The Oklahoma City Barons saw their season end yesterday afternoon when they were put down by the Hamilton Bulldogs. I noted before the game that the Barons had had trouble scoring at the same level they had during the regular season and that they'd had trouble stopping Nigel Dawes. Both of things were front and center on Sunday afternoon as the Barons went down to defeat.In the first period, both teams had a couple of scoring chances, but both teams were keeping the checking tight. By the end of the period, the two teams had combined for just eleven shots (6-5 for the Barons) despite six minutes of action with one team on the power play. The Bulldogs had two of those power plays thanks to penalties from Greg Stewart, but after killing Stewart's second penalty, the Barons had the best chance of the period when Stewart came in alone on a breakaway, only to get stoned by Drew MacIntyre. Nigel Dawes also gave fans a sign of things to come when he beat Gerber from the high slot, but had his shot ring off the post.
The second period saw the Barons outshoot Hamilton 12-4, but the scoring chances weren't so lopsided - it's just that the Bulldogs couldn't hit the net on their best chances. The best example of this was a Hamilton 3-on-1 that involved Andrew Conboy, Gabriel Dumont, and Dany Masse. Jake Taylor was the only man back for the Barons, but the trio of Bulldogs passed the puck around him and gave Conboy a clear shot on goal from the slot... but he decided to pass to Masse at the side of the goal, and the two players didn't connect. The second period had a lot more action than the first, but the teams still headed to the dressing rooms tied at two.
The Barons' last period of the season began with such promise. Alexandre Giroux scored about five and half minutes in, which gave the Barons a 1-0 lead, and with Martin Gerber looking strong in goal, it looked like Game Seven was on its way. Then the Nigel Dawes show began. Gerber came out of his net to play the puck, but ended up giving it away (kind of like Cory Schneider!), and the Bulldogs quickly got the puck to Dawes in the slot, and he snapped it home to tie the game at one about a minute after Oklahoma had taken the lead. The two teams battled tentatively after that, but with just over three minutes left, Frederic St. Denis slapped a shot past Gerber to give the Barons the lead with none other than Nigel Dawes standing in front to provide the screen. Dawes then put the game away by putting the puck into the empty net with just 45 seconds to go. The Bulldogs added a second empty-netter to make the final 4-1.
It was a valiant effort, but the Barons just couldn't seem to solve Drew MacIntyre or stop Nigel Dawes all series long, and in the end, that was their undoing. Still, it was great to see the team make the playoffs in their inaugural year, especially after losing so many key players for the stretch drive. It was great to see Todd Nelson continue to get the most out of his team, and to see guys like Milan Kytnar and Tanner House step up when given a more prominent role. Both of those men were healthy scratches tonight, but with so many players moving on to free agency this summer, they will be a part of the core group that tries to build on this season in 2011-12. The season is over now, but the Barons' story is just beginning.