It was a remarkable run for the Oklahoma City Barons the last six weeks. Unfortunately for the baby Oilers they’d lose game seven of the West Finals to the Grand Rapids Griffins, thus ending their postseason tear through the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. Two seasons, two West Finals – the OKC Barons, and coaching staff, have put together two highly memorable seasons of minor league hockey. This will stand as a remarkable feat in and of itself. However, last night’s game seven was a memorable one, and it ended with high drama as only the best game sevens can do.
The recap, some thoughts, and may more feelings to be posted here in the next few weeks.
The eye-rolls and out-loud sighs began quickly as Jan Mursak knocked in the first goal of the game for the Griffins in the first 54 seconds.. It set the tone for the next five minutes of playoff hockey, but the Barons amped up their pace and after giving up that first goal early, scored twice about twelve minutes later. Chris VandeVelde and Teemu Hartikainen were the gift givers, and OKC would take a two goals to one lead. Just when things were coming up all blue and orange, a goofy C.J. Stretch hooking penalty allowed Tomas Tatar to even the score in the final five minutes of the opening frame. The first period would end with a 2-2 game.
The second period featured another first goal by Grand Rapids, but fortunately for OKC it wasn’t as quick as the first period version. At 9:47 Gustav Nyquist would score on the power play, with an assist by Chad Billins (his second PPA of the night). The Griffins would take a 3-2 lead. With three minutes left in the middle frame, Ben Eager would dish the puck to Antti Tyrvainen, and OKC would tie things up at three all. Two periods of play, three goals, both periods ending with a tie – would anyone win this game? I didn’t want it to end.
Taylor Fedun would put OKC up by a goal in a very Justin Schultzy manner. Assisted by Mark Arcobello and Jonathan Cheechoo, the two-some contained within the top pairing had been trapped by the swarming defense of the Grand Rapids Grffins all night, so this was a good omen. We’d solider on. Mursak, scoring his second goal of the evening, put the Griffins back neck and neck with OKC five minutes after the Barons scored, and things started to look dire for the little team that could. Indeed, an unassisted goal by Tomas Jurco gave the Griffins the lead with under three minutes to play. Some fast and furious movement around the net, coupled with defenders playing as forwards, wasn’t enough as Petr Mrazek sustained the onslaught.
The Grand Rapids Griffins would defeat the Oklahoma City Barons and win a date with the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup Finals, which begins Saturday. The final tally of 4-5 was a direct indication on how tight this game was. It was also highly entertaining.
Ben Eager and Antti Tyrvainen each had two points before the second period ended. What’s remarkable about that feat is that their team needed them to be good in this one, and good they were. With Cornet-Arco-Cheech stuck in the Griffins vortex of hurt, the bottom two lines were called upon to take a bit of a charge offensively. They did, and it kept their team in the game. Well done, you guys.
Yann Danis was as good as you’d expect him to be, but the two power play goals were so well executed by the Griffins that they crippled his chances of stealing goals away. Credit him for an impressive postseason run.
Doug Sauter, in his postgame comments, found himself verklempt when discussing this season of Oklahoma City Barons hockey. Before you discount him in any conversation, I’ll quickly remind you of this particular moment. He cares. THAT one thought alone makes him one of the most under-rated assets the Oklahoma City Barons have in their possession. If he doesn’t have a broader role beyond broadcast, I’d change that quickly. He’s the best ambassador of hockey that this state has ever had, and he’s a treasure. Treat him like one.
In Wednesday’s post I said the following statement:
I’ll go out on a limb and say whomever score more on the PP wins the series. So far both teams have struggled in this regard, but with so much on the line, every little mistake will be embraced by the opponent.
I weekend as a psychic investigator so this worked out perfectly. In all seriousness, the Griffins made good on 50% of their PP opportunities while the Barons squandered all three. Special teams victory goes to the Griffins.
More thoughts, babbling, crying, reminiscing, hating, loving, and loathing to come in the next few days. In the meantime, I give OKC a hearty “WELL DONE”. A memorable season ended with an incredible run. One for the ages indeed.