BARONS WEEK IN REVIEW: APRIL 1 - 7
By Jim Byers,
Recap of Week 26, April 2-7 (4 games, 3-1-0-0)
Season record: 35-24-2-8, 80 points
4th, South Division; 7th, Western Conference
• THE WEEK PAST: The Barons won 3 out of 4 games to move from 8th in the Western Conference, 1 point ahead of the nearest rivals, to 7th, still a single point up on Milwaukee and Rockford. On Tuesday, the Barons opened a 2-game season series with the Hamilton Bulldogs with a 4-1 home win, snapping a tie game on Jonathan Cheechoo’s eventual winning goal and 9:42 of the third period followed by 2 empty-net tallies in the final minute. On Friday, OKC overcame a 2-0 deficit at Texas in the game’s first 3:01, tying the score in the third period and winning it on Tanner House’s goal with 14.6 seconds left in regulation. The Barons and Chicago Wolves split a pair of weekend games at the Cox Center, with the Wolves’ Matt Climie making 31 saves in a 3-0 shutout on Saturday. OKC rebounded with a 5-2 win on Sunday, the Barons’ 8th victory this season in a game they trailed by 2 or more goals at some stage. The Barons scored 5 goals in the final 30:33, capped by go-ahead and insurance tallies by Toni Rajala.
• THE WEEK AHEAD: On Wednesday, the Barons visit the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) at the Toyota Center to begin the longest trip of the season in terms of consecutive days on the road (9). Wednesday’s 7:05 pm (CDT) matchup is the 11th of 12 in the season series and the last in Houston. OKC is 2-5-0-3 against the Aeros, with an 0-3-0-2 mark at Toyota Center. Counting travel days at the beginning and end of the trip, the Barons will be gone for 9 days and play 4 games without any back-to-back contests. On Friday, the Barons visit Blue Cross Arena to face the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres) at 6:05 pm (CDT). The Amerks rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the score and topple the Barons 3-2 in a shootout on March 19 at the Cox Center in the only other meeting this season. OKC visits the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) on Sunday at 4 pm (CDT). The Barons defeated the Bulldogs 4-1 on April 2 at the Cox Center in the first matchup of the season. The trip ends during the regular season’s final week with a visit to the Toronto Marlies April 16.
• PLAYOFF SNAPSHOT: The Barons have 7 games remaining, 3 of those at home the last weekend of the season April 19-21, and occupy 7th place in the Western Conference as this week begins. The 3 division winners in each conference, plus the next 5 best teams by standing points, qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs. The race for the 5 non-division winner seeds in the West remains very congested, with 10 points separating 8 teams from No. 4 Charlotte (84 points) to No. 11 Abbotsford (74). Houston and Rochester open this week sharing 5th with 82 points, 2 behind Charlotte. The Barons are 7th with 80 points, while Milwaukee and Rockford share 8th with 79. Chicago is 10th with 77 and Abbotsford is 11th with 74. The Barons have at least 1 game in hand on all Western Conference teams except Chicago, which has also played 69 games.
• RAJALA DOUBLES UP: Toni Rajala’s 2-goal game on Sunday was his first in the AHL and his 10th multi-point contest in 39 AHL games this season. The 22-year-old rookie from Finland has spent two stints with OKC and two at ECHL Stockton this season. His 36 OKC points, on 13 goals and 23 assists, are 4th-best on the team. Rajala has 34 points (12G, 22A) during his current stint with the Barons dating to Jan. 11. Since returning to the Barons, Rajala is tied for 7th in the AHL in scoring (34 points) and his +15 in that time is tied for 4th in the league. Rajala’s +12 rating in March was the league’s best.
• DEFENSE, DEFENSE: The Barons have allowed 3 goals or fewer in 12 straight games, going 8-2-0-2 in that time. OKC is 31-10-0-3 when allowing 3 or fewer. Since returning most recently from the Edmonton Oilers in mid-March, goaltender Yann Danis is 6-1-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
• QUICK HITS: The Barons are 7-0-0-0 when Jonathan Cheechoo scores a goal and 11-1-0-0 when he records at least 1 point. The Barons went 9 full games without allowing a power play goal, going 24-for-24 on the penalty kill in that span, until yielding a man advantage goal to Chicago on Sunday. Counting the games on either side of the streak, the Barons killed off 28 consecutive times short before Sunday’s power play goal against at 3:16 of the second period. OKC is 23-11-2-3 when scoring at least 1 power play goal and 12-4-1-0 when notching 2 or more. The Barons enter this week with the league’s top power play percentage at 21.3. Nine of OKC’s 14 goals last week were scored in the third period.
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