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FUTURE WATCH: Rodrigue solid for Voltigeurs in return from injury

Olivier Rodrigue turned aside all 20 shots he faced after coming on in relief for Drummondville in a 2-1 loss in Game 3 of their QMJHL semifinal series against the Halifax Mooseheads

by Cait MacPhail /

EDMONTON, AB - After being sidelined six weeks with a core injury, Oilers 2018 second-round selection Olivier Rodrigue was back between the pipes in Game 3 of the Drummondville Voltigeurs' QMJHL semifinal series against the Halifax Mooseheads. The 18-year-old Chicoutimi, Quebec product came on in relief of Voltigeurs starter Anthony Marrone after Halifax scored two goals on their first eight shots. 

Despite being thrust rather unexpectedly into post-season action after a lengthy absence, the Oilers second-rounder was solid, denying all 20 shots he faced to give Drummondville an opportunity to climb back into things. The Voltigeurs could only find one goal to pull within one en route to a 2-1 Halifax final.

Tweet from @Bob_Stauffer: Seeing his first action in over 6 weeks due to a core injury Olivier Rodrigue stopped all 20 shots he faced in the final 46 minutes tonight as Halifax beat Drummondville 2-1.Rodrigue, a 2nd round pick of the Oilers in 2018: went 35-9-1, 2.43 GAA, .902 svp this season

With the win, the Mooseheads take a 2-1 series lead. Rodrigue and the Voltigeurs will look to even things up on Wednesday with Game 4 in Halifax. 

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CONDORS: Bakersfield embraces home-ice advantage ahead of Game 3

The Condors prepare for their first ever AHL playoff home game Tuesday against the Colorado Eagles in their 1-1 series

by Paul Gazzola /

BAKERSFIELD, CA - California, here they come.

The Bakersfield Condors are back home in Cali for Game 3 of their Pacific Division series against the Colorado Eagles, which currently rests at a 1-1 tie.

Tuesday's contest will be the first American Hockey League playoff game to be played at Rabobank Arena. There's a palpable sense of excitement surrounding the club and community, and the players want to have the seventh man behind them like Colorado did in Games 1 and 2.

Video: CONDORS | Pre-Game 3 vs COL 04.23.19

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FUTURE WATCH: Samorukov assists in victory as series shifts to Guelph

Dmitri Samorukov had an assist in a 5-2 win for the Guelph Storm over the Saginaw Spirit on Monday in Game 3 of their OHL semifinal series, as the home side retained its 100 percent win rate

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Dmitri Samorukov factored in with an assist for the Guelph Storm on Monday, in a 5-2 win in Game 3 of their OHL semifinal series with the Saginaw Spirit, helping his side answer for dropping the opening two games in Saginaw this past weekend.

The Volgograd, Russia product - drafted in the third round, 84th overall by the Oilers in 2017 - ripped a slapshot with just under seven minutes to go in the third period that was deflected to provide insurance for Guelph. The helper improves the 19-year-old's playoff total to four goals and nine assists in 14 postseason contests.

Tweet from @Storm_City: 🚨 Tipping genius! @Schnarzy68 gets us some insurance to make it 4-2! #GUEvsSAG

Ryan McLeod was held off the scoresheet as Saginaw have their three-game playoff win streak snapped in the process.

Both the Storm and Spirit have only lost once on home ice these playoffs, and the advantage continues to provide the early boost in this semifinal series.

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CONDORS: 'This is playoff hockey'

The Bakersfield Condors and Colorado Eagles are epitomizing playoff hockey in their Pacific Division Semifinal Showdown

by Paul Gazzola /

BAKERSFIELD, CA - They're madmen.

They eat pucks for dinner and, occasionally, get fed punches for dessert.

And they're proud of it.

Video: CONDORS | First for Bakersfield 04.22.19

This being the Condors hockey club in the heat of playoff hockey. Players like Tyler Vesel, Keegan Lowe and Co., who go unsung for the contributions they provide during the second season like shot blocking, protecting the paint and going face-to-face with willing dance partners from their Round 1 opposition, the Colorado Eagles.

"Those are winners right there," said Mitch Callahan.

