Heading to Henderson last week for a three-game series, the Bakersfield Condors needed a sweep to overtake the Silver Knights and capture the AHL’s Pacific Division title.
Those hopes came to a crashing halt when the Condors lost the opener 5-0. But by winning the next two games, Bakersfield earned a consolation prize — the No. 2 seed for the divisional playoffs and home ice against the No. 3 San Diego Gulls.
Playing at Mechanics Bank Arena figured to be an advantage for Bakersfield when the two teams open their best-of-three series at 6 p.m. Friday, and the season series between the two teams has served as confirmation. Game 2 is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday, and if necessary, the team’s will play a decisive Game 3 at 6 p.m. Monday. All the games are scheduled to be played in Bakersfield.
Prior to San Diego’s 4-1 victory in Bakersfield on May 8, the home team had won the previous seven meetings this season. In four games on home ice, the Condors were 3-1 head-to-head, outscoring the Gulls 14-7. San Diego was 4-0 at home with a 16-8 advantage over Bakersfield this year.
Each team has been a bit streaky this season. The Condors opened the year 0-5, including three losses at San Diego, and then won nine straight. The Gulls started 6-0 and then lost four of five.
Scoring goals also doesn’t figure to be a problem. Four of the league’s top six scorers play for one of the two teams. San Diego right winger Andrew Poturalski scored a league-high 43 points this season, with nine goals and 34 assists, to win the AHL John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the top point-getter. That was seven points better than a pair of Condors, Cooper Marody, the AHL Willie Marshall Award for top goal scorer, (21 goals, 15 assists) and Tyler Benson (10 goals, 26 assists) have scored 36 points apiece. Poturalski’s teammate, center Chase De Leo, has 15 goals and 20 assists this season.
Bakersfield figures to have a slight advantage with goalie Stuart Skinner guarding the net. He has two shutouts this year and the league’s sixth best goals-against average (2.38). He was 20-9-1 in the regular season. The Gulls counter with Lukas Dostal, who limited the Condors to just one goal in the team’s last meeting. He has a 2.87 goals-against average and is 15-9 on the year.