The Condors have taken a glance in the rearview mirror, but are now squarely focused on their biggest game of the season.
Having dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven AHL Pacific Division Finals against San Diego, the Condors head into Wednesday night’s game needing a victory.
“We know where we’re at,” veteran defenseman Ryan Stanton said. “Obviously, you don’t want to be down 2-nothing in a series but we’re looking forward to the game Wednesday. We just have to go in and take it shift by shift.”
It was certainly a shift-by-shift game on Friday night in Game 1, which was not decided until the final shift at 12:21 a.m. on Saturday when the Gulls scored 4 minutes and 20 seconds into the fourth overtime for a 3-2 win.
On Saturday, the Condors were down 2-1 with less than four minutes left before San Diego added a goal and then tacked on a empty-netter for a 4-1 win.
“We’ve just got to find ways to win,” Stanton said. “Both games were right there for us to take. It’s just a matter of making that one extra play.”
Condors coach Jay Woodcroft said the biggest thing after the 124-minute plus game on Friday and another on Saturday was to get his players rested and to try and clear their minds of any negativity from two close losses.
“I think the first thing we wanted to do was be mentally and physically refreshed,” Woodcroft said. “We had a good off day on Sunday and on Monday we had a great video session and a spirited practice.”
Woodcroft said the video and practice focused on cleaning up some areas of concern.
“The difference in the series right now is a couple key moments in games,” he said. “For us, we think we can generate a little more offense but part of doing that is making sure we’re coming out of our end a little bit cleaner.”
The Condors had a lot of trouble getting out of their own end and through the neutral zone on Saturday which resulted in very few offensive chances through the first two periods.
“I think we just really have to focus on what we want to do as a team, put pucks on net,” said defenseman Evan Bouchard. “ I think we had 13 shots going into the third period (on Saturday), something like that. Woody was talking about we’re a team that likes to shoot the puck and I don’t think we really did that. When we got going and putting pucks on net it worked out for us.”
The stakes on Wednesday are certainly high, especially for the Condors, but Stanton said there is no nervousness among the players.
“Players have to step up,” he said. “It’s the biggest game of the year for us. We’ve got a good group of guys in there. I think everyone’s ready for the challenge so I’m looking forward to it.
“You can’t be too nervous, it’s just another hockey game. We’re definitely going to bring it. You can’t be too uptight, right? If we’re gonna go in and pucker up that’s not going to be the answer. You’ve got to play loose and have fun. We know what’s ahead of us here.”
What is ahead of them certainly be a raucous crowd and a Gulls team looking to put the Condors in 3-0 hole.
But the Condors won a Pacific Division high 21 road games during the regular season, including their last two in San Diego, and head there looking to even up the series.
“It’s a chance to get back in the series,” Stanton said. “We’ve been a good road game all year so go in there and try to take a couple from them.”