The Oklahoma City Barons did it again. They scored late, overcame San Antonio scoring even later, and won out in overtime thanks to another Chris Vande Velde goal. After a Monday to Thursday layover between games, the Barons and Rampage seemingly returned to their roots -- low scoring, low shooting, a defensive struggle. It was only a matter of time before one defense afforded the opposing offense a sizable chance to score. Fortunately for Oklahoma City, it was San Antonio that broke down first, and it cost them the game.
Two full periods of defense with a few good chances, mainly favoring the Rampage, led to a finale that was seemingly inevitable. Both teams combined for 36 shots in the first two periods with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. But then the third period began, and it felt like a whole new game. 23 combined shots, two late period goals, and some goaltending heroics were in order.
As the 11 minute mark of the third period approached, Hunter Tremblay jumped at a 2 on 1 chance, and patiently carried the puck down the right wing. The Rampage defender refused to bite, Tremblay wheeled in to shoot the puck and is denied by Markstrom. The rebound is poked at twice by Anton Lander, then bounces back to Tremblay who pokes at the puck and scores for the Barons. Both the patience and stick-to-it nature of that play set the tone for the rest of the game.
Five minutes later, after both Jacob Markstrom and Yann Danis made fabulous stops at both ends, Bill Thomas scores the equalizer for the Rampage after a goal line shot that rebounds directly in front of Danis. Slightly flukey, but a solid opportunity for the Rampage to even the game, and possibly swing the momentum.
Overtime began with a fury of shots placed on the doorstep of each goaltender. Both were good, but it was the tough play along the boards that decided the winner. In the case of the Barons, Magnus Paajarvi refused to give up a puck on the boards at mid-ice. It squirts loose and he's able to shuffle a puck in deep to Teemu Hartikainen. Hartikainen whizzes the puck, in NHL friendly style, towards the front of the net where Chris Vande Velde was transecting the goal crease. Again, CVV took matters into his own hands, held the puck until Markstrom dropped to his knees, and back handed a circus shot into the back of the net.
The Barons win the game 2-1 in overtime for the third straight game, and take a 3-1 lead in the series with a chance to close out the Rampage West Semi's tonight at 7:00pm.
Let's start with the CVV goal. Wow, what a dazzling, patient, well-placed backhand. Chris is finding new life in the extra frames lately. And he's making history along the way, becoming the 8th player in AHL history with two sudden-death OT goals in the same series, 2nd to do it in back-to-back games.
We knew the series would be tight, and indeed it has been. However, the first two games were high scoring, defensively soft games. The back two have been the complete opposite. The latter favors the Barons heavily as we've seen mostly in the OT period. The Rampage defenders give up the ghost at the worst times. It's a shame too, because the offense in front of them is Calder Cup winning material.
Local Oklahoma City news outlet, KFOR, ran a story on the Barons win (shocker in the first place) and somehow misspelled VandeVelde's name by calling him Chris "Van de Velde" as if he were some kind of Spanish explorer. As I gasped at the error made to a guy that's played in this city for TWO WHOLE YEARS, I found myself amused viewing Chris as an explorer discovering new, untapped, OT glory. Twitter rejoiced.
This game was the only AHL/NHL game to be played on May 10, 2012. The broadcast could be found on Sirius/XM which is always an interesting twist for satellite radio listeners in the postseason -- minor league hockey coverage when NHL slows down a bit. I really enjoyed this aspect as the last remaining XM subscriber on the planet.
Monday through Thursday was a long time to wait between games, especially in a heated post game series. However, Thursday to Friday is too short. But that's life in the minors, and this likely favors Oklahoma City who have deep scoring, and deep defending. Sitting your top line center, Josh Green, would normally prove disastrous. But they did just that (Triston Grant in), the lines moved slightly, disaster avoided.
There's no denying that this series has been a nail biter, and if the Barons were to hang on they'd face a really stout competitor in the Toronto Marlies whom are awaiting the winner of OKC and San Antonio. It would also bring the seemingly annoying Leaf's Nation writing circus to town, which would be fun to watch. As fun as a Keanu Reeves movie.
Game 5 will be tonight, again in San Antonio. Tune in via iHeartRadio, KXXY, Sports Juice, and Sirius/XM.