GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Oklahoma City Barons had not played a postseason game in more than a week after beating Texas in the second round of the American Hockey League playoffs.
The rust from the layoff was apparent in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Barons were held to only one goal and suffered a 2-1 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday night before a crowd of 5,016 at Van Andel Arena.
Grand Rapids leads the best-of-7 series 1-0, and will host Game 2 Saturday night.
“I thought we were pretty rusty in the first (period), and you try to guard against that the best way possible, but we just didn't have our execution down tonight,” Barons coach Todd Nelson said. “We definitely looked like a team that has been off eight days, and I think (Saturday) night we'll look a lot better. We were a different team than we were against Texas, and we have to get that edge back.”
The Barons tallied 16 goals in their last three games against Texas, but managed only one late in the first period against goaltender Petr Mrazek and a stout Griffins defense.
After Grand Rapids' Brennen Evans scored his first goal of the season at 7:15 of the first, Oklahoma City answered when Andrew Hotham took a dump pass from Jonathan Cheechoo and snapped a shot past Mrazek's glove with less than four minutes left.
Hotham's second goal of the postseason knotted the game at 1-1.
“You are always a bit rusty when you're off a week or so, and they just played three or four days ago,” Hotham said of the Griffins, who defeated Toronto in the Western Conference semifinals. “It takes a couple shifts to get your legs into to it, but we weren't sharp tonight and we have to be better.
“I don't think you can ever panic in the playoffs, and you have to go into each game knowing you need to win. We have to focus (Saturday).”