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BARONS BLANK AEROS IN REGULAR SEASON FINALE

By Cassie Gage,

The Oklahoma City Barons got a shutout from goaltender Niko Hovinen and a pair of goals from Chris VandeVelde to blank the Houston Aeros 3-0 in the regular season finale Sunday afternoon at the Cox Convention Center. The win gives Oklahoma City 40-plus wins for three straight years as the Barons finish the 2012-13 campaign 40-25-2-9.

The Barons had chances early as Ben Eager’s shot got through but was deflected wide. At the first timeout of the period, Oklahoma City led in shots, 7-1. Ryan Martindale had a shot pushed aside by Aeros starting goaltender Josh Harding before Houston turned the table and controlled the puck at the other end.

Justin Fontaine hit the post before the Aeros got two chances, one coming on a Mathew Dumba shot, but Hovinen made both saves to keep the game scoreless.

Oklahoma City’s best scoring chances came in the final minute of the opening period. Mark Arcobello went to the box late for the game’s first penalty, a hooking call at 17:46. As Arcobello exited the box, he broke away on a chip pass from Tanner House but hit the post. Philippe Cornet was there for the rebound but a sprawling Harding made the save as Cornet tried to lift the puck up over him.

Oklahoma City ended the period with a 14-5 lead in shots on goal.

The physicality of the game was on full display in the second period as the teams combined for 26 penalty minutes. The Barons stretched the shots on goal lead to 25-10 for the game, out-shooting the Aeros 11-5 in the frame.

Toni Rajala had a steep angle shot snatched up by a sitting Harding before Rajala made good on a rebound attempt at 6:11 to give Oklahoma City a 1-0 lead. Randy Jones’ shot from the near circle was just tipped by a screening Cornet to Rajala who put the rebound in an open net to score his 17th of the year.

Curtis Hamilton and Eager had a 2-on-1 develop later by that play was broken up by Drew Bagnall. The penalties started with roughing calls to Fontaine and Jones at 11:36. Taylor Fedun went off for slashing at 14:48 and Hovinen made a point-blank save on Chad Rau to prevent the tying goal.

While on the penalty kill, VandeVelde and House got away for a 2-on-1. VandeVelde’s patience paid off as he dangled around the defense and his shot landed just behind Harding and the goal line to give Oklahoma City a 2-0 lead at 16:13.

Houston made a goaltending change at the start of the third as Mike Condon came on to replace Harding. Houston got 10 shots on goal to Oklahoma City’s six in the period but the Aeros were unable to generate much against the game’s first star, Hovinen.

VandeVelde added a goal as Condon left the ice at 19:40 to make it 3-0. It was VandeVelde’s second of the game and marked back-to-back two-goal games for the veteran.

The Barons earned the Western Conference’s No. 5 seed in the upcoming Calder Cup playoffs with the win. The best-of-5 Western Conference quarterfinal series starts in Oklahoma City on Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m. The best-of-5 series is played in a 2-3 format, with the lower-seeded team hosting the first two games, while the higher-seeded team hosts Games 3 – 5. Game 2 of the series will be played in Oklahoma City on Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m.

Click here for box score: http://theahl.com/stats/game-summary.php?game_id=1011004
Click here for Western Conference quarterfinal details: http://okcbarons.com/index.cfm?fa=pressreleases&ra=showarticle&guid=59931612-58B6-4B08-BA82-03A80E323EB6

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