BLAINE, Minn. – The Oklahoma Warriors scored a late powerplay goal to pull ahead in a back-and-forth game against the Austin Bruins, and buckled down defensively in the final minutes to win the first Robertson Cup in franchise history 4-3 at Fogerty Ice Arena Tuesday night.
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead seven and a half minutes into the first period but the Warriors would answer four minutes later. Owen Carlile and Kaden Nelson went to work behind the Bruins net, and Carlile fed Rylan Brady in the slot for a point-blank snipe at 11:37. The teams headed into the first intermission tied, with Oklahoma outshooting Austin 9-8.
Less than five minutes into the second period, the Warriors would continue to push the pace and create more offense. Hunter Jones entered the o-zone down the middle and passed to William Lawson-Body on the far side, who then returned it across the ice to Brendan Williams to complete the tic-tac-toe play and give Oklahoma a 2-1 lead at 4:52 of the middle frame. Minutes later, Brady would once again factor in on a big-time play. The powerful forward skated a puck from Max Dronen up the near-side wall before sending a cross-ice feed to Blaise Miller, who rocketed in his first goal of the 2023 Robertson Cup Playoffs to make it a 3-1 game with 9:56 remaining in the second. Austin began a hard pushback after the Miller goal, and scored on a powerplay chance to make it 3-2 at 13:40. With less than a minute left in the period, the Bruins were rewarded with a game-tying, 3-3 goal off a flurry of shots that led to a 40-minute total of 22-16.
The Bruins continued their pressure in the third, forcing Daniel Duris to make incredible saves in succession for Oklahoma. The Warriors were under siege and tasked with holding off an over-30% powerplay (in the 2023 Robertson Cup Playoffs) twice down the stretch with some of the league’s best penalty-killers in the penalty box. Duris and the PK held strong, and killed off both Austin opportunities before tides turned again, and Jones drew a Bruins penalty with 4:49 left in the tied third period. The Warriors would jump back in the lead with only three minutes and 37 seconds remaining. League MVP Joey DelGreco drew the Bruins to him on the near side and sauced to Lawson-Body on the far side of the zone before the Warriors captain fittingly continued the play to set up one of the most important goals in franchise history. Lawson-Body floated the puck to Garrett Horsager, and the Minnesota native blasted in the Robertson-Cup clinching goal, creating an eruption of applause from Warriors’ faithful in attendance. The intensity continued through to the final buzzer as the Bruins pulled their goalie for an extra attacker, and went back on the powerplay with 95 seconds left. Duris and the PK buckled down again, and in total the Oklahoma backstop made 34 saves in the Championship performance.
Williams was honored by the NAHL as the 2023 Robertson Cup Playoffs MVP before the presentation of the Cup, and he along with Lawson-Body, Owen Baumgartner and Duris were named to the 2023 NAHL Robertson Cup All-Tournament Team.