To a man, Jay Woodcroft and the Condors say they feel no pressure heading into the third game of the opening round American Hockey League playoff matchup against the Colorado Eagles on Tuesday night at Rabobank Area.
After all, the Condors split road games in Colorado over the weekend and finish the best-of-five series in the friendly confines of Rabobank Arena.
“I think our team has had a calmness about it all year,” Woodcroft said. “We’ve been trying to preach playoff style thinking, playoff style execution, playoff style responses to nonvictories. So we felt we used our 68-game schedule the best we could for this type of situation. Our focus right now is on playing to our potential tomorrow night in Game No. 3. We’re very happy we’re on home ice and we want to bring the game to the opponent.
The Condors played close to their potential on Friday night and came away with a 3-2 victory. But the Eagles bounced back on Saturday, winning the special teams battle with a shorthanded goal and a power play goal, and winning the game, 4-1.
“We were able to earn a split in a very tough building, we did some really good things in both games, Woodcroft said. “There’s some areas we can get better at. But if you look at Game 2 as a whole, the game we didn’t win, we gave up very few shots. Halfway though the second period, I looked up, there were only nine shots against. That’s a good sign.”
It was certainly a tale of two games on the road, especially in officiating. Each team had a power play on Friday night. Both teams had seven power-play opportunities on Saturday night.
Certainly the nastiness ramped up in the second game with the bulk of the penalties being for slashing, cross-checking and roughing.
“It’s a tough, hard-hitting, competitive series,” Condors center Cooper Marody said.
Woodcroft would like to see the power-play advantage scale slide back in favor of the Condors.
“I think the best form of checking is spending your shifts in the other team’s end and grinding teams down,” he said. “When you do that, more often than not, you’re the beneficiary of more power plays than the other team. I think that the statistics have shown throughout the regular season that we’re a team that draws penalties, not takes them.”
The Condors are officially 0-8 on the power play (Patrtick Russell scored what was essentially a power-play goal on Saturday night just as the penalty expired) and Woodcroft said the Condors needed to be better in that category as the series goes on.
“We talked a lot today about that,” he said, “starting with the puck off faceoffs, about cleanliness of entries. We talked about getting shots through and recovering pucks. The biggest thing for us: our power play needs to create momentum. The production takes care of itself if we’re doing the right things, coming at teams with multiple scoring chances and eventually breaking them down.”
A big part of Bakersfield’s overall success this season, including a power play that ranked seventh at 20.5 percent, has been the Marody-Tyler Benson-Josh Currie line. Currie, who was second on the team in goals scored with 27, was tied for first in power plays goals with six. Benson, who led the team in points with 66 (51 assists) had 22 assists and two goals on the power play. Marody, second on the team in points with 64, had 19 of them on the power play.
Through the first two games, Currie has a lone assist, which came on Russell’s goal in Game 2.
“You’re going to go through stretches where you don’t score. Two games, I’m not too concerned,” Marody said. “We had some good chances, but sometimes it’s just not going to go into the net. We have to continue to battle through that. We came out today with a good effort ... We’re just looking to get back to work tomorrow.”
Count Woodcroft among those not two worried about his two rookies and the veteran Currie.
“I would say that line has been very good for us,” Woodcroft said. “They’ve played the entire 200 feet. They haven’t scored but that happens in playoff hockey. There’s not time and space out there. They’re young players and even Josh is experiencing his first playoff hockey as a professional.
“They checked well, they didn’t give up much chances wise. I believe that they will produce and they will have a positive effect on the game by playing the game the right way. They’re too good of players not to have an effect on the game.”