The Oklahoma City Barons’ “unbeaten” home streak will face a stiff test Friday night and Saturday night when the defending Calder Cup champions visit the Cox Convention Center.
It’s been almost two months since the Barons have lost a home game in regulation. Since the streak started on Jan. 18, the Barons are 8-0-1 at the Cox Center.
While the Barons are fighting just to get in the playoffs, the Grand Rapids Griffins are in second in the Western Conference, poised to make another postseason run.
“This will be a good test,” said Barons team captain Anton Lander. “Every game for us is huge right now. We’ve been playing really well but we’re going to have to continue to play well to make the playoffs.”
The Barons’ only home loss in the past eight weeks was a 5-4 shootout to Milwaukee a month ago.
“You always want to protect home ice,” said Barons general manager Bill Scott. “You should feel no one will come into your building and win. Our guys are taking pride in that. They’ve certainly provided a lot of excitement.”
There’s been some drama during the streak.
Six of the eight wins have been by one goal. The Barons twice won in the final four minutes of regulation, once in overtime and once in a shootout.
“That’s been big for us,” Lander said. “We’ve said since Christmas we needed to start winning games. We’re playing way better hockey right now. We’re playing hard, we’re playing tough.”
Goaltender Richard Bachman said traditional advantages seem magnified when teams get on a roll at home, factors like playing in front of hometown fans, sleeping in your own bed and familiar facilities.
“I try not to get caught up in the (streak), but one thing they always say is you need to take care of your business at home and split on the road,” Bachman said. “For us it’s a situation we need to win almost every game, home or road.”
The Barons have played well on the road since Mark Arcobello, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, was re-assigned to OKC.
Notching a 13-2-2 record the past seven weeks, the Barons are tied with Milwuakee for the eighth place, which is the final playoff berth. OKC is only two points behind Rockford (seventh) and three behind Rochester (sixth).
“We’ve really matured a lot as a team since Christmas,” said defenseman Brad Hunt. “Rookies aren’t rookies anymore and second-year guys aren’t really second-year guys. Everyone has stepped up. It’s been fun, but we need to keep it going.”
Barons hot at home
A breakdown of the nine consecutive home games the Barons have not lost in regulation at the Cox Convention Center.
Jan. 18, Milwaukee (W 2-1): Bachman notches 32 saves.
Jan. 19, Milwaukee (W 5-4): OKC wins in a shootout.
Jan. 30, Toronto (W 5-3): Lander scores three points.
Feb. 14, Lake Erie (W 2-1): Lander’s PP goal the difference.
Feb. 15, Lake Erie (L 5-4): Barons lose in a shootout.
Feb. 28, Rockford (W 5-4): Pitlick scores 46 seconds into OT.
Mar. 1, Rockford (W 5-4): Fyten scores with 3:49 remaining.
Mar. 2, San Antonio (W 6-5): Davidson wins it with :39 left.
Mar. 11, San Antonio (W 5-2): Three power play goals.