Clinch! Oklahoma City One Win Away From Return To West Finals

Josh Green CVV Joy
Now that’s joy. Photo by Steven Christy.

Oregon native, successful NCAA track and field coach, and three-time decorated Olympian, Bill Dellinger, once said of long distance running, “Good things come slow – especially at a distance”. If you’ve ever run a distance greater than to “the corner and back” you know this statement to be true. What you may not realize is how much weight this statement has in virtually every part of the sports world. Dellinger isn’t asking us to be slow or move slowly, but to see the end before the race begins. Know your destination, focus on it, stay the course, be prudent, be productive, accomplish that task.

To begin the season of farm play in Oklahoma City, prior to the inevitable NHL lockout, the going mantra was “Unfinished Business”. So many on the Barons/Oilers had accomplished a great deal in the 2011-2012 season, and there was a public outcry to go much further than they did in the previous season. That was the goal. Bill Scott assembled the pieces, Todd Nelson maneuvered bodies throughout the lineup, and here lies the Oklahoma City Barons on the doorstep of a potential spot in the Western Conference Finals – that’s if they can beat the Texas Stars first. One more game, one more victory, and another step on the path towards seeing a bit of redemption on the farm.

Game five of the best of seven series between the Texas Stars and the Oklahoma City Barons will be played tonight in the Cox Center. After splitting the games in Texas, the Barons have steamrolled the Stars in the first two appearances in OKC. This still surprises me as I wrap my mind around this particular accomplishment. Yet it seems that Texas is a team that is capable of throwing a wrench in the machine, thus forcing things to go amiss. From top to bottom, the Stars are feisty and tough. They don’t get by on “pretty”, but hard work (which in turn is pretty). Game five has the potential to be a dangerous one for the Barons. I hope I’m wrong.

Ben Eager returned to the lineup, and I assumed he’d be hard pressed to find his legs. I assumed incorrectly, and he did some really great things. To be perfectly honest, the entire team did. All four lines recorded a goal, and Yann Danis (with the help of his defensemen) has found his stride at the right time. After a dominating performance where five goals are scored in one period, trust me, you don’t want to mess with the lineup. Expect Nelson to do just that – change little.

Tonight, game five, with Stars in desperation mode – expect a tough win whomever that might be. So far things have been relatively tame, but Texas won’t go quietly. Aside from being well coached and well prepared, expect things to be rather “chippy” as Coach Nelson himself predicted in the post game show.

It would be nice to assume that Yann Danis plays every game like he has the last two, but boy that’s a tall order. If he does, it’s hard to imagine this team losing any sizable amount of games. There’s also an “X” factor of sorts that hangs around Todd Nelson teams – they really love to win. Regardless of prospect vs. vet, all genuinely want to win games and win games that matter. Other teams do as well, but the can’t quit mentality that wafts through an OKC locker room is pretty palpable (is that what that smell is?)

All that said, the series isn’t over. Texas has a win, a chance to sneak out of OKC with another, and then push hard at home down the stretch. I originally picked Texas vs Toronto in the finals, and despite both of those teams being down in their second round series’, they aren’t dead yet.

Game tonight is at 7pm in downtown Oklahoma City. Thunder basketball swan songed their way out of the NBA postseason last night, so it’s a good time for the city to keep tabs on the Barons. Buy a ticket, enjoy the game, you won’t be disappointed.