The Condors forward knows what it takes to be a winner, so his words come with clout. He hoisted two American Hockey League Calder Cups and confirmed that the ugly parts of the game are vital to achieving the beauty that is triumph. 

"That's how you win games, by sacrificing your body for the better of the team," Callahan continued. "If you look at the teams that do succeed in the playoffs, they're the ones that have the grinders doing all the hard work or even superstars blocking shots."

Video: RAW | Mitch Callahan 04.22.19

There was hard evidence of the sacrifices made during Game 2 of the series when 14 penalties were called - seven for the Condors and Eagles each. 

Vesel, who may as well have minored in shot blocking when he played college puck for the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks, was on the penalty kill late in the first period. The forward sunk to the crease as a scramble ensued then impulsively dropped to one knee to eat an Andrew Agozzino point-blank shot and prevent a goal against.

"This is playoff hockey and you got to do what you got to do," Vesel, the Oilers sixth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, said on Monday. 

"I take pride in that and it's good to see some other guys rallying behind you or cheering on when you're doing it."

It's an honourable act and one that his peers appreciate. But to Joe Gambardella, the role players have been doing it all season long and aren't changing the way they operate in the playoffs.

"Especially in the playoffs, you need that," Gambardella said. "They saved a couple of big goals for us to keep us in the game. Any time you see that it just shows you the guys are warriors and are ready to go to bat for you every single night.

"That makes you want to play even harder every single shift."

Video: CONDORS | Round 1

The outcomes have been unpredictable in the Battle of the Birds, with both clubs scooping up a win to take a 1-1 series lock into Game 3. What's come as expected, however, is the feistiness. There's been no shortage of skirmishes before, between and after the whistles and, as Callahan pointed out, there's nothing better.

It is playoff hockey after all, so why wouldn't the players love the battle that comes with it?

"That's the fun kind of hockey and that's what playoffs are all about," said Callahan.

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CONDORS: Leadership group stands out during learning experience

"Our leadership says all the right things on the bench. There's a real calmness about them and we just got back to getting down to work," said Jay Woodcroft on going down early in Game 2

by Tony Brar /

BAKERSFIELD, CA - It only took 2:22 to see Game 2's opening tally.

Unfortunately for the Condors, it was from a Colorado stick.

Julien Nantel deposited his first goal of the postseason. With the early marker, Bakersfield was forced to play catch up for the rest of the night, eventually dropping Game 2 and their lead in the series.

However, the loss didn't come without a learning experience. The Condors' leadership group responded in a way that Head Coach Jay Woodcroft believes will trickle throughout the rest of the series.

"We have great leadership and we really liked the way we started the game," said the bench boss following Monday's practice. "They just happened to score on one of those moments with a faceoff. But our leadership says all the right things on the bench. There's a real calmness about them and we just got back to getting down to work.

"This entire year, we've just found ways to win games in different fashions. We've won games getting a lead in the first period and we've come from behind. That starts with our leadership. They don't lead from their throat, they lead with their actions and doing it right every day."

Video: RAW | Jay Woodcroft 04.22.19

As part of the core leadership group, one could bet that Joe Gambardella spearheaded some of these conversations in Game 2. As competitive as the 5-foot-10 forward is, he's never been shy from taking a learning experience for what it is.

"It's knowing that we're getting those opportunities (offensively)," said Gambardella on playing from behind in Game 2. "We'd be worried if we weren't getting those chances. We were able to make grade-A chances happen. We just weren't able to quite connect on them. So be it, that's the way the playoffs are going to go - one lucky bounce here, one lucky bounce there. You just got to know that there's going to be another shift coming, there's going to be another game coming.

"Whatever you have to do to get back at it, you've just got to stick with it. You can't give up."

Added Tyler Vesel on the leadership group in Game 2: "Our captains were doing the best they could do to keep us on our game. I thought we eventually took over for a while. We were outshooting them by quite a bit throughout the second and third periods. We just have to stick to our game if that happens and not get in that funk."

