I, you, we all assumed that there would be some hangover by the Oklahoma City Barons after the roller coaster the month of May has been. They put away two really good teams in the first and second rounds of the playoffs, lived through a massive tornado nearby amid a seven week break, awaited their appointment in the West Finals, and then traveled to Grand Rapids. But if we’ve learned one thing about this team in the last six weeks, it’s that they are resilient and steady.
Game one arrived, and the Barons would play surprisingly well, and hang on to that resilient spirit. However, it was the Grand Rapids Griffins that would take the first game of the series on their home ice in a 2-1 close fought battle.
It was clear from the start that Grand Rapids was a unique beast. In their first shift, it was as if a bucket of cold water hit the Barons in the face. Martin Marincin made a horrific pass that was intercepted by a rushing Griffin. Danis makes the save, and Marincin takes a deep breathe. Not a great way to start a period, a game, or a series.
From the Barons blue line, Brennan Evans would score the first goal of the game, and quickly we’d be 1-0 in the first eight minutes. Danis, with a high quality stinker, would regret that one. From the first goal forward, each team had several good chances at scoring. A double-dose of interference penalties would give each team a chance on the power play, but neither could seal the deal. With four minutes remaining in the period, Andrew Hotham would receive a pass from Jonathan Cheechoo, and then ease in towards Griffins goaltender, Petr Mrazek, and slap the equalizing goal in net. The first period ended with a 1-1 game.
The final forty minutes was dictated by another early period goal, this one again by the Griffins, but scored by Landon Ferraro, his third of the postseason. The Barons would have some remarkable opportunities to crawl back into the game, including an in-close shot by Philippe Cornet that was thwarted by Mrazek. Both teams shot the puck well, but it was Grand Rapids that really owned how the game would play out. They hunkered down, kept the Barons off the board, blocked a ton of shots, and were very cautious with the puck.
The game as a whole wasn’t particularly pretty for either power play, but both penalty kills were magnificent. This will likely be a key piece of the puzzle for whomever wins this series.
The game was void of the rough stuff that Grand Rapids is sometimes known for. One minor rough by former Baron, Triston Grant, on Josh Green, was the closest thing to rough play we’d get.
The Oklahoma City Barons would play well, but the Grand Rapids Griffins played just a tad more tenacious. GR would skate away with a 2-1 victory, a win at home, and the first victory of the West Finals series of the AHL.
Game two is tonight at 6:00pm (Central Time).
Oklahoma City Barons Lineup:
Scratched: Ringwald, McFaull, Plante, Ewanyk, Hamilton, Lander, Martindale, Musil, Leach, Pelss, Teubert, Hordichuk