Seeking their first three-game winning streak of the season, the Condors appeared to be on the path toward doing just that on Thursday morning at Rabobank Arena.
With the second-largest crowd in team history — 8,990 — cheering them on, the Condors did everything they wanted in the first period en route to a 1-0 lead.
Then Stockton, as it has done all season, turned the tables and skated away to a 3-1 victory, its sixth straight this season against Condors who have yet to figure out how to beat the Heat.
Afterward, the silence of the Bakersfield dressing room was a stark contrast to the high-pitched din that earlier enveloped the arena from the record 8,000 school children on hand for the annual Field Trip Day game. The puck dropped at 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
“We had a really good first period, we were playing to what we wanted,” said Condors captain Ryan Hamilton. “We were playing with speed, moving the puck quick, getting in on the forecheck, playing in the zone and putting pucks to the net.”
That led to the Condors playing most of the time in the Heat zone and a 1-0 lead when Brad Malone scored his fourth of the season with three minutes left.
Then came the game-changing second period.
After being out-shot 16-4 in the first period, the Heat out-shot the Condors 17-4 and took the lead with a pair of goals late in the second.
“They played right into their systems and we started getting away from our game plan,” Hamilton said. “Whenever that happens it’s usually a recipe for disaster and they took it to us for pretty much the whole second period.”
The Condors, thanks to some huge saves from Eddie Pasquale, weathered the storm until Cody Goloubef intercepted a Ryan Mantha pass just inside the Bakersfield blueline and quickly fired a shot from the right circle to tie the game at 17:23.
Seventy-seven seconds later, the Heat struck again as Andrew Mangiapane, the fifth-leading scorer in the league, banged in a rebound to put the Heat up 2-1.
Both those goals came during a 4-on-4 skating situation.
“We did a lot of good things in the first period then some breakdowns defensively, some missed assignments, our execution was off, we turned the puck over: all the things that we talked about before the game that we had to prevent, we fell into that trap of turning the puck over and as a result they came at us,” summed up Condors coach Gerry Fleming.
Stockton’s Ryan Lomberg scored from the right-circle hash marks off a quick rush at 6:47 of the third to make it 3-1.
Bakersfield’s Mitch Callahan raced in on a breakaway midway through the period, went from his forehand to his backhand, but Jon Gillis stayed with him and made made a pad save with his right leg to maintain the two-goal lead.
“They’re a big rival and they’ve definitely got our number and are playing great hockey,” Hamilton said. “The one good thing is we get right back at it (Friday at 7 p.m.). We’ll regroup, see what we’re doing wrong, hold each other accountable and make sure we’re playing our best game and our best team game so we can start getting some wins.”
The Edmonton Oilers placed goaltender Cam Talbot on Injured Reserve on Thursday and recalled Nick Ellis, who served as backup to former Condor Laurent Brossoit on Thursday night against Toronto. It is the first call up for Ellis, a second-year pro. With Ellis gone, the Condors recalled rookie goaltender Shane Starrett from Wichita in the ECHL.