OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.—Five different players scored for the Barons to give the home team a decisive victory over the top seeded Texas Stars. Baron’s goaltender Yann Danis was stellar in net, turning away 33 of 34 shots. His shut out attempt was thwarted with three minutes remaining in the game. “To win three in a row against the first seed in the conference feels good,” said Danis. “We are playing with a lot of confidence, and we have gained some momentum.”
The Barons got the scoring going as the medical trainer was tending a cut to the forehead of Mark Arcobello. Late in the first period, the Finish team of Toni Rajala and Teemu Hartikainen found each other in the Stars defensive zone. Hartikainen’s shot from the left wing circle rolled over the arm of Cristoper Nilstorp. The assist was Rajala’s ninth, of the post-season.
Rookie defenseman Taylor Fedun backhanded a shot from the slot to give the Barons their second score of the night. Arcobello and Jonathan Cheechoo assisted on the score. “You can kind-of see how our offensive wears teams down,” said Fedun. “We fore-check hard, and throw so many pucks on net, that they eventually start to go in. Even a great goaltender gets tired when they face that many shots and that much pressure all the time.” Fedun has scored goals in back to back games. His score would be the game-winner.Mid-way thru the second period, Oklahoma City went ahead by three goals, on a score from rookie centerman C.J. Stretch. His tip in on the doorstep was made possible by Rajala’s pass from the right wing circle. This assist gave Rajala second place in assists for the AHL in the post-season.
With 23 seconds remaining in the second period, the Stars Jordie Been was whistled form delay of game when he shot the puck out of play. The Barons scored a power-play goal with 36 seconds remaining on this penalty. Veteran defenseman Garrett Stafford scored on a pass from near the blue line, by rookie defenseman Brandon Davidson. Arcobello also assisted on the score.
Arcobello would earn his ninth score of the post season at 12:02 in the final period. This goal would be Arcobello’s 15th point of the post-season and earned him the top spot for post-season points. “We’ve been playing play-off hockey for quite a long time now,” said Captain Josh Green. “Each game becomes more important. The guys are blocking shots and you have to want it more for the guy sitting next to you.”
Danis shut-out bid was ended when Justin Dowling scored a power-play goal with three minutes remaining in the game. This would be the only score for the Stars; as the first place tam was defeated on the road. “We are looking forward to heading back to the Western Conference finals,” said Danis. “When you have goal support, it definitely makes your job easier. If we score 5 or 7 goals, I like to think that we will not lose a lot of games.”The final score of the game was 5 to 1 in favor of the Barons. The players and coaching staff participated in the traditional handshake at center ice upon the conclusion of the game. Oklahoma City has five players in the top 12 in scoring: Arcobello leads with 15 points, Rajala is fifth, Hartikainen is seventh, Captain Josh Green is ninth, and rookie centerman Stretch is twelfth. “Our teams this year and last year are very similar,” said Nelson. “The only difference is this year we are more explosive. Toni Rajala has been outstanding; “Arco” [Arcobello] has just been consistent all year. Martin Marincin has been outstanding; his is a part of that young group that is playing really well.
Where the Barons will practice between now and the next series is uncertain. “We will probably fly out on Wednesday to the mind-west somewhere, and hang out there until the other series is determined,” said Nelson. “We have to try to find ice. There are a lot of graduations going on here, so we don’t have ice.”
The Grand Rapids leads Toronto 2 games to 1 in the other Western Conference bracket. “I still think the Grand Rapids – Toronto series can go six games,” said Nelson. “We will have to see what Grand Rapids has in store for Toronto for the next couple of games. We will try to predict the best way possible. The things that we have to focus on, are special teams: how their power-play break-out stacks up against us, what are their tendencies, which players we need to focus on.”
The Barons move onto the Western Conference Finals for the second straight season and are the first team to make it to the “Final Four”. Oklahoma City will play the winner of the Grand Rapids – Toronto series. The first two games would be on the road, with the next three games scheduled in Oklahoma City. Games 3, 4 and if necessary 5, will be Wednesday, May 29, Friday May 31, and if necessary Game 5 would be played June 1.