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OKC Barons: Barons have a tough assignment

Oklahoma City has to win Games 6 and 7 at Grand Rapids to advance to the Calder Cup finals.
by Michael Baldwin Published: June 3, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma City Barons defender Garrett Stafford reacts to having a goal disallowed versus the Grand Rapids Griffins in the fourth game of the Western Conference finals of the AHL on June 1, 2013. Photo by KT KING, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: OKC1306012126361033
Oklahoma City Barons defender Garrett Stafford reacts to having a goal disallowed versus the Grand Rapids Griffins in the fourth game of the Western Conference finals of the AHL on June 1, 2013. Photo by KT KING, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: OKC1306012126361033

The Oklahoma City Barons have been an exceptional road team the past three months.

In the opening round of the American Hockey League playoffs against Charlotte, they had to win back-to-back road games to stave off elimination.

But winning games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference finals at Grand Rapids against a hot goaltender is a more daunting challenge than rallying against Charlotte a month ago.

“Our backs are against the wall,” said defenseman Taylor Fedun. “But every time we've put ourselves in that situation we've played really well. Hopefully, we'll keep that streak going ... I guess sometimes we need that little dose of desperation.”

The Barons cruised in their Western semifinal series against the top-seeded Texas Stars. OKC won the best-of-7 series in five games.

Oklahoma City was up 2-1 against Grand Rapids before Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek started standing on his head. Riding the momentum of winning Games 4 and 5 at the Cox Convention Center by a combined 7-0 score, the Griffins need just one win to advance to the AHL finals, which begin with Games 1 and 2 Saturday and Sunday in Syracuse.

Game 6 of the Western Conference finals is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Van Andel Arena. If the Barons win, Game 7 would be Wednesday night.

Mrazek is a rising star in the Red Wings system. He is playing well, but the Barons feel they've squandered quality scoring chances, tip-ins and backdoor plays they usually cash in on.

Oklahoma City has outshot Grand Rapids by 47 shots in the series (175-128) but the Griffins have been the only team to score the past two games — winning 4-0 on Saturday and 3-0 on Sunday.

Since the Barons fired 77 shots at Mrazek in back-to-back shutout losses, is frustration mounting?

“A little bit,” said Oklahoma City forward Chris Vande Velde. “Running into a hot goaltender is part of the game. Maybe we're not getting some of the bounces like we've had before. If we keep shooting we'll get some breaks.”

After Sunday's loss, several players said it's as simple as driving to the net.

“It starts obviously with the shot,” said Vande Velde. “But it helps if you can get screens or tips or rebounds. That's how most goals are scored. If we get traffic to the net we'll get some goals.”

If the Barons can turn the momentum with an early goal or two in Game 6 they have a track record of playing well on the road.

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by Michael Baldwin
Redhawks, Barons, MLB, NFL Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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