Video: CONDORS | First for Bakersfield 04.22.19

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CONDORS: Excitement rises ahead of Condors' first AHL playoff home game

"Any time you can have the crowd that we do behind us, it's almost like having six guys on the ice," said forward Joseph Gambardella following Monday's practice

by Paul Gazzola /

BAKERSFIELD, CA - Condorstown will be able to feast its eyes on American Hockey League Playoff hockey for the first time on Tuesday at Rabobank Arena.

Bakersfield is no stranger to watching hockey in the months of April and May. Prior to their migration to the AHL, the organization and community experienced 15 postseason berths when competing in the West Coast Hockey League and ECHL.

Video: CONDORS | First for Bakersfield 04.22.19

The franchise failed to qualify for the playoffs in their first three years of competing in the AHL but the 2018-19 season changed that. The club soared to new heights during the campaign after achieving a 17-game win streak, perching atop the AHL's Western Conference and Pacific Division. 

So, naturally, the excitement is flying high ahead of Tuesday's Game 3.

"Everybody is fired up. Everybody is behind this team," said Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft, who brought the club to the playoffs in just his first season as head coach. "We use the word 'connected' a lot this year and 'connected to our community' was a big part of that.

Video: RAW | Joseph Gambardella 04.22.19

"This is the first American Hockey League (playoff game) this community will be exposed to. I can tell you that just from talking to neighbours and seeing people on the street, there's an excitement that's palpable in this town... They're excited to see the intensity and competition of a playoff game. We know that it's going to get our fellas really fired up."

Games 1 and 2 in Colorado at Budweiser Events Center proved how impactful home-ice advantage can be. Eagles fans stood, yelled and cheered for 120 minutes of postseason action in their barn. 

Now, the Condors are excited to have their own seventh man in the lineup.

"Any time you can have the crowd that we do behind us, it's almost like having six guys on the ice," said forward Joe Gambardella following Monday's practice. "We're really excited. We're back on home ice and we get to have that culture and all those fans cheering for you."

Video: CONDORS | Round 1

Even Woodcroft confirmed how monumental the Condors faithful can be.

"I think that our fan base gives us a competitive advantage, especially when this arena is rocking the way it can," he said. 

"Down the stretch, we know that it propelled us to a lot of victories. We're looking forward to making this community proud by laying it all out there in Game 3."

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CONDORS: Callahan provides veteran advice

"Some guys want to know if I've ever been in this situation and I have many times. I tell them just to relax and just play another hockey game," said two-time AHL Calder Cup champion Mitch Callahan

by Paul Gazzola /

BAKERSFIELD, CA - The postseason is familiar territory for Mitch Callahan.

The forward is a two-time American Hockey League Calder Cup champion, winning with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2012-13 and '16-17. The Californian has 62 postseason AHL games under his belt, accruing 13 goals and 34 points.

The Condors and Colorado Eagles are tied 1-1 in their postseason series, and now that it's become a best-of-three, Callahan is more than willing to provide veteran advice for those in the locker room seeking it.

"There are some guys that want to know how the AHL Playoffs kind of work," Callahan said following Monday's practice. "Obviously, it's a different format than anybody's used to with the best-of-five and the two-three format. 

"Some guys want to know if I've ever been in this situation and I have many times. I kind of just tell them just to relax and just play another hockey game."

Video: RAW | Mitch Callahan 04.22.19

As the series shifts to Bakersfield and Rabobank Arena, Callahan's demeanour is casually confident. The 27-year-old doesn't buy into superstitions too much and is simply trying to keep the club light ahead of Tuesday's pivotal Game 3.

"You don't want to overthink things," he said. "If you overthink just because it's playoffs, you might grip your stick a little too tight. You want to play on your toes, not your heels."

Bakersfield went 4-3-0-1 against Colorado in the regular season and now the Condors have home-ice advantage the rest of the way.

"We have a great opportunity to have three straight home games if need be," Callahan said. 

"It was a little bit of a setback losing last game but going into an even series, now, at home is kind of a benefit to us."

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CONDORS: News, videos from Monday's practice

The Condors skated back home at Rabobank Arena on Monday. Stay tuned for news, videos and more

by Staff /

BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Condors skated at Rabobank Arena for practice on Monday.

Get all news, videos and more from the skate below.

