After the Oklahoma City Barons clinched an American Hockey League playoff berth with Saturday's 2-0 win at Texas, coach Todd Nelson had a conversation with winger Colin McDonald.
“You've got the day off tomorrow,” said Nelson, who planned on giving his entire top line an off day on Sunday at Houston.
“Do I have a choice in the matter?” McDonald asked. “Because I don't know if I'll ever get this opportunity again.”
McDonald entered the final day of the regular season tied for the AHL goal-scoring title and couldn't pass up the chance at taking the award for himself.
“If I would've played and not got it, I would've been fine with that,” McDonald said. “But if I sat out and wound up tied, it would've bothered me.”
McDonald took it down to the wire, scoring with 2:32 remaining in Sunday's game to put him ahead of Hamilton's Nigel Dawes and in sole possession of the Willie Marshall Award as the AHL's top goal scorer.
The award had been won previously by Hershey's Alexandre Giroux, who now is a Barons linemate of McDonald's, in each of the last two seasons.
McDonald scored six goals in the final three games, including four in Friday's win at San Antonio. He become the second consecutive Barons player to win the AHL's Player of the Week award.
Goaltender Jeff Deslauriers was honored, too.
“I still don't know how to explain this season,” McDonald said.
The firsts keep coming for the 26-year-old in his fourth professional season.
McDonald will be participating in the playoffs for the first time in his career when the Barons open the postseason Thursday in Hamilton, Ontario.
“I was feeling a little tired coming off that long road trip and not really feeling like myself,” McDonald said. “But since Saturday night, when we got in (the playoffs), I feel rejuvenated. I'm really looking forward to this.”
So while his linemates, veterans Giroux and Brad Moran, took the day off Sunday, McDonald worked down to the wire for the award few thought was possible for him before the season. After all, McDonald had not scored more than 13 goals in any one season.
“It was a great thing for him and for our team,” Nelson said. “It was important to him that he have the chance, and he really came through.”