With time winding down and the Condors in desperate need of a game-tying goal on April 24, coach Troy Mann turned to Andrew Carroll.
When goaltender Laurent Brossoit raced to the bench, Carroll jumped onto the ice and immediately headed to the blue paint where he camped out in front of Utah goaltender Igor Bobkov.
“I just told him to go create havoc,” Mann said.
With Carroll’s 6-foot, 212-pound frame firmly entrenched in front of Bobkov, Collin Bowman’s shot from a bad angle somehow found its way through a maze of body parts and into the back of the net, tying the game with less than a second remaining.
The Condors went on to win in overtime, which propelled them to a series-ending 5-0 victory over the Grizzlies last Friday night.
Tonight, the Condors host the Stockton Thunder in Game 1 of an ECHL Western Conference semifinal.
When Mann was trying to sell players on coming to Bakersfield last summer, Carroll was one that got away. Carroll landed an American Hockey League contract with Hartford, Conn., but ended up assigned to Greenville, S.C. in the ECHL.
Things didn’t go well there.
“Things weren’t working out,” Carroll said of his time in Greenville. “I talked with (Greenville coach Dean Stork) and said if this isn’t going to work out, I think I need to have an option.”
“(Stork) had too many of those kind of third-line players and told me if we were looking, he’d try to help us out,” Mann said. “I asked for Carroll because I was familiar with him and tried to recruit him in the summer.
“Coaching him for parts of four seasons (at both the ECHL and AHL levels), I knew what he brought to the table.”
On Dec. 16, the deal was done as Hartford assigned Carroll to the Condors.
“When he came in he was having a pretty rough year when you look at his stats in Greenville (two goals in 23 games and minus-20 rating),” Mann said. “I told him, ‘don’t worry about your numbers. Just go out and play how you need to play and how I know you can play and where your numbers are at the end of the year, so be it.’”
Those numbers with Bakersfield turned out much better: Eight goals, eight assists in 50 games while showing a willingness to drop the gloves as he amassed 113 minutes in penalties.
While Mann was more than pleased to have Carroll on board and part of Bakersfield’s turnaround from a 1-10-1 start, this time of the season is why Mann really wanted Carroll as part of the equation.
“I thought he was a type of playoff player,” Mann said. “He plays hard, he’s physical. He’ll pay the price on a shift-to-shift basis and he’ll go to those gritty areas that you need to do to be successful in the playoffs.
“The more guys you have like Andrew Carroll, for me, the better chance you have of winning.”
Carroll certainly played a huge role in Bakersfield’s first-round victory as he scored the lone goal to win the series opener.
He finished the series with two goals and three assists, netting a goal or an assist in all five games.
Carroll and the playoffs just seem to go together as he’s been in pro playoff action every year since joining Charlotte at the end of his collegiate playing days in 2009.
This is his sixth straight season of postseason action.
“Having playoff experience is good, but at the end of the day you still have to perform,” Carroll said. “My style of play might be playoff hockey. Just grinding away, competing, trying to bring energy and stuff like that. That’s what you need in a 7-game series.”
Carroll is part of Bakersfield’s “grind line,” with Gary Steffes at center and Ryan Little on the other wing.
“The glue guys,” Carroll said of his line, which sometimes has Ryan Watson or another player on the opposite wing.
“Maybe not the most flashy guys, but the guys that hold it together. Go out there and eat some minutes up, just grind down their D and stuff like that.
“For myself, I’m not looking for points in every game. I’m just looking to play well, play good defensively, get pucks deep, play responsible. We’ve been pretty much rewarded for doing that in the first round and hopefully we can do the same thing in the second round.”