Video: CONDORS | First for Bakersfield 04.22.19


Video: RAW | Jay Woodcroft 04.22.19


    Video: RAW | Mitch Callahan 04.22.19

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      CONDORS: Special teams a 'deciding factor' in Game 2

      "In the playoffs, you've got to make teams pay. If they're going to take penalties and take liberties on guys, we've got to make them pay. We didn't do that," said forward Josh Currie.

      by Tony Brar /

      BAKERSFIELD, CA - If there was a distinct advantage the Bakersfield Condors had heading into the series, it was on the man advantage.

      Owners of the seventh best power play in the league during the 2018-19 regular season, the Condors had plenty of opportunities in Game 2 to either tie or bring themselves right back into the hockey game.

      While Patrick Russell's third-period tally came just seconds after the Condors fifth power play of the night, the team went 0-for-7 in five-on-four play while also giving up a shorthanded goal to Andrew Agozzino in the middle frame.

      "We gave them a little too much on special teams," said Josh Currie, who finished Game 2 with one assist and two penalty minutes. "They had one on the powerplay and they scored shorthanded. You can't give them that. They're a good team and they're going to make you pay. They had 16 shorthanded goals in the regular season, so they're obviously trying to score when they're down a man. Special teams are where they're generating most of their offense. They won that battle tonight and it turned out to be the deciding factor.

      "In the playoffs, you've got to make teams pay. If they're going to take penalties and take liberties on guys, we've got to make them pay. We didn't do that (in Game 2)."

      Game 1 of the series saw both teams exchange one power play a piece. In Game 2, Colorado was also given ample opportunity on the man advantage, converting once on seven tries of their own - the team had the 31st ranked power play in the league during the regular season.

      While Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft attributes both penalty kills being "good the entire series" so far, he acknowledged improvement on the special teams will be crucial in games three, four and five, if necessary.

      "It's got to be better. There's a few areas in our game that needs to be better. They scored on a faceoff, they scored shorthanded, they scored on a powerplay regroup and an empty net goal. Those are all areas that can improve for us.

      "We can be better."

      Video: CONDORS | Post-Game 2 at COL 04.20.19

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      CONDORS: Top lines go toe-to-toe

      "We can do a better job of limiting time and space, and spending more shifts in their end. We can accept that challenge and our top players can crank it up a little bit," said Condors coach Jay Woodcroft

      by Paul Gazzola /

      BAKERSFIELD, CA - In Game 1, it was the Condors' veteran line of Joe Gambardella, Brad Malone and Patrick Russell that prevailed over the Colorado Eagles.

      Malone registered a goal and assist and Russell added a pair of helpers in the club's 3-2 victory, with the trio doing everything from checking to scoring.

      In Game 2, it was a different story.

      The Eagles were propelled to victory thanks in large part to Colorado's top offensive unit, which features Andrew Agozzino, who couldn't be stopped off the wing and netted a hat trick in the Eagles' 4-1 win to tie the series at 1-1.

      Video: POST-RAW | Jay Woodcroft 04.20.19

      The Condors were vocal of their opponent's offensive ability post-game on Saturday, noting that the outcomes in the series going forward will be influenced by the performance of each respective club's top line.

      "We can accept that challenge and our top players can crank it up a little bit," said Bakersfield bench boss Jay Woodcroft after the loss in Game 2. 

      "This is a tightly contested playoff series that we're in. There's not a lot of time, there's not a lot of space. We can do a better job of managing that defensively and offensively, I think we can do a little bit of a better job creating more."

      Agozzino was the Eagles' leading point producer in the regular season and the Condors were shown why on Saturday. The forward is dangerous off the rush, capable of picking twine from either the left or right side.

      Video: POST-RAW | Josh Currie 04.20.19

      "He could have had four on us," said Condors forward Josh Currie, who typically serves as a winger on the Condors' other offensive unit, which features regular season rookie wonders Cooper Marody and Tyler Benson. 

      "We know that he's their biggest threat. We didn't do a good enough job shutting him down, taking away his time and space or being hard on him. He obviously made us pay. 

      "We're going to have to make some adjustments but for sure, we definitely need to be harder on their top line."

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