(theahl.com) — In a Game 7 befitting a classic series, the Grand Rapids Griffins outlasted the Oklahoma City Barons, 5-4, at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday night to win the AHL’s Western Conference championship and advance to the franchise’s first Calder Cup Finals.
The Griffins will meet the Syracuse Crunch in the best-of-seven league championship series beginning Saturday night in Syracuse, N.Y.
Each team erased deficits twice in Game 7 and the Griffins avoided a repeat of their Game 6 setback, this time holding on after Tomas Jurco gave them the lead for good with 6:12 left in the third period.
After surrendering two goals in the final 2:27 of the third period last night and falling 4-3, Grand Rapids grabbed the early lead in Game 7 when Jan Mursak tipped Adam Almquist‘s shot past Yann Danis (28 saves) just 54 seconds into the first period. It was the fifth time in the series that the Griffins had scored the game’s first goal.
As they did the night before, the Barons wasted little time turning a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. First, Chris VandeVelde split two Griffins defenders and slipped the puck past Petr Mrazek to tie the game at 1-1 at the 13:07 mark of the first.
Then, 25 seconds later, Oklahoma City grabbed a 2-1 lead as Teemu Hartikainen circled out of the corner and snapped a shot into the top corner over the glove hand of Mrazek.
Grand Rapids regained the lead with another power-play goal after Oklahoma City was caught having too many men on the ice. Gustav Nyquist walked in from the right point and fired a shot that beat Danis to the short side, making it 3-2 in favor of the Griffins at 9:47 of the second period.
Antti Tyrvainen pulled the Barons even again with 2:58 to play in the middle frame when his shot was saved by Mrazek but the rebound pinballed into the net off a backchecking Griffins defender.
The game was tied up for the fourth time at 6:32 of the third when Mursak chased down a loose puck and shoveled a backhand past Danis for his second goal of the night to make it 4-4.
Tomas Jurco then put the Griffins back in front with 6:12 remaining with a great individual effort on an end-to-end rush, finishing with a shot from between the circles that beat Danis to the stick side.
Oklahoma City, which finished with 16 shots on goal in the third period and 39 for the game, had several chances to force overtime late but Mrazek (35 saves) and the Griffins fended them off.
Grand Rapids was 2-for-4 on the power play in Game 7 and went 6-for-14 over the final four games of the series. Oklahoma City was 0-for-3, finishing 2-for-30 in the series.
Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
3-Grand Rapids Griffins vs. 5-Oklahoma City Barons
Game 1 – Fri., May 24 – GRAND RAPIDS 2, Oklahoma City 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 25 – Oklahoma City 4, GRAND RAPIDS 2
Game 3 – Wed., May 29 – OKLAHOMA CITY 4, Grand Rapids 1
Game 4 – Sat., June 1 – Grand Rapids 4, OKLAHOMA CITY 0
Game 5 – Sun., June 2 – Grand Rapids 3, OKLAHOMA CITY 0
Game 6 – Tue., June 4 – Oklahoma City 4, GRAND RAPIDS 3
Game 7 – Wed., June 5 – GRAND RAPIDS 5, Oklahoma City 4