Barons goaltender Richard Bachman couldn’t have picked a better time to post his second shutout of the season.
In a showdown of two teams trying to earn one of the final Western Conference playoff berths, Bachman stopped all 31 shots to lead the Barons to a 1-0 win over Charlotte on Saturday night at the Cox Convention Center.
With the win, the Barons officially have climbed to the playoff cutoff line, although six more games are left in the regular season to determine whether they qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
“This is a very huge win for us which sets the stage for an even bigger game (on Sunday),” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “For Richard to get a shutout against a great offensive team like they have is pretty remarkable.”
At press time, the Barons were tied with Charlotte and Rockford for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Rochester, riding a three-game winning streak, is in seventh, one point in front of the trio tied at eighth.
C.J. Stretch scored the game’s only goal early in the second period. Stretch scored the power-play goal after he paused then faked a shot to beat Checkers goalie John Muse.
“I haven’t had much success shooting straight on a goalie, so I tried to get a better angle,” Stretch said. “(Matthew) Ford set a good screen for me. I decided to fake a shot and then slide the puck in.”
Nelson had a good view from the Barons’ bench.
“I was yelling, ‘Shoot, shoot!’” Nelson said. “Stretchy had good poise. It obviously was a huge goal for us, not just because it ended up being the only goal, but it helped everyone relax.”
In a rematch of a first-round playoff series from last season, Charlotte has 17 players that played in that series while the Barons had only four players in Saturday’s game that played in Game 5 a year ago.
“This team is totally different than the team we had six weeks ago,” Nelson said. “With the new group we have, this is how we have to play to win games. Our guys worked really hard, which can compensate for system mistakes.”
Starting 24 of the past 26 games, Bachman has faced a league-high 1,520 shots this season and recorded a league-high 1,383 saves.
“You always get a little nervous at the end, but Bachs stood on his head the last two minutes of the game,” Stretch said. “They have such a great offensive team. For him to shut them out was huge.”
Bachman improved to 23-17-8. His other shutout was three months ago in a win over the Texas Stars.
Five of Bachman’s 31 saves came in the final two minutes after Charlotte pulled Muse for an extra skater.
“It’s the quickest but also the longest three minutes you can ever imagine,” Bachman said. “We did a good job getting pucks out when we needed to. You knew they’d be coming hard. They put a lot of shots on net, but our D did a good job to allow me to see the shot, which is huge.”