A big third-period goal by the Barons captain helped spark Oklahoma City to a 5-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage, giving them the 1-0 series lead in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference Quarterfinal.
“I thought overall, our game was good,” said Barons Interim Coach Gerry Fleming. “The chances that we created or gave them, I think we created ourselves. We just turned the puck over. Then we started managing the puck and sticking to the game plan, and our special teams were good tonight. We were fortunate, got some bounces and hopefully we’ll get some guys rested up and ready for Saturday.”
The Barons scored on a power play at 12:04 of the opening period for the 1-0 lead. Although Brad Hunt was credited with the goal, it may have been tipped in front.
Vincent Trocheck tied it up at 15:56, assisted by Shane O’Brien and Garrett Wilson.
The Rampage outshot the Barons 12-8 in the opening period, but OKC led 38-31 in that category at the final buzzer.
Oilers prospect Laurent Brossoit made 29 saves for the Barons.
“It’s a lot of emotion. We’re very happy, but at the same time we’re trying to stay as even-keeled as possible,” said Brossoit. “You don’t want to have your emotions ride high and low too much. You’re trying to keep it even. I was just glad that I was seeing the puck, and when they did come I made a couple timely saves and I’m glad I contributed.”
A turnover at the Rampage blueline went the other way and San Antonio potted their second of the game to take a 2-1 lead. That goal, at 8:01 of the second, came off a tip by Rocco Grimaldi, assisted by Jonathan Racine and Quinton Howden.
Hunt fired a great chance off the crossbar later in the period that could have tied things up.
OKC did tie the game following the midway point of the third. Barons Captain Ryan Hamilton toe dragged out in front of the Rampage net, forcing Greg Zanon to take a slashing penalty at 9:33 of the third. Winquist walked in from the point to the top of the circle and fired a wrist shot past Dan Ellis at 10:22, on the power play, to tie the game at 2-2. Hunt and Andrew Miller each earned assists.
Hamilton put home his own rebound with a great individual effort, with 5:55 remaining in the third, giving the Barons a 3-2 lead.
Unfortunately, a questionable hit would take the Barons captain out of the game shortly after. Hamilton beat Shane O’Brien to the puck behind the net by a wide margin and the Rampage forward sent him into the boards with a heavy hit. O’Brien took a boarding penalty and a game misconduct, and was escorted off the ice. Hamilton had to be helped off by teammates.
Connor Jones scored on the empty net at 18:39 of the final frame for some insurance.
The Barons, visibly upset by the O’Brien hit, engaged in some pushing and shoving in the game’s final minute.
With 7.6 seconds left in the game, Matthew Ford potted a second empty-net goal for the 5-2 win.
“I don’t think we went into this series thinking they’re a better team than us,” said Brossoit of the team’s confidence, following the win. “They beat us more (in the regular season) than we beat them, but I honestly think it was because we were short staffed and had injuries and all that. When we’re a full lineup and we’ve got all our players back I think we have the edge.”
Game two is on Saturday night at 6 p.m. MDT in Oklahoma City.