The Bakersfield Condors left little to chance in Friday’s game against the San Diego Gulls.
After scoring first in three previous losses to the Gulls this season, the Condors finally built a sustainable lead, scoring three first-period goals en route to a 5-1 victory, Bakersfield’s first in six games this season.
The Condors, who scored in the first five minutes of their previous games at San Diego, waited a little longer Friday, but then scored three times in a seven-minute stretch, capped by a power-play goal by Tyler Benson at the 17:36 mark of the first period.
The play was set up by a high-sticking penalty by San Diego’s Andrew Agozzino which put Bakersfield’s Cooper Marody to the ice at 16:40.
A minute later Benson’s shot slipped past Gulls goalie Lukas Dostal, with assists coming from Alan Quine and Adam Cracknell, giving the Condors a 3-0. The goal snapped an 0-for-16 streak on power-plays to open the season.
Luke Esposito opened the scoring with an unassisted goal at 10:38 of the first, firing the puck past a former Condor defender Keegan Lowe and Dostal, who appeared to be partially screened on the play.
Esposito scored in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss at San Diego to give Bakersfield a 2-0 first-period lead. But the Gulls scored three straight before adding the go-ahead goal early in the fourth period.
On Friday, the Condors never gave San Diego the chance to get back into the game.
“We thought we’ve played some good games going back, but obviously at the end of the day it’s about the record and knowing we’re getting it done,” Esposito said. “It was nice to see another (goal) go in and get off to another good start. And we were able to hold it down tonight, which is good.”
Already leading 1-0, Joe Gambardella scored off a deflection at 14:33 of the first period to extend the lead to two goals. Brad Malone and Esposito assisted on the play.
Bakersfield continued to pressure Dostal throughout the second period, holding an 18-10 advantage on shots on goal through the first 30 minutes of action.
Despite the Condors dominating the puck for much of the second period, San Diego broke through for its first goal at the 11:42 mark when Sam Carrick beat Condors goalie Stuart Skinner to trim the lead to 3-1. Jacob Perreault assisted on the goal.
The Gulls threatened to pull closer when Bakersfield’s Ryan Stanton was whistled for holding at 13:21 of the second period. But Skinner was solid in the net, making a nice save just as the Condors were back at full strength, and the Condors banded together and staved off a furious Gulls’ attack that produced four shots on goal during the two-minute stretch. They were perfect on the penalty kill, even holding San Diego scoreless when the Gulls had a two-man advantage late in the game.
Skinner finished with three saves in notching his first victory in three games this season. Bakersfield’s 3-1 lead was its first lead entering a third period all season.
The Condors padded their advantage early in the third, scoring twice in 14 seconds to take a 5-1 lead. Ryan McLeod got things started, scoring off an assist from Vincent Desharnais and Marody at 3:51.
Cracknell followed with another score, with Quine notching the assist at the 4:05 mark. Both were against Dostal, who entered the game 5-0 this season. He was pulled following Cracknell’s goal and replaced by Jeff Glass.
"We’ve played some good games, especially the last three, but haven’t really been rewarded for it,” Esposito said. “I’d say it’s the kind of thing that’s started to come together and tonight we really broke through there. It’s a culmination of a lot of things and I think our effort level is just better the last couple of games. And we got rewarded for it tonight.”