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Oklahoma City Barons: Barons close in on playoff berth, trim Heat, 1-0

Magic number is down to 1. Barons can clinch with a win Saturday night against Abbotsford in Cox Center. Faceoff is 7 p.m.
BY MIKE BALDWIN Published: April 19, 2013
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photo - Mark Arcobello with the Oklahoma City Barons goes past Quintin Laing of the Abbotsford Heat during an AHL hockey game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 19, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Mark Arcobello with the Oklahoma City Barons goes past Quintin Laing of the Abbotsford Heat during an AHL hockey game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 19, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

The only goal came on a three-on-two rush started on a pass from defenseman Randy Jones. The crowd sensed it could be a key moment with Jonathan Cheechoo, Mark Arcobello and Rajala broke into the offensive zone.

Cheechoo's shot, though, hit the right post. About the time the crowd's collective groan waned, Rajala, an ECHL All-Star who joined the Barons midway the season, backhanded in the game-winner, his 16th goal and 42nd point in 44 games with OKC.

“I didn't really have to do anything,” Rajala said. “I just saw it (sitting) there and put it in. It was a good job by Cheechoo and Arco. It was a big goal for us.”

A veteran who has 501 games NHL experience, Cheechoo fanned on what turned out to be the game-winning assist. It actually served as a fake that dropped Abbotsford goalie Barry Brust to his knees. Cheechoo rewound and fired the puck off the right post.

“My stick got stuck on the ice, but I was able to re-control it, walk around and then hit the post,” Cheechoo said. “Toni was right there. It seems that's the type of game it was where a garbage goal was going to win it.”

Nelson praised his team after going 2-1-1 on a four-game road trip that put the Barons on the brink of advancing to the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

“It was an ugly game,” Nelson said. “Abbotsford had us on our heels quite a few times where they had us hemmed into our zone. But our guys were pretty resilient and found a way to win. Good hockey teams do that.”