STOCKTON -- From the basement of the entire ECHL to the Western Conference Finals, it's been quite a journey for the Bakersfield Condors.
And nothing this season was as wild as Saturday night's game
Ryan Watson finished the game with three goals in the third period as the Condors rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Stockton Thunder, 5-3 at Stockton Arena to win the semifinal series 4 games to 1.
The Condors went from trailing 3-0 to leading 4-3 in a span of 9 minutes and 59 seconds, starting late in the second period.
Stockton led 3-0 13 minutes into the second period but the Condors came storming back.
Joel Broda got the Condors going when he drove to the net and redirected a shot by Jordan Knackstedt with 3:13 left in the period.
Bakersfield kept the pressure on and Chase Schaber cut Stockton's lead to 3-2 when he fired a shot through a maze of legs from the left circle with 1:58 left.
The Condors ratcheted up the pressure even more in the third period, which turned into the Ryan Watson show.
Watson drew the Condors even 4:37 into the period when he scored from the right edge at the end of long cycle that featured numerous big hits.
He put them up 4-3 at 6:46 when, below the goal line to the right of the net, he fired the puck at the net and it eluded Brian Foster and squeaked in past the post.
Watson finished off with an empty-net goal with 30 second left.
The Condors limited the Thunder to just three shots i the third period while firing 15 of their own. Laurent Brossoit stopped 17 shots to get the win.
Now comes the Alaska Aces, who won the Western Conference regular-season title and finished off the Idaho Steelheads 4 games to 1 on Wednesday.
Games 1 and 2 are in Anchorage on Friday and Saturday. Games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary, are in Bakersfield May 23, 24 and 25.
The Condors had been the second round three times before. The closest they came to advancing was in 2006 when they lost Game 7 to Fresno 4-2. They were 7-7 in playoffs that season, as they beat Long Beach in seven games in the opening round.
Bakersfield started the season 1-10-1 but begin a rebound on Nov. 27 and went 35-20-1-4 the rest of the way to finish second in the Pacific Division.
For the second straight night Stockton defenseman Marc Cantin staked the Thunder to a 1-0 lead as he beat Brossoit with a shot through traffic from the left point 8:53 into the first period.
The best scoring opportunity for the Condors came in the waning second of the period when Broda broke in alone shorthanded and tried to beat Foster 5-hole.
The Thunder threatened to turn the game into a rout on two strange plays.
Brossoit gifted the Thunder short-handed goal at 7:49 when he went behind the net and stopped a dump-in behind his net. He then fanned on his attempt to pass the puck to a teammate on his right and Matt Bergland swooped in and deposited the puck into the empty net to make it 2-0.
Then came a comeback for the ages.