Barons vs. Bulldogs - Game 4 Preview
Oklahoma City looks to even North Division Semi-Final series with Hamilton
AT THE MORNING SKATE
On the heels of a big 2-0 victory in Game 3 to narrow the series gap to two games to one in favour of Hamilton, the Oklahoma City Barons have an opportunity to even the series tonight on home ice when they take on the Hamilton Bulldogs in Game 4.
"I thought last night we played a pretty complete game for 60 minutes. We played well defensively and when there were breakdowns (Gerber) was there for us. Last night we fired 46 shots on net and generated two goals," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson. "Their goaltender is playing extremely well. We didn't score the first goal until the last eight minutes but the guys stuck with it, that's the best thing about it."
Taking out the Hamilton Bulldogs two games in a row will be no easy task for Oklahoma City and Nelson made sure he let the troops know it during a team meeting following an optional skate.
"Our hard work paid off and the same thing has to happen tonight. We have to make sure our team's playing up-tempo, make sure we're playing physical and also getting shots going to the net. That's how we have to play to beat this team because they're playing very well right now."
Despite not allowing a goal last night, the Barons were mindful in their meeting of quality scoring chances given up.
"We're going to watch some breakdowns that we had and hopefully correct those. From their standpoint, they never scored a goal last night so they're going to put a lot of pucks on net tonight. That means we're going to have to play well defensively."
TEUBERT OUT, AIELLO IN
The only lineup change the Barons will be making was made out of necessity. Colten Teubert left last night's game late in the third period with an upper-body injury and will not be ready to go tonight.
"Teubert's still being looked at. It's an upper-body injury. He's not going to be going tonight," said Nelson.
Kevin Montgomery also remains on the shelf, which means Anthony Aiello draws into the lineup for OKC.
"We're going to put in Anthony Aiello. He's a guy that played with us for at least 40% of the year. He's come in and done a very good job for us."
Aiello played in 23 games this season for the Barons, scoring two goals and adding 10 assists for 12 points. He also had a -8 rating. He picked up five goals and 17 points in 33 games for the Stockton Thunder (ECHL).
"We also have Marty Marincin and Brandon Davidson, they're both eager to play," Nelson said of other options on the blueline. "We just feel that Anthony has a bit more experience. The tempo of the game was very high last night and we only got to see Brandon and Marty play just one game but if called upon, they're ready."
ONE IN THE BOOKS
Last night's win was the first playoff win in Barons franchise history. According to Nelson and several players, it was a huge psychological lift to get into the win column.
"It was our first playoff win in Barons history so it was very important from that aspect but the psyche of the guys, they feel a lot more comfortable coming to the rink today. They're happy with the result but they know we're still down 2-1 in the series. Tonight's a game we have to have as well. Going down 3-0 or 3-1 is a very similar situation. We want to even this up and make it a three-game series and see what happens."
Defenceman Bryan Helmer, who captained the last two championship teams in Hershey, agreed.
"I think we're on a high right now, but we can't get too high. You've got to keep an even keel in the playoffs. You can't get too low or you can't get too high. If we can do that, we'll be successful."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OKC BARONS GAME NOTES
OVERVIEW: The Barons and Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) continue their best-of-7, first-round Calder Cup playoff series with Game 4 at the Cox Convention Center. Hamilton leads the series 2-1. The home team has won each game so far, with the Barons shutting out the Bulldogs 2-0 last night. OKC and Hamilton split a 2-game season series, with OKC winning in OT 3-2 Oct. 24 at Hamilton and the Bulldogs prevailing 3-0 in OKC Dec. 17.
OFF THE TOP: Dating to their final 2 games of the regular season, the Barons have won 3 straight at home, all by shutout. The last goal allowed at home was by Grand Rapids’ Jan Mursak at 17:35 of the third period on Mar. 12. Barons goaltenders have gone 182:25 without surrendering a goal at the Cox Center. Jeff Deslauriers posted consecutive shutouts in the final regular season home games Apr. 1-2 vs. Rockford and Texas.
MORE ZEROES: Martin Gerber has gone nearly 5 periods without allowing goal. The last Hamilton goal was scored by Nigel Dawes 1:03 into Saturday's second period. Gerber brings a shutout streak of 98 minutes, 57 seconds into tonight.
POWER PLAYING: Both teams were 0-for-6 on the power play last night, although overlapping penal- ties cut several power plays short. The Barons are 0-for-12 with the man advantage this series, but have out-scored the Bulldogs at even strength 5-3. Hamilton is 4-for-18 this series on the power play, but 1-for-15 since connecting on their first 3 opportunties in the series opener on Thursday.
OKC enjoyed the AHL’s most power play opportunities during the regular season (407), 21 more than the closest team (Houston). Hamilton was tied with Rochester for the league’s second-fewest power play chances during the regular season with 315.
MCDONALD TAKES GOAL TITLE: Colin McDonald scored his league leading 42nd goal of the season at 17:28 of the third period in Sunday’s finale at Houston, eclipsing Hamilton’s Nigel Dawes for the Willie Marshall Award. With six goals in the final three games, McDonald won the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week Award.
McDonald recorded his first professional four-goal game in Friday’s 7-2 win at San Antonio. He had 17 goals in the last 16 games of the regular campaign. McDonald led the league with 19 power play goals and did not have an empty-netter. Prior to this season,McDonald had totaled 35 goals in 3 seasons as a professional.
GIROUX SECOND IN AHL POINTS: Alexandre Giroux finished as the AHL’s second-leading scorer with 78 points, trailing only league MVP Corey Locke of Binghamton (86). Giroux was rested in the Barons’ final regular-season game on Sunday, the first time he was eligible for an AHL game this season that he did not play.
Giroux saw a 10-game point streak end on Saturday at Texas. He had three goals and 12 assists during the streak, which had extended to Feb. 27, prior to his two March callups to Edmonton. Giroux is the first-team left winger on the AHL post-season All-Star Team, his third straight season as a first-teamer. That feat has been accomplished by only two other forwards in AHL history (Pete Leswick, 1948-50 and Art Stratton, 1963-65). Giroux has had seven consecutive 30 (or more) goal seasons, tying a record held by AHL Hall of Famer Dick Gamble.
CLICK HERE FOR THE GAME NOTES