PREVIEW: Barons at Griffins - Game 7
|ONLINE TV: AHL Live (PPV)
RADIO: How to Listen Online
PUCK DROP: 5:00 p.m. MDT
AT THE MORNING SKATE
Tonight, 18 skaters and one goaltender will have that opportunity in Game 7 of the AHL Western Conference Final.
The winner will be crowned champions of the west and will advance to face the Syracuse Crunch in the Calder Cup Final.
"You've got to relish it," winger Jonathan Cheechoo said. "It doesn't happen often. Every player dreams of it playing on the outdoor rinks back home.
"When you go to a Game 7, it's all about who wants it more. We feel good (about our chances). We've had a little bit of a tough road, but nothing's been easy for us this season."
Facing elimination Tuesday night in Grand Rapids and trailing 3-1 heading into the third, the Barons scored three unanswered to defeat the Griffins and force a seventh and deciding game at Van Andel Arena.
Due to the scheduling of games on back-to-back nights, the Barons opted out of a morning skate.
With less than 24 hours between Anton Lander's game-winner and puck drop (5:00p.m. MT) in Game 7, the Barons are looking to carry over the momentum gained in last night's thrilling comeback.
"We hope to," captain Josh Green said. "It looked like we were dead in the water for a while, but came through with some clutch goals. We showed a lot of heart and a lot of battle in that (third) period. Just having that never-say-die attitude sure says a lot about this group."
With 10:19 remaining in the game, Mark Arcobello scored his second of the night to make it a one-goal game. Just over a minute later and with an opportunity to seal the outcome, Tomas Jurco was awarded a penalty shot but was denied by the left pad of Yann Danis.
Allowing a pair of self-described "soft" goals in the second period, Danis rebounded well in the third, making nine pivotal saves to give his team a chance down the stretch.
"He's been our best player all year," Green said. "He's had a heck of a year. He made countless saves in the third period. When Jurco was awarded the penalty shot, I was thinking that we could still get some momentum out of it. Sure enough, he made a great save and it lifted the bench.
"We still had some life in us. We started to believe and we kept it rolling right to the end."
After Toni Rajala tied it up at 17:33, Lander secured the game-winner with 1:05 to play after redirecting a Randy Jones shot past Petr Mrazek.
It truly was the Buckley's Cough Syrup of comebacks. Pretty? Not exactly, but it sure was effective.
"It's been our motto all playoffs," Green said. "We need to keep it as simple as possible, especially at this time of year. All the little things add up into victories. It's about playing hard and sacrificing your body for your teammate that's sitting next to you.
"Now it's even more important in a Game 7 situation."
Plastered throughout the locker room and on the back of their workout gear, ‘Get Greasy' is what the Barons plan to do in Game 7: Get shots to the net, send bodies there and put it all the line to battle for those second and third opportunities.
"Our success was a direct result of us being physical on them and we need more of that," Head Coach Todd Nelson said. "On the game-winner, we dumped the puck into the offensive end, Anton went in hard and their defenceman threw it away. Randy was able to get the puck without any pressure on him, he shot got through and Anton went right to the net to get his stick on it.
"Tonight's going to be a battle, we know that. We know how hard it is to score goals, but we're going to have to pay the price to get it done.
"The feeling we had in the locker room last night was tremendous and we want to feel it again."
Just as they were heading into Game 6 less than 24 hours earlier, the Barons are a loose group heading into tonight's encounter.
"There's no pressure on us," Nelson said. "It's only the pressure that we put on ourselves. We're going into this game as the underdog and we'll see what happens. Whatever happens tonight, I want to say that I'm very proud of these guys. All year they've played hard, they've had their backs against the wall and tonight is no different.
"We're all excited. Everybody loves a Game 7."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick