th time since 1987 that the AHL affiliates of the Canadiens and the Oilers will meet in the playoffs. They also shared an affiliation in the 2003 playoffs.
Photo © Candace Riley
The Barons season series was only 2 games, which the teams split. The Barons won the first meeting between the two, Oct 24th, which came at the end of rough 3 in 3 weekend, winning 3-2 in OT. The 2nd meeting came on Dec 17th, in which the Bulldogs handed the Barons their first shutout in franchise history, beating the Barons 3-0.
Here's the regular season stats for the teams.
The Barons and Bulldogs will open the series at Hamilton on Thursday at 6:30CDT/5:30MDT.
All Times Central
Game 1 - Thursday @Hamilton, 6:30
Game 2 - Saturday @Hamilton, 3:00
Game 3 - Tuesday, April 19 @OKC, 7:05
Game 4 - Wednesday, April 20 @OKC, 7:05
Game 5 - Friday, April 22 @OKC, 7:05*
Game 6 - Sunday, April 24 @Hamilton, 3:00*
Game 7 - Monday, April 25 @Hamilton, 6:30*
Just some final thoughts, the Barons have peaked at the right time. They look like they're in playoff form.... Their defense in the crease and slot has gotten 10 times better from a few weeks ago, which has helped their cause tremendously.... The Oilers officially sent down Linus Omark, Ryan O'Marra, Teemu Hartikainen, Jeff Petry, and Chris VandeVelde today, further bolstering the Barons lineup.... Milan Kytnar ends the season with a 7 game point streak with 6 goals and 4 assists....
The Barons are going to be a very formidable team in the playoffs, and I'm looking very much forward to the next month and hopefully 2.
-Written by Eric Rodgers-