CONDORS: Bakersfield embraces home-ice advantage ahead of Game 3
The Condors prepare for their first ever AHL playoff home game Tuesday against the Colorado Eagles in their 1-1 series
BAKERSFIELD, CA - California, here they come.
The Bakersfield Condors are back home in Cali for Game 3 of their Pacific Division series against the Colorado Eagles, which currently rests at a 1-1 tie.
Tuesday's contest will be the first American Hockey League playoff game to be played at Rabobank Arena. There's a palpable sense of excitement surrounding the club and community, and the players want to have the seventh man behind them like Colorado did in Games 1 and 2.
You can watch tonight's game on AHL Live or listen on Fox Sports 970 AM.
"We want to come out and win our first shift," said veteran rearguard Ryan Stanton. "It's going to be an exciting first shift of the game and first 10 minutes. We're looking forward to it."
Home-ice advantage always seems to provide a club with a boost simply because of the fact that the players get to skate in their barn in front of their fans. But that's not the only factor coming into play at Rabobank Arena on Tuesday.
Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft is looking forward to having the last change in the match but confessed that he believes his team is most efficient when they aren't getting caught up in line matching.
"That's the advantage of being the higher-seeded team and having three games on home ice, is that ultimately you get last change," said Woodcroft. "But I really think when our team is playing to its capability, we just roll four lines and roll six defencemen. We have the ability, with the depth that we have, that our players can play against anybody.
"We're not going to be a prisoner to any type of matchups or matchup game."
LAST CHANGE GAME
Having last change could free up some open space for the offensive forward lines - including the unit of Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody and Josh Currie - who haven't been given much room to work with due to Colorado's stingy checking. Just Currie has registered a point in the series so far with one assist.
"It's different hockey here in the playoffs," said Woodcroft. "They might get 12, 13 or 14 chances in a regular season game. Now, they're getting six, seven or eight. It's about making good on the chances you do get and not getting impatient or cheating for offence when the game is being played closely.
"All three of those players are dangerous. They will make good on their chances and I'm quite confident in that."
Yet another benefit of returning to Cali is the fact that the Condors will be closer to sea level. Playing in Colorado was difficult due to the elevation and players said it was, at times, tough to find their breath.
"A lot of people don't really notice it but definitely when you're on the ice, you can tell that the air is a little thinner," said forward Evan Polei. "It's a little harder to breathe. The longer the shift goes, the quicker you get tired. It's good to be back home and we're used to this ice."
Polei and his linemates David Gust and Tyler Vesel, slotted in as the club's third line, will try to use the air to their advantage tonight by playing their patented heavy game, while also shooting to put a few pucks behind Eagles keeper Pavel Francouz. The netminder owns a 2.04 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in the series.
"We've been playing together all year and have good chemistry out there," said Polei, the former Red Deer Rebel. "We get pucks in deep and just grind teams down in their own end. We need to do that all night tonight."
Woodcroft said a few players will be game-time decisions but did not disclose who. Lines will be made apparent at warmups.