Barons-Rampage Series Preview
Oklahoma City goes up against San Antonio (Florida Panthers) in AHL's Western Conference Semi-Final
While dominating the early portion of their opening-round series vs. Chicago, San Antonio struggled to put them away. A 2-0 series lead soon evaporated, as the Wolves stormed back and pushed the series to Game 5. On the road and with momentum in the home side's corner, the Rampage held off the Wolves' surge, winning 3-2 in a game that required double overtime to decide.
As a result, it's set up an evenly-matched Round 2 series to decide who will go up against either the Abbotsford Heat or Toronto Marlies in the next one.
The Barons got off a torrid start vs. San Antonio this season, posting three straight wins by 3-2, 4-1 and 1-0 scores respectively. Just as they'd done all season, however, the Western Conference's sixth seed stormed back to even the set by chronicling a 4-1 conclusion to the clubs' season series.
While the Barons' scoring-by-committee mantra was replaced with an aggressively potent attack, the same can be said about their opponent. Jon Matsumoto leads the Rampage in post-season scoring, netting three goals and nine points in the series vs. Chicago. James Wright isn't far behind, as he's posted six points in the same duration.
In goal, Dov Grumet-Morris was between the pipes when San Antonio lost the first two games of the series; he was replaced for the rest of it by highly-touted prospect Jacob Markstrom, who admirably accomplished his assignment. In three games played (all wins), he put up a 2.46 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
"They're a patient, disciplined team," Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson told OKCBarons.com's Chris Wescott Tuesday. "They're a good hockey team that's playing really well. They have some skilled guys and have four, balanced lines -- they also have a big defence that's very good in its own end. Overall, they're a solid team that has very good goaltending."
"We're going to have to have a good work ethic," added veteran Josh Green, who scored two goals and three points in the series vs. Houston. "We started 3-0 against them to start the season, but they came back and evened the series. They're playing well right now and they knocked off a very good opponent, so it's going to take everything we've got."
While Green and goaltender Yann Danis (3-1, 1.01 goals-against average and .947 save percentage) did their part on the veteran side, the Barons were led offensively by Tyler Pitlick and Mark Arcobello.
Pitlick, 20, had a pedestrian regular season, notching seven goals and 23 points in 62 games. Early on, it wasn't unusual to see him planted in the press box as a healthy scratch -- something he hadn't ever experienced in his career. But in the post-season, he emerged as one of the team's go-to scorers, collecting a point-per-game pace that included a pair of goal-scorer's goals.
Arcobello, meanwhile, continued what he'd started. In 73 regular season contests, the 23-year-old posted 17 goals and 43 points; vs. Houston, he added a goal and four assists as he leads OKC in post-season scoring.
"I feel good," said the Milford, Connecticut native over the phone last week. "Last year guys were a little tired and I certainly was a little bit as the playoffs started, but this year I feel a lot better than I have previously. I wasn't really prepared for it last year because college is such a short season, so having the experience of my second pro season under my belt has been huge. I'm a little more physically and mentally ready to handle a long post-season run this time around."
Arcobello was brought in last season and experienced the Barons' emotional opening-round loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs in six games. Now having procured that ever-vital playoff win, the team's (and Arcobello's) confidence is riding high.
"We had a lot of guys here that hadn't won a professional playoff series, so it was nice to get that done," he said. "Last year, we went out a lot earlier that we would have liked for whatever reason, but this time around he had the mentality that we were the team to beat -- we are, and we want to keep proving it."
Because of the Barons' quick strike vs. Houston in a not-so-rare AHL circumstance, the copper and blue have been sitting, waiting and practicing in an extended eight-day layoff prior to Thursday's series-opener vs. San Antonio.
"Rest is a very important thing this time of year, but you also want to keep the guys sharp," Nelson said, noting that the Barons will have held four full practices, peppered with the occasional day off before getting back into action.
"It's a good thing, it feels good," Arcobello added. "Getting some time off is good to relax, recharge the batteries and spend some time outside -- we've had some great weather down here, so it's been nice to enjoy it. We all know we've got a long way to go, but we're certainly happy about what we've accomplished so far. It's been good to take some time to get ready for the next round.
"We're going to bring the same team game that we have to this point. It's going to be a battle night-in and night-out, so we're going to have to be prepared for it."
TEUBERT TO MISS A MONTH
Veteran defenceman Colten Teubert was pelted a puck in the series vs. Houston, resulting in several broken bones in his face that required surgery. It's expected that he'll be out a month, but could be back later in the post-season.
"He got operated on [Monday] and you can barely tell, he looks good," Nelson said. "He has a bit of a black eye and a couple nicks, but he looks really good and is in good spirits. But he's going to be out for a while. It was a major situation with his cheekbone and we've got to make sure we take the right precautions with it. If he's ready to go in three weeks, then he's ready to go. But we don't expect him back for at least a month."
"It hurts for sure," Green added. "He's a steady presence back there and very good on the PK. We'll certainly miss his presence around the locker room -- he's a vocal guy. Hopefully he has a speedy recovery and we can get him back."
While Teubert's deletion will hurt, it isn't all doom and gloom. Taylor Chorney, who's missed the past month with a separated shoulder endured in late March, is close to returning to the lineup. No. 4 amassed six goals and 24 points, along with a +15 rating in 50 games this past season.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com, with files from Chris Wescott - Follow @ryandittrick
Barons vs. Rampage
Western Conference - Round 2
|Game||Date / Time||Location|
|1.||MAY 3 6:00 PM mDT||OKLAHOMA CITY|
|2.||MAY 5 6:00 PM mDT||OKLAHOMA CITY|
|3.||MAY 7 6:00 PM mDT||SAN ANTONIO|
|4.||MAY 10 6:00 pm mdt||SAN ANTONIO|
|5.||MAY 11 6:00 pm mdt (*if necessary)||SAN ANTONIO|
|4.||MAY 13 3:00 pm mdt (*if necessary)||OKLAHOMA CITY|
|5.||MAY 15 6:00 pm mdt (*if necessary)||OKLAHOMA CITY|
Regular Season Statistics
|OKC Barons||SAN ANTONIO RAMPAGE|
|LAst 10 games