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CONDORS: Benson, Marody soaring offensively

Rookies Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody have found early success in their pro careers, becoming a formidable duo for Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

BAKERSFIELD, CA - They're as dynamic as they come.

With less than 100 professional hockey games between them, rookies Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody are posing tall tasks for AHL defenders.

As the team's offensive catalysts, the pair have helped the Bakersfield Condors soar to new heights. With Saturday's win against the San Diego Gulls, the club has set a new franchise record with 12 consecutive victories.

Benson's 38 points (8G, 30A in 46 games) and Marody's 35 points (9G, 26A in 36 games) this season have been a significant factor for the team's success so far.

Video: CONDORS | Learning to Fly

"We do a really good job working off each other," said Marody. "We're both pretty smart players and we see the ice well and have good skills with the puck. For exchanges in the offensive zone, we always know where each other are."

Added Benson on his success with Marody: "We've been playing together a lot throughout the year. It's easy to play with a guy like him. He makes the game so easy for me because he's so skilled and has great vision on the ice. He's always making the right plays.

"He makes my game better and I'm doing my best to help make his game better too."

While their minds work very much the same on the ice, their paths to professional hockey were noticeably different.

"Tyler came into the organization with great fanfare," said Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft. "He's a (2016) second-round pick from Edmonton and he went first overall in the Bantam Draft into the WHL. His resume spoke for itself.

"Cooper was a player that we traded for and brought into our organization late last season."

The Edmonton Oilers swung a deal with the Philadelphia Flyers on March 21, 2018, to bring in the former sixth-round pick. After completing what would be his final year at the University of Michigan, Marody joined the Condors at the tail end of last season - an opportunity the Brighton, MI native didn't want to take for granted.

"You never truly know what pro hockey is like until you play in games," explained Marody. "It was huge for me to see where I stood. I felt really confident after those three games that led to an even more motivated summer of workouts.

"I felt good about myself having proven myself at the American League level."

The centreman recorded one goal and two assists in three outings.

Much like his linemate, Tyler Benson was inserted into Bakersfield's lineup late into the 2017-18 season. After suiting up for the WHL's Vancouver Giants for four seasons - and captaining three of them - the Edmonton native slotted in for five games in Condorstown (three assists).

"It really prepared me for this year," said Benson. "I didn't really know what to expect coming into the year. Having those five games showed me what I needed to work on all summer long and made sure I was prepared."

Benson has been dealing with injuries throughout his hockey career. In junior, the winger was limited to just 63 games due to ongoing ankle and shoulder injuries in years two and three.

"Over the last couple of years, he's been battling the injury bug," said Woodcroft. "For him to come into training camp in the shape that he came in and to be a full participant, you could see it with the smile on his face that he just wanted to play hockey again.

"He's an elite passer for our club. His vision from the red line in has never been in question. He can find the open man and he can pass with both his forehand and backhand which is a unique skill."

His team-leading 30 assists are a reflection of just that. And sometimes, his passes are "a little too good" for his partner in crime.

"Sometimes I'm like 'oh, jeez. I didn't think he was going to get that through," laughed Marody. "You've always got to be ready playing with him. He's always going to be able to get you the puck. I just have to be ready along with everyone on the ice."

When assessing his roster near the beginning of the year, coach Woodcroft immediately felt the right-handed Marody would be a natural fit for Benson's playing style. He's stuck with it ever since.

"Marody is a very ethereal type of hockey player," said the Condors bench boss. "He has high hockey intellect and somebody who rehearses moments in his mind before he gets to take a step on the ice. His skill level has been excellent and they've been excellent together for us."

While both Benson and Marody hope to continue the Condors' success in the short-term, they remain fixated on making an impact with the big club in the future.

"You have to be your best every single day no matter if it's a practice or a game," stated Marody. "You have to be the best player and best person you can.

"I think we'll both prove ourselves at the NHL-level and hopefully stay there for a long time."

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