The Oklahoma City Barons will have to wait a few days before securing their spot in the American Hockey League playoffs.
Needing a regulation win and some help elsewhere to clinch, the Barons faltered in the third period, giving up three goals to lose 4-1 to Grand Rapids on Sunday in front of 2,710 fans at the Cox Center.
It was the first time in 10 games the Barons failed to record a standings point.
As it turns out, a regulation win would've been enough for the Barons to become the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff berth. Peoria's 2-1 loss to Hamilton about an hour after the Barons' game ended could've put them in a second consecutive season.
Instead, the Barons are likely to clinch the spot on the road.
The Barons play at Milwaukee on Friday and at Grand Rapids on Saturday before returning for four consecutive home games to wrap up the regular-season home schedule.
“It's definitely important,” Barons defenseman Colten Teubert said. “It's in the back of our minds, but we've just got to concentrate on going on the road and playing well.”
The Barons have been the top road team in the Western Conference, going 22-8-4 away from the Cox Center.
Continuing that strong play figures to be a big key toward advancing once the Barons are in the playoffs.
The retooled playoff format that made first-round series best-of-5 means the team, assuming it keeps it place at or near the top of the conference, will start the playoffs on the road.
“We've talked to them about that,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “We didn't want to drop that bombshell on them late.