The Texas Stars posted the best home record in the American Hockey League this season, which makes the Oklahoma City Barons’ task challenging.
Down 2-0 in a best-of-five, first-round Calder Cup playoff series, the Barons must win three consecutive road games to stave off elimination, starting with a 7:30 matchup Wednesday night at the Cedar Park Center.
“It’s obvious we can’t look any further than Wednesday night,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Our focus is to win one game. If we win that one, then we’ll worry about the next one.”
It’s a daunting task to win Games 3, 4 and 5 on the road, but the Barons point to a two-game series three months ago, two road wins in the Austin suburb that helped propel them to their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
The one positive from identical 3-2 overtime losses in Games 1 and 2 in the Cox Convention Center was the Barons never trailed until the end.
“We’ve dug ourselves a hole, but we’ve always played well there,” Nelson said. “We’ve had chance to win the first two games.”
Texas finished 29-8-1 at the Cedar Park Center. The nine combined home losses were the fewest in the 30-team AHL.
But back on Feb. 2 and Feb. 4, the first two games Mark Arcobello played with the Barons after spending the first three months of the season with the Edmonton Oilers, the Barons handed the Stars two of those home losses. The Barons won 7-4 on a Sunday afternoon followed by a 5-2 win two days later.
“That’s huge,” said Barons defenseman Brad Hunt. “That puts a little seed of doubt in their heads that they know we can win there. Plus, it gives us confidence knowing we can win in that building. Even our past two games down there were really close.”
The Stars finished with the best record in the AHL, but the Barons have as deep a roster as they’ve had all season after team captain Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick and Oscar Klefbom were sent to Oklahoma City after the Oilers‘ season ended.
Going against the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Barons have held their own. After two games, shots on goal are virtually even, with the Stars owning a slim 72-68 edge.
“It’s definitely a huge challenge, but we know we can win in that building,” said Barons goaltender Richard Bachman. “It’s not an easy place to play. It’s loud. They’ll be fired up, but we do have some wins in our pocket there. We just have to stick with the plan.”
It’s uncertain whether Arcobello will return Wednesday night after being sidelined a month with a shoulder injury, but Texas is expected to get one of its top players back for Game 3. Colton Sceviour, who scored 63 points in 54 games for Texas, played a regular shift with the Dallas Stars in a six-game NHL playoff series against Anaheim.
After Dallas was eliminated on Sunday, Sceviour became eligible to play in the AHL playoffs. Sceviour rejoins AHL MVP Travis Morin, who had two goals and an assist in Texas’ Game 2 win Saturday night.
“If we hadn’t won much in that building there might be some doubt, but our guys have confidence,” Nelson said. “They’ve been resilient all year.
“We seem to always do things the hard way. We had to overcome some things just to get in the playoffs. What a great story it would be if we came back and won three games in their building, but our focus is to win this first one.”