Maxime Comtois ends the fifth-longest game in AHL history and Game 1 of the Pacific Division Final in quadruple overtime
BAKERSFIELD, CA - It took 64 minutes and 20 seconds of sudden death hockey to find a winner, but the San Diego Gulls were able to end the fifth-longest game in AHL history on Friday night in quadruple overtime to come out ahead 3-2 in Game 1 of the Pacific Division Finals.
Maxime Comtois backhanded an effort past Condors goaltender Shane Starrett 4:20 into the game's seventh period to give the Gulls the series lead heading into tomorrow's rematch at Rabobank Arena that comes less than 19 hours after the conclusion of tonight's contest.
"I thought it was really well-played hockey game by both teams," Condors bench boss Jay Woodcroft said post-game. "It's a shame that we didn't find a way to get the win, but there was a lot of good in the game for us and some things we can improve on. What an effort by our group of warriors out there."
Brad Malone combined shorthanded with Patrick Russell to open the scoring five periods earlier in the middle frame and record his third goal of the postseason, with both forwards picking up assists on Joe Gambardella's third-period goal that put the Condors back in the lead after Justin Kloos levelled things up 32 seconds into the third.
Starrett parried away 53 of the 56 shots he faced for Bakersfield to match Jeff Glass at the other end for San Diego, who went shot-for-shot with his counterpart with 51 saves on Condors' 53 attempts.
The match ends as the longest game in the Condors' 21-year franchise history at 124 minutes and 20 seconds.
"You're kind of in a whirlwind there and don't even realize it," Russell said after recording his third multi-point night of the playoffs. "[Patrick Russell] and I were talking in between periods if it was the third or fourth. We kind of lost track of what was going on, but you just try to stay with it.
"Guys are cramping and battling through things. Everybody was a warrior tonight, so it's a good test for our group and something we can hang our hat on. We got through it together, and we'll just build off it."
A cagey beginning to tonight's opener broke with a first major opportunity five minutes in for the Condors and Gambardella, who picked up a mishandled puck from the Gulls defence and fired his open look into the chest of Gulls goaltender Jeff Glass.
A stretch pass that hopped the stick of defenceman Logan Day and onto the stick of a streaking Ben Street had the Gulls forward in alone, but the right pad of Starrett got just enough of the wrist shot to send the puck out of play and provide relief for the Condors bench with 6:26 remaining in the opening frame.
Both clubs threw their weight around in a physical opening frame, with a hard hit by Mitch Callahan drawing a retaliatory cross-check from Sam Carrick to send the Condors to the first man advantage that couldn't be converted in the final minutes of the opening frame.
Starrett's hot form continued into the middle frame, with the netminder shutting the door on another Gulls breakaway and Kiefer Sherwood 2:18 into the second.
Tensions ramped up physically with both teams scoreless when David Gust flattened Corey Tropp in the offensive zone, drawing two for interference in the process and animosity spilling over following the hit.
Woodcroft highlighted his team's ability to pressure offensively shorthanded at this morning's skate, and the bench boss' observation was soon proven an accurate one.
Russell and Malone connected on the penalty kill for the Condors in the second-straight game to open the scoring, with Malone notching his third goal and sixth point of the postseason with 7:51 on the clock in the middle frame.
With the Gulls back on the power play with only seconds remaining, Starrett stoned Max Jones to the left of goal with his outstretched left pad after the slick feed from Tropp unlocked the Gulls forward alone in front.
Through 40 minutes, the Condors led 1-0 with Starrett stopping all 18 shots sent his way.
San Diego made good on their remaining power-play time, capitalizing through Justin Kloos, who lifted his effort over Starrett to level things up just 32 seconds into the third.
Bakersfield crashed the net and retook the lead after Gambardella banged the puck through Glass despite the protests of the netminder and the San Diego players. The officials would convene, but the goal would stand as the Condors jumped ahead 2-1.
The lead was shortlived as Justin Kloos equalized 11 seconds later before the Rabobank faithful could catch their breath from the last play and finish celebrating.
The two clubs headed to overtime all square at two through 60 minutes of play, with the club that's able to manage its energy being the likely favourite.
"We talked about sticking with it and making sure our shifts were short, making sure we're using everybody and distributing the ice time out," Woodcroft said.
The toe of Starrett kept the Condors afloat late in the extra frame and pushed the two clubs to double overtime when a Gulls forward's fanned-on shot looked destined to trickle over the line and end tonight's game.
Glass would not be outdone by his counterpart in the other goal, denying Bear on a clean look on the 2-on-1 before the San Diego netminder slammed the door shut on Gambardella from the slot. Triple overtime would be on the cards.
In the third extra period, both Evan Polei and Gambardella were sprung on potential game-winning breakaways but couldn't get full lumber on their opportunities. As we entered quadruple overtime, the game was officially the eighth-longest in AHL history.
As that record moved up to number five, the Gulls put the cap on a marathon match by beating Starrett with a backhand after cutting inside across goal 4:20 into the fourth overtime.
"There were numerous chances at both sides of the rink, either team could've won, there was some great goaltending on both sides," Woodcroft said. "It was a heck of a hockey game, and there's lots to be proud of for our group and lots to draw from."