The Condors are nestled in last place in the American Hockey League Pacific Division but two wins this weekend against the San Diego Gulls could lift the team into the middle of the pack.
That’s how tight is is from top to bottom of the eight-team division.
“I guarantee if you ask anybody in our division the importance of the next game they will say it’s paramount,” Condors coach Gerry Fleming said after practice on Thursday. “It’s just the way it is. Every year it sets up like this. We’re the only division in the league with everybody over .500. That says something about the level of competition and the parity in this division.
“It’s a tight division. We’ve given ourselves a chance. We’ve had some obstacles, some bumps in the road along the way but I like where we’re sitting, actually. It’s a log jam but we’re still in control of our own destiny. We just have to go out and do what we have to on Friday night to give ourselves the best chance we can to win.”
And that means doing the little things well and executing, something Fleming said the Condors failed to do on the last two games of a road trip, falling 6-1 in Chicago and 4-1 in Rockford, Ill.
The Condors wound up 1-1-2 on the road trip but are 6-3-2 over their last 11, which included eight games on the road.
But with just 28 games left in the regular season every win or loss is magnified.
“At this point they’re all important, you can’t underestimate every game we play and the importance of it,” Fleming said.
And Fleming said the difference between winning, and losing, is often as simple as executing or not executing.
“Going into the third period leading 1-0 in Rockford we were in good shape,” Fleming said. “A couple of breakdowns and they end up in the back of our net and an empty-net goal to seal the deal for them. Our execution wasn’t where it had to be for that game in Chicago and it wasn’t there in Rockford.
“Today we took some steps to get to where we have to be as far as executing simple plays well consistently. That’s the key. If you want to play at pace, if you want to play a fast game, you have to have execution.”
And for the Condors it all starts with an effective forecheck and keeping the puck once they get it.
“When you don’t have execution you’re not going to have fast pace because you’re chasing the puck all day,” Fleming said. “We don’t want to be chasing the puck and the last two games we were chasing the puck. Turning pucks over. Even when we had pucks a nice pass on the tape would bounce over the stick. We didn’t have the ability to make plays.”
Ellis sent down, Polei called up
The three-goaltender bottleneck created when Edmonton assigned Laurent Brossoit to the Condors is over as Nick Ellis was assigned to Wichita in the ECHL on Thursday.
“Nick is a young goaltender and he needs to play,” Condors coach Gerry Fleming said. “He’ll share the net down there with Shane (Starrett).”
Also, forward Evan Polei was recalled from the Thunder. Polei played in two games for the Condors (one assist) early in the season before being sent to Wichita where he has 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 32 games.
“He’s gone down there and performed well,” Fleming said. “He’s earned the right to get called up.”