CONDORS: Bakersfield eyes early start in Game 4 against Gulls
The Condors tied Game 3 late before winning in overtime, and are keen to be early risers as they look to even up the AHL Pacific Division Final against San Diego tonight
SAN DIEGO, CA - Just 10.5 seconds separated the Bakersfield Condors from a three-game deficit in Game 3 of their AHL Pacific Division Final series against the San Diego Gulls on Wednesday.
Tyler Benson forced overtime in the dying moments to give William Lagesson the opportunity to put a thrilling 7-6 victory on ice just 33 seconds into overtime, injecting life into the Condors with their first win of the series to trail two games to one heading into Friday's second contest at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.
You can watch tonight's game on AHL Live or listen on Fox Sports 970 AM at 8:07 p.m. MDT
"The biggest difference was that we were able to find a way to win a game. We did what it took to win that game," Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said. "Obviously there's things that have been addressed defensively and things that we can tighten up moving forward. Part of who we are is being a tight-checking, spend our shifts in the other teams' zone type of team, which led to the lowest goals in the American League this year."
The Condors and Gulls, the AHL's most potent offences from the regular season, combined for 13 goals in Game 3 in a deviation from the series' theme of battling for every inch of the ice with tight-checking, effective defence.
"We also have it in us to find ways to win games in different types of fashions and that's just the way that played out," Woodcroft said. "I'm proud of our group for Game 3, but our focus and our concentration are on our first shift here in Game 4 and trying to assert our type of hockey right off the bat."
Adam Cracknell has goals in four-straight games for the Gulls and remains a veteran producer for San Diego with nine points (4G, 5A) in his last four postseason games.
"That's the luxury that their team has - they have a lot of first-round draft picks, a lot of second-round draft picks, and they have a lot of veterans to pick from in their lineup," Woodcroft said.
Brad Malone, a driver for the Condors offensively, sits second in Calder Cup Playoff scoring with four goals and seven assists in seven games after providing a goal and three helpers in Game 3, including an assist on Benson's decisive tying goal.
After leaving it late on Wednesday, Game 4 begins for the Condors and defenceman Keegan Lowe with a quick start at the forefront of their approach.
"It's all about the start," Lowe, who has five assists and is plus-5 in seven playoff games, said pre-game. "They're a team that has good starts and comes hard on the forecheck right off the bat, so we have to match that.
"There's going to be points in the game where we might not be where we think we are, but keep battling. Know there's a full 60 minutes to get it done and there'll be a tonne of different ways games are finished in this series."
After being pulled for Stuart Skinner in the second period of Game 3 after making 13 saves on 17 shots, Shane Starrett will be back between the pipes when he makes his seventh start of the AHL postseason for the Condors.
In Game 1, Starrett went the distance in a 10-period overtime loss making 53 saves on 56 shots. The next night, just 19 hours after the series opener ended, Dylan Wells manned the crease with 35 stops on 39 attempts from the Gulls.
In San Diego, Skinner earned his first AHL playoff win, stopping 10 of the 12 shots he faced in relief of Starrett as the last Condors goaltender to factor into a decision in the opening three games of this AHL Pacific Final.
Having three goalies all with the ability to pull their own weight under the intense circumstances of playoff hockey speaks volumes to the ability present in Bakersfield's extended postseason roster.
"We have belief in every position, every player that's on our roster. We believe they can help us win," Woodcroft said. "To win in the playoffs is one thing, and I have learned in my experiences to win in the playoffs, sometimes you need unusual suspects to help you get over the top. For us to have Stuart come in and give us quality minutes in Game 3 I think speaks to the quality of goaltending in our organization.
"I thought it was excellent, and the old cliché that it takes 20 to win, it took 20 men in Game 3 and we know that we're going to have to replicate that type of effort and enthusiasm in Game 4."