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FUTURE WATCH | View from the booth

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Milwaukee Admirals goaltender blocks a shot from the Bakersfield Condors. Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.
No doubt about it, it was rough.

Just back from American Hockey League (AHL) All-Star break, the Bakersfield Condors were ready to jump-start their return to the regular season at home against the Milwaukee Admirals.  

But the result wasn’t quite what they were aiming for.

“We lost,” said Ryan Holt, sports broadcaster for the Condors. “That started February… Everyone kind of talked about going into that as, ‘Here we go, it’s the unofficial second half of the year, let’s go on a run here.’ And Milwaukee came in and took it to us pretty good.”

The Condors fell 7-3 that night. Though the team retreated from the ice defeated on the scoreboard, their determination didn’t waver.

According to Holt, the Condors did something they don’t typically do when faced with back-to-back games.   

“I won’t say it’s out of the ordinary but typically this season, on back-to-back games, we haven’t had a full team skate in the morning,” he said. “It’s either been an optional or maybe a light workout in the morning. But the coaching staff called everybody in, and everyone had a full morning skate.

“It didn’t last long, it was probably 10-15 minutes, but everyone put on the gear and went out there and worked on some things before the game against Stockton. They’ve won five straight since then.”

It was a turning point, one that has seen the Condors climb the standings once more, this time perched in a playoff spot.

It’s a position where, at one time, the Oilers AHL affiliates may not have considered finding themselves earlier this season.

“I think you can use it as a highlight of just the way the team has responded all year,” said Holt. “There’s been a couple of Friday nights here where the team hasn’t played well and has come back the next day and kind of rebounded, which has been good.”

High above the rink, almost in the rafters, is where Holt sits. With a bird’s eye view — pardon the Condor pun — the play-by-play announcer has an exclusive seat every game night, which enables him to not only give a running commentary of the action, but also gives him unique insight into the team dynamics.

Bakersfield Condors play-by-play analyst Ryan Holt, left, commentates a Condors game alongside his colleague Kevin Bartl. Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.
Having joined Bakersfield five years ago, this year has been particularly special for Holt. The broadcaster commentated for four seasons during the Condors tenure in the ECHL, but this is his first season calling play-by-play for the team that’s now playing a level up in the AHL.

“It’s great. On ice, it’s phenomenal,” said Holt. “Just to be able to see players go from Bakersfield and into the NHL and up to Edmonton has been great this year. I think there’s been 15 total that have played from Bakersfield in Edmonton this year so that’s been cool to see.”

The College of the Holy Cross alumnus worked for his school radio station and by junior year was calling out play-by-play for a number of sports, with hockey quickly becoming his favourite.

As the voice of the Condors, Holt has noticed significant differences between commentating on the pace of play for the AHL versus the ECHL.

“I think it’s bigger, faster — obviously — with the players,” he said. “There’s more to talk about with players. Guys are going on and having lightning careers out of the AHL, whether it be in the NHL or in the AHL, so there’s more talk about individual players I think at the AHL level than there was at the ECHL.

“When I was in college, I interned with the Worcester Sharks — who eventually became the (San Jose) Barracuda — and that was five, six years ago. I think, even in that six-year span, [the AHL’s] even become more of a development league and more high-end players are playing in the American League as opposed to even six years ago… It’s become a younger league with more emphasis on development, which has been great to see because you’re seeing guys go from the AHL right to the NHL.”

Right now, the Condors are on what many could label as a comeback. After five straight wins, they are sitting third from the top in the Pacific Division standings and are middle of the pack in the Western Conference ladder.

“I think the end goal is to obviously make the playoffs. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” said Holt.

The Oilers AHL affiliate has made five consecutive playoff appearances since the 2010-11 season when they were formerly known as the Oklahoma City Barons. This year, the Condors have overcome a great deal of challenges, earning the playoff spot they’re currently situated in.

