SAN DIEGO, CA - According to Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft, each of his defencemen bring "different ingredients" to the table. The seven defenders used in the playoffs have combined for 23 points in seven games so far, illustrating the consistency of their efforts on a nightly basis.
From Logan Day's deciding goal in Game 1 of the opening round to Evan Bouchard's three-point performance in his first career American Hockey League game and now, William Lagesson capping off a thrilling come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night with his second goal of the postseason, the blueliners make up much of the blueprint of the Condors success.
Video: RAW | Jay Woodcroft 05.09.19
"Our d-core has been the backbone of our group this entire season," said Woodcroft following Thursday's team meeting. "There are tremendous storylines going on down here in Bakersfield. People recognize the opportunity and are seizing their chance to make an impression. There's a reason this team in Bakersfield finished first in the West. There's a reason this team in Bakersfield finished with the lowest total in goals against in the American Hockey League. There's a reason this team in Bakersfield had the highest goals for per game.
"A big part of that reason is those six guys that we ice on a nightly basis."
Both Evan Bouchard (2G, 3A) and Keegan Lowe (5A) lead this group with five points each. Ethan Bear and William Lagesson join Bouchard as defencemen with multiple goals while Caleb Jones leads the defence core with 17 shots. Ryan Stanton has a power-play goal while five of seven blueliners have a plus-minus rating of even or better.
Significant contributions, to say the least, but before it all unfolds on the ice, it all begins with having the right mindset as a collective.
Video: RAW | Caleb Jones 05.09.19
"As a group of six, all year, we've been having that 'next man up' mentality," Jones said. "It's been working all year and we're just going to keep doing that. We think that anyone who comes in can contribute. We feel like we all can bring something different to the team. We can all try to bring it up the ice and create offence.
"In any situation, we believe any of us can go on the ice and have success. Whether it's the end of the game, down a goal, up a goal, penalty kill or power play, we think we have a multitude of guys [who can step in]. Adding Bouchard and his offence has definitely helped on the power play but even there, we feel like we have three or four others that can help on the power play and kill penalties."
The aforementioned Bouchard joined an already effective group of young defenders that have made a home in Bakersfield. Bouchard (19), Jones (22), Lagesson (23) and Ethan Bear (21) all fall in the 23-or-under club while being under contract with the big club. Woodcroft believes and understands the importance of these Calder Cup Playoffs and how it will serve as a catalyst in their development moving forward.
"We want to prepare our players in this organization to play meaningful hockey in the month of May and eventually in the month of June," said Woodcroft. "The experience that our younger players are getting right now under intense circumstances, to be able to learn what it takes to not just tread water but to contribute and have an impact and help a team win, sets our young players and our organization up for success going forward. [The defence core is] cognizant of what's going on up top.
"They're cognizant of the opportunities in front of them. But what I also like about them is their focus and concentration of the task at hand."