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Condors roll past San Jose 6-0, win third straight

The Bakersfield Condors’ up and down season continued on its current trajectory Wednesday night with a 6-0 victory over the San Jose Barracuda, the team’s third straight victory after opening the season 0-5.

The Condors have outscored their opponents 14-1 in their last three games. Suffice to say, it feels pretty good these days to be a Condor, who are making it look easy.

“I thought we picked up where we left off,” Condors coach Jay Woodcroft said. “That being said, we’re trying to play toward our identity to make sure we’re checking hard, that we’re limiting shots against and understanding what it takes to win versus good teams. And I thought that we stuck with that process and we were rewarded. We got out in front in the game, which is always nice when you can get into your kind of game rather than chasing it.”

Playing in its first game in 11 days, after last week’s game at San Jose was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, Bakersfield showed little signs of the layoff, scoring three first-period goals.

“I think the one thing for us, I was a little worried about the amount of days between games, but the one thing that it did was it allowed us to get a lot of really good practice time,” Woodcroft said. “Our team practices hard. There’s zero complaints from the coaching staff there. Our team really, really works at their craft. And it was nice for us because some teams, like the one we played tonight, have been together since December. And they had no breaks and have been able to build their gameplan or their identity.

“For us, we’ve just been together since Jan. 25. So for us, that practice time allowed us to really continue to lay bricks in our foundation. And I saw the results of that tonight.”

Janis Jaks opened the scoring, blasting a shot past Barracuda goalie Alexei Melnichuk at the 5:48 mark of the first period off assists from James Hamblin and Brad Malone.

Just two minutes later, Luke Esposito scored the first of his two goals on the night when he took a pass from Tyler Benson in front of the net and scored to make it 2-0 at 7:58 of the first period.

Adam Cracknell got into the act at 10:42, scoring a power-play goal, with assists coming from Cooper Marody and Yanni Kaldis.

Bakersfield has scored first in six of its eight games this season and outscored its opponents 11-6 in the first period this season. It was the second straight game that the Condors have entered the second period with a 3-0 advantage.

Esposito kept things rolling in the second period, scoring his team-high fourth goal, his first outside the first period this season. His goal just 3:04 into the period was assisted by Markus Niemelainen and Malone.

Jacob Stukel and Seth Griffith added to the lead with goals 33 seconds apart in the third period to build a six-goal lead.

Stukel took a pass from Joe Gambardella and finished just in front of the net, 10:37 into the third period, and Griffith followed with another at 11:30 on a pass from Ostap Safin.

Jaks was shaken up late in the second period following a collision that resulted in a boarding penalty on Barracuda center Fredrik Handemark. Jaks left the ice on his own, but did not return to the game.

Stuart Skinner continued his strong play in the net for the Condors, posting his second straight shutout. He hasn’t allowed a goal since the second period of Bakersfield’s 5-1 victory over the San Diego Gulls on Feb. 19, holding opponents scoreless the last seven periods. The streak is the second longest in the Condors’ AHL history. He finished with 22 saves en route to winning his third straight game. The Condors also survived four San Jose power plays.

“The guys played a fantastic game again,” Skinner said. “Obviously going into practice for about a week and a half because of the whole COVID thing in San Jose, it was tough. I mean that’s a lot of time to practice. But the guys work so hard in practice and i think that paid off for tonight.”

San Jose returned to action last weekend, posting two victories over the Ontario Reign, after spend two weeks in the AHL’s mandated COVID-19 protocol. The team had five games postponed during its hiatus.