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Mark Nessia

Alex Hudson has five goals and five assists for the Condors this season, and likely will be even more effective when he can soon ditch the protective cage, which he has worn to protect ongoing dental work.

One night after taking a puck to his face, losing two teeth and getting a mouthful of stitches, Alex Hudson scored his first goal of the season, helping lead the Condors to a victory on Oct. 20.

Which pretty much explains why Condors coach Matt O'Dette wanted him back this season, even after Hudson decided he wanted to play for the Ontario Reign.

Hudson didn't make it to the first weekend with the Reign, being released just before the season started.

By the time the Condors rolled back into Bakersfield after opening the season in San Francisco, Hudson was there, ready to join the team he started his pro career with midway through last season.

"I reached out to Matt after I got released and told him I shouldn't have made the decision to go (to Ontario) in the first place and should have came back to Bakersfield," Hudson said. "You should go where you're wanted.

"I just asked him if there was any way he'd give me another opportunity and apologized to him for blowing him off this summer and he was humble enough to bring me back."

O'Dette said, although he didn't agree, he understood why Hudson, who lives in Corona, just south of Ontario, wanted to play for the Reign.

"He had a call up with Manchester (N.H) last year and they're affiliated with Ontario and Ontario is right in his back yard so it's something I didn't take personally," O'Dette said.

So O'Dette, who knew after the opening game in San Francisco that he needed more grit on his team, quickly brought Hudson back into the fold.

It's the second time O'Dette has given the 25-year-old a chance.

The first came last January when O'Dette signed Hudson, who had recently been kicked out of school during his senior season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

"I made poor choices in college and got kicked out of school," Hudson said of where he was a year ago. "I was really up in the air where I was going to play and Bakersfield and Matt O'Dette was the team that reached out to me and was willing to give me a second chance and kind of see my character as a person. I was grateful for that."

Hudson said he feels sorry for all the people he let down by his mistake in college -- from his parents, to coaches to the head of the university.

"But on the other side of it, I don't dwell on it," he said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity they gave me and I keep moving forward. I learned from my mistake and make sure I don't do it again."

Hudson, a forward, had nine points in 20 games for the Condors last season and has 10 (five goals and five assists) in 22 games so far this season.

"Definitely a work in progress," Hudson said when asked to describe his play. "But a hard-nosed power forward who has skill and can play the game the right way."

O'Dette said Hudson is well liked by his teammates and his work ethic -- he is almost always one of the last players off the ice after practice -- rubs off on others.

"He brings other guys in after practice and makes them do stuff with him. That makes people around him better as well," O'Dette said. "He works hard along the boards, is good around the net and is showing what he's capable of skill-wise.

"He's mixed in some pretty goals but is going to be that guy who is going to grind away, win battles along the walls and make some room for his linemates."

Both Hudson and O'Dette agree that the full cage Hudson wears to protect his ongoing dental work hampers his style of play a bit as he can't mix it up with others.

"I'm looking forward to him getting it off because it does add to his game," O'Dette said. "He is capable of being more physical, mixing in the odd fight and sticking up for himself. With a mask he can't really play that role as much as he wants to."

"A lot of people on other teams and even my own team are like, 'take that cage off!' When are you going to lose the cage?," Hudson said.

The answer: not for a while

"I just had surgery the other day, they sewed some things up and it's healing," he said.

That surgery fitted some new gear -- two temporary teeth.

"After the season they're going to put in some permanent (implants) but for now I'm going to rock the flopper," he said. "I can take it out during the games and at bars so I look tough for the girls.

"I'd say in three weeks to a month I should have the mouth healed up, the cage off and being looking pretty."