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Barons: Playoff Report 4/18
Cleveland defeats Toronto in North Division playoff qualifying round
4/18/04 - by Craig Haueter

Less than 15 hours after winning a thriller in two overtimes, the Cleveland Barons defeated the Toronto Roadrunners 6-3 Sunday afternoon in the deciding game three of their best-of-three division qualifying round series. The Barons conquest of Ontario is half complete. Cleveland now advances to the North Division semifinals against the Hamilton Bulldogs starting Tuesday night in Hamilton, Ontario.

Ryane Clowe scored the game-winning goal with six minutes remaining when he and Matt Carkner teamed up on a 2-1 break. Carkner took the initial shot from the right face off circle that was stopped by Toronto goalie Tyler Moss. However, Clowe was able to poke to rebound home. The unsung hero in setting up the unlikely break was Barons forward Nick Bootland. Catching the Barons in transition, Toronto had a 4-2 break going, but Bootland broke up the play and then alertly dove for the puck shoving it to Carkner.

Down the stretch, it was time for the littlest Baron to make his presence felt. Shane Joseph scored the final two goals, including an empty netter with a second left. Joseph, who started the year going to class and playing at Minnesota State-Mankato graduated into playoff legend Sunday. Cleveland had earlier jumped out to 2-0 lead with goals from Shawn Mather and Nick Bootland. Toronto would tie the score with two goals in a span of 36 seconds, but a goal by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff gave Cleveland the 3-2 lead going into the third. Michael Henrich's goal early in the final period set up the Barons rally later in the period.

The most impressive thing of the series would be the work of the Barons penalty killers. During the regular season, Cleveland had one of the league's worst penalty kills, with a success rate of 80.2%. The Barons killed all of Toronto's twelve power play chances. A big reason behind that was the play of Barons goalie Nolan Schaefer. The 24-year-old only allowed six goals out of the 101 shots he faced giving him a staggering save percentage of .941.

Barons Notes

Due to scheduling conflicts at Gund Arena, the entire three-game series with Toronto was played at Strongsville, Ohio's Ice Land USA. Despite the smaller seating capacity (1,500), all three crowds were loud and rowdy.

Toronto was victorious in the first game of the series Thursday night 3-1 with goals from Jani Rita, Michael Henrich and J.J. Hunter. Saturday night, Barons center Shawn Mather poked in the puck off a scramble at 12:38 of the second overtime to give Cleveland a 2-1 victory to even the series 1-1.

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