OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla – The fifth-seeded Barons lost an overtime decision to the fourth-
seeded Checkers on Friday evening. With nearly identical regular season records, and a split regular season series, a high intensity game needed an extra period to determine a winner.
This is the third consecutive year the Barons have progressed to the post-season.
Recently returned Teemu Hartikainen scored the first goal of the game from a pass near the crease from Captain Josh Green.
“He is an NHL-caliber player and we are happy to have him back,” said Green.
Hartikainen spent 47 games with the Barons this season and 23 games with the Edmonton Oilers.
“He is a big body that is hard to play against,” said Coach Todd Nelson. “In the play-offs, it is kind of his game; his grinding style where he likes to work the corners.”
While the Barons’ Tyler Pitlick was serving an elbowing penalty, Charlotte answered back early in the second period with a power-play goal. A shot from the point bounced of a Checkers stick and landed in front of the net, Justin Shugg was credited with the score.
Newcomer Brody Sutter scored his first AHL play-off goal at 11:17 in the second period to give Charlotte the lead with a rebound off an Oklahoma City defenseman. This gave the visiting Checkers the lead mid-way through the second period.
The tide turned in the Barons’ favor in the last two minutes of the period.
Seconds after a line change for the power play unit, rookie C. J. Stretch scored a wrap around goal to tie the game. Twenty-one seconds later, Oklahoma City would retake the lead. Hartikainen was playing the puck behind the net when it flipped over the net and landed in the slot.
“Sticks came together and the puck popped up in the air and came right to me,” said Green. “When I saw it in front of the net, I started to lick my chops a little bit.”
It just wouldn’t be a Barons game without a penalty in the third period. Just fourteen secseconds was all the time needed for Zach Boychuk to scored on a redirection from near the right wing circle. The powerplay goal tied the game at three apiece. “He is a good hockey player,” said Nelson. “If you give him an opportunity, he will burry the puck.”
Three minutes, six seconds is all the time Brody Sutter needed to shoot a redirected puck in extra period to win the game for the Checkers. This steep angle shot, was his second goal of the game thus adding to his AHL post-season resume.
“The turning point in the game was when we killed off a penalty early in the third [period] and we take one right away again,” said Nelson. “It was unnecessary, they scored off that and it have them new life.”
The Checkers were 2 for 5 on the power-play while the Barons were 1 for 6.
“We have to score more goals on the power-play,” said Hartikainen. “We need to play better in those situations. We need to play more physical and be smarter in the way we play.”
The Barons outshot the Checkers 33 to 28, rookie Rob Madore earned his first AHL post-season win. Yann Danis was in net for the Barons and stopped 24 of 28 shots. Game 2 of this series will be Saturday night in Oklahoma City. The following games will be played in Charlotte, beginning with Game 3 on Wednesday May 1.
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