BARONS PLAYOFF PREVIEW - OKC VS. CHARLOTTE
By Cassie Gage,
Series Preview: Charlotte
The Oklahoma City Barons take on the Charlotte Checkers in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs; beginning Friday, April 26 in Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. CT.
The best-of-5 Western Conference quarterfinal series is played in a 2-3 format, with the lower-seeded team hosting the first two games, while the higher-seeded team hosts Games 3 – 5. Game 2 of the series will be played in Oklahoma City on Saturday, April 27. A complete schedule is listed below:
Game 1 April 26 Charlotte 4 @ Oklahoma City 3 OT Charlotte leads 1-0
Game 2 April 27 Charlotte @ Oklahoma City 7 p.m.
Game 3 May 1 Oklahoma City @ Charlotte 6 p.m.
Game 4 May 3 Oklahoma City @ Charlotte 6 p.m.
Game 5* May 4 Oklahoma City @ Charlotte 6 p.m.
* if necessary
All times listed as CDT
During the Regular Season
Oklahoma City and Charlotte met eight times during the regular season, with the Barons owning a 4-3-1-0 advantage over the Checkers. The Barons posted a 3-1-0-0 mark in Charlotte. This marks the first postseason meeting between the two teams.
Oklahoma City was led by Philippe Cornet who had eight points (4-4-8) and Mark Arcobello who had six points (4-2-6) in the head-to-head games. Niko Hovinen won both of his starts against Charlotte, posting a 2.50 goals against average and .898 save percentage. The Checkers were led in scoring against Oklahoma City by Chris Terry’s eight points (3-5-8) and Zac Dalpe’s six points (2-4-6). Justin Peters, on recall with the Checkers NHL affiliate in Carolina, posted a 4-2-0 record, 2.41 goals against average and .921 save percentage.
How They Got Here
Oklahoma City clinched its spot in the Calder Cup playoffs with a 7-3 win over Abbotsford on April 20. The Barons (40-25-2-9) needed a win over Houston in the regular season finale to avoid dropping below the No. 6 seed in the west. With a 3-0 blanking of the Aeros, the Barons finished the regular season with 91 points to earn the conference’s No. 5 seed.
Charlotte’s win April 20 over Peoria gave the Checkers just enough points to edge out the Barons for the No. 4 seed to earn home ice advantage for the opening round. Charlotte (42-26-4-4) finished second in the south division with 92 points, trailing division winner Texas and finishing one point ahead of Oklahoma City.
Players to Watch
Mark Arcobello leads Oklahoma City in scoring (22-45-67) and is fourth in the league in points. Arcobello’s played on the Barons’ top line much of the year, playing with Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins during their brief stints in Oklahoma City earlier in the year. Arcobello’s production has accelerated playing alongside Toni Rajala and Jonathan Cheechoo in the latter part of the year. Arcobello earned his first AHL all-star nod this year and was named the team’s most valuable player. Chris VandeVelde has back-to-back two goal games entering the postseason, and NHL veteran Cheechoo has 32 points in 35 games with Oklahoma City.
Chris Terry leads the charge for the Checkers with 60 points on the year (25-35-60), ranking 12th in league scoring. The Checkers have several players on recall with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes including Riley Nash and Tim Wallace. Their return seems imminent but may not come until game three of this series.
Toni Rajala has had a breakthrough year in Oklahoma City. The Finnish born forward is 10th in rookie scoring with 45 points (17-28-45) in 46 games played. Rajala started the season with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder and was initially called up in November before returning to Stockton. He made his permanent return to the Barons’ lineup on January 11.
Veteran goaltender Yann Danis leads Oklahoma City into the playoffs again this season. Danis has recorded both his shutouts this year in Oklahoma City’s last five games (April 19 vs. Abbotsford and April 14 at Hamilton). Backup goaltender Niko Hovinen won both his starts against Charlotte during the regular season.
With Justin Peters and Dan Ellis not returning to Charlotte for the playoffs, the Checkers starting goaltender for the series opener is a mystery. The job could go to either one of two players without any AHL playoff experience or to an AHL veteran with just one game played since his return from the KHL in November.
Rob Madore has played in nine games dating back to late March and had a 1.83 goals against with a .951 save percentage and two shutouts. Also in contention is John Muse with a .891 save percentage (3.22 GAA). AHL veteran Mike Murphy was with the Checkers during the 2011 AHL conference final but has only played in one game since his return from overseas in November.
The Barons have won three straight regulation games and four straight on home ice, dating back to April 7. April was the team’s winningest month on record with a 8-2-0-1 mark.
Charlotte has secured standing points in six of their last seven regular season games.
Oklahoma City has the league’s top power play at 21.6 percent (67-for-310). The Barons have the top home power play percentage at 24.3 percent (36-for-148), while the Checkers post the league’s top road power play at 25.7 percent (45-for-175). Charlotte ranks fifth in overall power play with 20.2 percent (63-for-312).
Charlotte had the third best penalty kill in the league during the regular season, stopping opponents 86.5 percent of the time (39 goals allowed). The Checkers were fifth in road penalty kill (.859) and sixth at home (.872). The Barons were last in overall penalty kills, allowing 62 man-advantage goals in 300 times shorthanded. Oklahoma City was 28th on the road (.795) and at home (.791). Oklahoma City has not allowed an opponent to score on the power play in 16 of the last 17 regular season games. The Barons went 43-for-44 on the penalty kill from March 19 until the end of the regular season.
The Barons have allowed three or fewer goals in 19 straight games, going 13-3-0-3 during that run to end the regular season.
Tickets for Games 1 & 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals start at $10 and are on sale at 232-GOAL (4625) as well as all Ticketmaster outlets and online at ticketmaster.com.
Season Seat Holders that have already received their ticket books for the playoffs will use the ticket marked Round 1 Game A for the game on Friday, April 26 and Round 1 Game B for the game on Saturday, April 27.
All Barons playoff games can be heard on the Barons flagship station, 96.1 KXY and are also available on a pay-per-view basis via AHL Live.
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