The Oklahoma City Barons qualifying for the American Hockey League playoffs appeared to be a long shot two months ago. Now, they are above the playoff cutoff line following a 6-4 win over Charlotte on Sunday afternoon at the Cox Convention Center.
By sweeping a two-game weekend series against the Checkers, Oklahoma City is in seventh place in the Western Conference with two weeks left in the regular season.
If the AHL playoffs started Monday, the Barons would be in the postseason for the fourth consecutive year under coach Todd Nelson. Oklahoma City has been Western Conference finalists the past two seasons.
“This was huge to get both of these wins, but it will probably still come down to the wire,” Nelson said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position, but we still have work to do.”
With five games remaining in the regular season the Barons have clawed all the way back to seventh place in the conference. Oklahoma City (33-27-11) next plays Friday and Sunday at Abbottsford (39-25-7), which is fifth in the conference.
OKC has 77 standings points, but Rochester has 76. Charlotte and Rockford both have 75. Only two of the four will qualify.
“All the work we did this weekend doesn’t mean anything if we don’t go to Abbottsford next weekend and play well,” Nelson said. “This by no means is even close to being over.”
Charlotte (36-33-3) led 1-0 after one period, but the Barons opened the second period with a 5-on-3 power-play.
Matthew Ford scored his 23rd goal of the season to tie the game. Thirty-one seconds later, Andrew Miller lit the lamp to swing the momentum.
“We had the same thing happen in Charlotte, but we came out and didn’t score on the (5-on-3),” said Barons defenseman Brad Hunt. “We knew we could put them on their heels if we scored at least one to tie it. Scoring two was huge.”