The final stick tapping of the season came at 8:32 p.m. Saturday night at Rabobank Arena.
Far too early for the players surrounding the Condors logo, the coaching staff, fans and everyone else associated with the team.
The fifth largest crowd of the the season, 6,498, turned out to party (it was Craft Beer Tasting Night) and cheer for the final time this season as Josh Currie completed a hat trick 1:25 into overtime for a 3-2 win over the San Jose Barracuda.
The Condors were eliminated from playoff contention with an overtime loss in Stockton on Friday night, rendering Saturday night’s finale meaningless in many senses.
Gone already from the team was defenseman Griffin Reinhart, called up to the Edmonton Oilers to join them in their first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.
Ironically, had the Condors beaten Stockton out for the final playoff slot, they would have been spending time up in San Jose as well to face the Barracuda, the No. 1 seed in the Pacific Division.
Other Condors are expected to join the Oilers early this week in San Jose where they will at least get to experience a playoff atmosphere as members of the Black Aces, those who don’t practice with the main team but are there waiting if needed.
Currie said for the Condors, Saturday was much more than just winding up the season.
“It says a lot about our guys, we play with a lot of pride,” he said of battling for the win. “We play for the fans too. They came and supported us all all year long, win or lose it was a big game for them.”
Nick Ellis, who stopped 34 shots to get the win, echoed those thoughts.
“One of our goals coming into this game was to finish off strong and give our fans what they deserve,” he said.
“They’ve been very loyal to us and it showed. We had over 6,000 fans tonight and we’re very thankful for that.”
Many of the players taking the ice for the Condors on Saturday were certainly playing their final game for Bakersfield, a fact Currie noted.
“Just knowing this can be the last time you ever play with some of these guys in your career so you want to go out and play for each other that’s what we did,” he said.
While this was the swan song for some Condors, others are just getting a taste of what’s to come.
Defensemen Ryan Mantha and Ziyat Paigin and forward Joe Gambardella, all signed to entry level contracts with the Oilers next season, were in the lineup for the first time at Rabobank Arena, though they did play in road games during the stretch run.
Signed to amateur try out agreements and making their pro debuts on Saturday were forwards Evan Campbell and Evan Polei.
“We gutted it out against a top team in the league,” Condors coach Gerry Fleming said.
“Obviously they didn’t have all their top horses but still it was a pretty good team and we had some young guys in there
“It was a good opportunity to see what they can do and evaluate them for the upcoming season We felt that was important to see where they’re at. I thought they performed relatively well.”
San Jose took a 1-0 lead 1:42 into the second and Currie tied it at 7:27 on his 20th goal of the season.
Currie put the Condors up 2-1 1:20 into the third but San Jose’s Nick DeSimone scored his first pro goal to tie the game just 23 seconds later.
Currie earned one of the coveted colorful sombreros for a hat trick with his overtime game winner
“It was nice getting that 20th,” Currie said.
“The other two were just icing on the cake. I owe a lot of credit to my teammates. They did a great job finding me out there.”
The Condors return to action 180 days from now, with the opener of the 2017-18 season at Rabobank Arena on Oct. 12.