Evan Bouchard and Evan Polei pick up three points each to lift the Condors to a 2-1 series lead after defeating the Colorado Eagles 5-2 on Tuesday
BAKERSFIELD, CA - There's no party like The After Party.
And what a fiesta it was at Rabobank Arena in front of 6,214 fans on Tuesday, as the Condors took a 2-1 series lead against the Colorado Eagles with a 5-2 Game 3 victory, edging one win closer to taking the series.
The Condors host the Eagles in Game 4 on Saturday. The game can be seen on AHL Live or heard on Fox Sports 970 AM. Puck drop is around 8:08 PM MDT.
"We asked our team to start on time tonight," said Head Coach Jay Woodcroft. "I thought in the first period we came out and asserted the game we wanted to play."
Five Condors skaters registered multi-point nights, with both Evan Bouchard and Evan Polei notching three points each. Ryan Stanton scored a goal and assist, while Keegan Lowe and Luke Esposito both picked up a pair of helpers.
"It was incredible to get the first game under the belt and even better to have the win," said Bouchard post-game. "The guys in the room were great to me. It made me feel a lot more confident in playing the game today."
Woodcroft made the decision to roll with 11 forwards and seven defencemen in Game 3 against the Eagles, paving the way for Oilers 2018 10th-overall selection Bouchard to make his Condors debut.
"He talked to me about playing the way I can play," Bouchard, who also had two shots on goal, two penalty minutes and finished plus-two on the night, said of Woodcroft. "Just staying relaxed out there and having fun. That's what I did."
Woodcroft's decision paid off in the first period, with the Condors dominating the play right from puck drop.
After killing a Lowe holding minor by keeping puck possession and tilting up ice any chance they could, Bakersfield's pace caused Eagles' forward Michael Joly to take a tripping minor in Colorado's zone.
On the power play, Stanton unloaded a blast from the point that beat netminder Pavel Francouz to open the scoring. The goal was Stanton's first of the playoffs and the assists went to Bouchard and Polei.
"He's one of the backbones of this team, for sure," said Polei of Stanton.
The Condors' threw their weight around all frame and fired shot after shot on Francouz, concluding the period out-shooting the Eagles' 17-1 and leading 1-0. Netminder Shane Starrett ended the night with 16 saves on 18 shots.
"We played well top to bottom, forwards to goalie," added Polei. "We didn't even notice they had one shot until the three-minute mark. We played an amazing game tonight."
The Condors showed why the second period was their best all regular season when the puck dropped on the middle stanza. Bakersfield didn't halt their relentless pressure, scoring four times in the frame and allowing two against.
Bakersfield - who developed a knack for scoring bundle goals during the year - got two in 20 seconds and then added two later in the period.
Joe Gambardella snapped home his first of the postseason at 5:34 of the frame, sniping high on Francouz after Esposito made a great backhand pass to the forward in front.
Gambardella's beard bet buddy Polei then followed suit. The forward tipped Bouchard's point shot to net his first of the series and second point of the match.
"We have to contribute as well," Polei said of the bottom-six players adding offence on the night. "We got to keep doing it moving forward."
The Eagles broke the goose egg just 14 seconds later. Anton Lindholm streaked for the net and chipped a pass over Starrett to score, making it 3-1.
But Bakersfield replied twice more before the end of the frame, with Bouchard netting his first in Condors silks and Polei picking up his second of the night.
The former London Knight fired a seeing-eye shot from the blueline for his goal - nabbing his third point of the night - then Polei later scooped up a rebound and dumped it past Francouz.
"We had something to prove after Game 2," Woodcroft said. "We felt we had better. We knew that Game 3 on home ice was an important one. We wanted to leave no doubt that this was our building."
Colorado added one late after an unfortunate bounce behind the net on Starrett, as the Condors entered the third period ahead 5-2, which was all they would need to glide towards victory and take a 2-1 series lead.
"It's not about winning two games," said Woodcroft. "It's about a race to three wins. We're going to get rested up, have a couple good practices and be ready for Saturday night."