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors
A rocky start to the season saw recalls from the Oilers, player injuries and illnesses shift the Condors team dynamics. But in dealing with the unexpected, Holt said he thought the Condors took great strides in their ability to maintain momentum on the ice.

“I think they handled it well,” he said. “I think that everyone kind of understands that at the AHL level you’re going to have months or weeks or stretches of the season where you’re not going to have the lineup you want in, or you’re not going to have the lineup that maybe you think can win on an every day night.”

According to Holt, the Condors were able to find a middle ground where — aside from their recent success over the last couple of weeks — they never “had a too-high or too-low point in the season.”

“Some other teams out in the Pacific here have gone on either eight- or nine-game winning streaks, but they’ve also lost seven or eight in a row. Up until this week, we had never won more than three in a row and never lost more than three in a row. I think that speaks volumes to the coaching staff and their ability to kind of keep everyone on an even keel — no matter what the lineup is — and to be able to kind of adjust their game plans based off who we have on a given night.”

It’s no easy feat, trying to create a new rhythm on the ice that matches the dynamics the Bakersfield team started with. Piece by piece, the team made adjustments, calling up a few players from their ECHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, to help out.

Condors Head Coach Gerry Fleming even went so far as re-positioning some of the Condors players, placing them a little outside their comfort zone to generate results. For example, usual defenceman Joey LaLeggia filled in at forward.

“It also goes to show our leadership group,” said Holt. “Andrew Miller, Brad Hunt, Matthew Ford and Ryan Hamilton — those guys have been with the organization for a couple years now and they understand what it takes to get to the playoffs, what it takes to win, they’ve been consistently in the lineup this entire season.”

“One or two have been up every now and again, or maybe out with an injury, but for the most part those four have kind of kept everyone together and kept everyone moving in the same direction. They understand that at times, when you do get healthy and when you do get bodies down from Edmonton, as we do right now, that’s when you have to win hockey games and that’s when you have to make a push — that’s what the team’s doing right now.”
Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.
There are a number of Condors players that have stepped up and stood out this season, enhancing their player development in the process.

“I think [Jujhar Khaira] was very good to start the season and then he was called up to Edmonton there for a month and since he’s come back he’s been a point-per-game guy for us,” said Holt.

“[Anton] Slepyshev missed about a month with his injury. So I think that stunted his season a little bit here. But he’s come back and has been a nice addition to his lineup.”

Defensively, Holt has seen growth in LaLeggia and Jordan Oesterle on the blueline. Oesterle, now in his second year with the Oilers AHL club, has made good strides.

“Everyone here talks about his skating, but I think he’s been good defensively too,” said Holt. “Joey… he’s really kicked it into high gear here over the last month-and-a-half, two months of the season. He’s been almost a point-per-game guy from the blueline, a power-play guy and a guy who is starting to learn the pro game, which has been good to see.”
With 23 games remaining in the Condors regular season, Holt knows the playoffs are in the back of the players’ minds, as they look to make it a sixth straight year with the Oilers AHL affiliate qualifying for the post-season. 

“They’re really focused on making sure not to leave anything to chance here… and the results are starting to show, so I wouldn’t say it’s a daily conversation but they certainly know what they have to do,” said Holt.

“At this stage in the game, every game is a four-point game within the division and the way it’s made up and the way the schedule’s made up. It’s not a daily conversation but they’re doing everything they can to make sure they get into the playoffs again."

Statistics For In The System Through Past Seasons: 14-15 | 13-14 | 12-13 | 11-12
Stats Updated as of Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Bakersfield (AHL) - Forwards

Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
GREG CHASE C 20 19 1 6 7 +3 25
BRADEN CHRISTOFFER LW 21 30 1 3 4 -11 57
JOSH CURRIE* C 23 33 4 6 10 +4 33
LEON DRAISAITL C 20 6 1 1 2 -5 4
MATTHEW FORD*   RW 31 41 20 18 38 +2 46
LUKE GAZDIC   LW 26 6 1 2 3 +3 2
RYAN HAMILTON   LW 30 43 15 9 24 -6 34
KELLEN JONES*   LW 25 12 1 2 3 0 6
ZACK KASSIAN   RW 24 7 2 1 3 0 16
KALE KESSY   LW 23 40 7 5 12 +7 47
JUJHAR KHAIRA   LW 21 29 8 13 21 +4 28
ROB KLINKHAMMER   LW 29 9 8 2 10 +5 20
ALEXIS LOISEAU*   C 21 12 1 2 3 +1 2
ANDREW MILLER   RW/C 27 37 12 24 36 +2 16
MITCH MOROZ   LW 21 30 2 4 6 +3 83
PHILIP MCRAE* C 25 23 3 2 5 -5 14
IIRO PAKARINEN   RW 24 4 1 2 3 0 4
TYLER PITLICK   RW 24 21 3 8 11 -2 4
KYLE PLATZER RW 20 34 5 8 13 -3 16
MARC-OLIVIER ROY* C 21 28 5 3 8 -3 14
ANTON SLEPYSHEV LW 21 26 7 2 9 -9 16
JOSH WINQUIST*   LW 22 16 7 9 16 -2 22
BOGDAN YAKIMOV   C/W 21 19 3 4 7 -5 8
LW 21 - - - - - -
Bakersfield (AHL) - Defencemen

Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER   d 21 1 0 0 0 0 0
MARK FAYNE   d 28 4 0 1 1 0 4
MARTIN GERNAT   d 22 22 0 3 3 0 14
brad hunt   D 27 35 8 22 30 +4 12
JOEY LALEGGIA   D 23 40 7 15 22 +14 32
DAVID MUSIL D 22 44 3 6 9 +2 25
NIKITA NIKITIN   D 29 27 1 13 14 -9 0
DARNELL NURSE   D 20 6 0 1 1 0 7
JORDAN OESTERLE   d 23 37 2 18 20 -2 8
NICK PAGEAU*   D 27 12 0 1 1 -5 2
GRIFFIN REINHART   D 21 20 1 6 7 4 12
D 22 34 1 8 9 -3 12
Norfolk (ECHL)

Name POS age    GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER D 21 44 1 13 14 +2 47
GREG CHASE F 20 21 11 7 18 -3 22
Canadian Hockey League
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
Name POS age  GP G A   P +/- PIM team
EVAN CAMPBELL   LW 22 28 5  7 12 +4 16 UMASS-LOWELL (NCAA)
D 19 22 2 4 6 -5 18 UMASS-AMHERST (NCAA)
JOHN MARINO d 18 38 3 16 19 +7 22 TRI-CITY (USHL)
TYLER VESEL   C 21 27 6 11 17 +8 2 NEBRASKA-OMAHA (NCAA)
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
ROMAN HORAK C 24 56 13 13 26 -9 32 CHEKHOV VITYAZ (KHL)
PHILIP LARSEN   D 25 51 11 24 35 +12 39 JOKERIT HELSINKI (KHL)
ZIYAT PAIGIN  F 20 36 9 17 26 +5 8 SOCHI HC (KHL)
  8 0 1 1 +2 2 KAZAN AK-BARS (KHL)
  13 5 1 6 +1 53 ILVES TAMPERE (finland)
2016 World Junior Hockey Championships
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
D 19 7 2 1 3 +7 4 SWEDEN
Name age GP w l T GAA SV% team
KEVEN BOUCHARD   19 9 3 3 2 3.57 .865 MONCTON WILDCATS (qmjHL)
  21 4 13 2 3.97 .872 baie-comeau (qmjHL)
LAURENT BROSSOIT 22 26 14 8 3 2.70 .921 bakersfield (AHL)
8 3 5 0 2.16 .920 HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)
ZACH NAGELVOORT   21 9 5 2 1 3.14 .888 michigan (ncaa)
AnDERS NILSSON 25 2 2 0 0 2.01 .935 BAKERSFIELD (AHL)
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