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.”