ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Two third-period goals to tie the game had the cow-bell equipped crowd of 4,122 whipped into a frenzy on Saturday night at Sullivan Arena.
Under prompting of the public address announcer, the crowd stood and roared as an overtime period against the Condors was about to begin.
Three quick shots on goal increased the noise level and in a blink of an eye, 2:53into the extra period, the arena fell silent.
Bakersfield's Gary Steffes sent a wrist shot over the glove of Alaska goaltender Gerald Coleman, under the crossbar and into the back of the net as the Condors bounced back with a 3-2 victory to even the ECHL Western Conference Finals at a game apiece.
"I was just ecstatic when I saw it go in; I was so excited I jumped into the glass," Steffes said. "It was pretty exciting."
The best-of-seven series now switches to Bakersfield, where the next three games will played, Friday through Sunday, at Rabobank Arena.
"That's what we wanted, to come here get a push and take home ice advantage in the series," said Jordan Knackstedt, who scored Bakersfield's first goal. "Now we have to take care of business at home."
As for the game-winner, Steffes scooped the puck up in the neutral zone and raced into Alaska's zone on a 2 on 1 with Ryan Little to his left.
"Going into overtime, you're thinking shoot because every shot is huge, you never know what can happen," Steffes said. "You don't want to waste a 2 on 1 opportunity. I looked for a play, to see if I had anything, and the best option I had was to shoot so I let her go."
It was the only shot the Condors took in overtime.
Knackstedt and Chris Collins scored second-period goals for the Condors, who led 2-0 entering the third.
Evan Trupp scored off a deflection for the Aces 5:28 into the third to cut Bakersfield's lead to 2-1 and Brendan Connolly had a bouncing puck land at his skate, kicked it to stick blade, and scored from the right edge of the paint to tie the game with 6:23 left in regulation.
The momentum had certainly swung to the Aces, but the Condors remained calm.
"We have a team that is not panicky," Steffes said, "When we went into the locker room after (the end of regulation) we didn't panic. We'd been there before."
The Condors took control in the opening playoff round against Utah with back-to-back overtime wins and are now 3-0 in overtime playoff games.
"It just takes one shot, we talked about it (after the third period)," Condors coach Troy Mann said. "Not that you're comfortable in overtime, you're always on edge, but we've certainly had enough overtime experiences so far to believe that we can win the game and that it only takes one shot. It was a great shot by Steffes.
"This is probably the biggest win of our season; now we go back home 1-1. Our philosophy is to take it one game at a time but certainly to come out of here with a split gives us more of a chance than getting down 2-nothing."
The Condors lost forward Ryan Watson for the rest of the season when he ended up at the bottom of a pile in front of the Bakersfield net in the third period and suffered a high ankle sprain. Watson was on crutches after the game.
Now comes a bit of a break. Rabobank Arena is not available until Friday, thus the strange five-day break between Games 2 and 3.
"Guys are banged up, I think the break will be real good," Mann said." "It's not real fun playing 3-in-3 but overall we've got some guys banged up and it will be good to get them a couple of days off and just go back to work on Tuesday."