A wave of momentum the Bakersfield Condors had been riding seemingly came crashing down on them in Las Vegas Thursday night.
Coming off three straight overtime wins, including a 3-2 victory in the opening game of the American Hockey League's Pacific Division Finals at Henderson Wednesday, the Condors imploded in game two, falling in a 4-0 hole at the end of the first period before eventually losing 6-3.
The rough showing will force the Condors to pick themselves off the canvas as they prepare to face Henderson in a winner-take-all, game three for the John D. Chick Trophy at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas Saturday.
And while it's not an ideal situation, it's one Bakersfield coach Jay Woodcroft says his team is prepared for, after facing a challenging year on the ice and off.
“We have an opportunity to win our division in a one-game, winner-take-all. If you had said that when we started the season, I think everyone would have taken that chance and been happy about it," Woodcroft told reporters after Thursday's loss. "If you would have said that after we were 0-5 to start the season, I think everyone would have been pleased with that opportunity that’s in front of us.”
It marks the second time in the span of two weeks the Condors have had to rebound from a beatdown by the Silver Knights, with the first one working out in their favor.
With the two teams still competing for the No. 1 seed in the divisional playoffs, the Silver Knights secured the spot by smacking Bakersfield 5-0 in the first of a three-game series on May 13.
The Condors responded by winning the next two, which allowed them to secure home ice in their semifinal playoff series against San Diego, which they won 2-1 following overtime victories in games two and three.
All that extra hockey likely won't have the team in top condition on Saturday, and fatigue certainly seemed to be an issue during Thursday's dismal start.
But Woodcroft said the issues were simply the result of a poor performance, and he doesn't expect wear-and-tear will cause problems as his team has one more chance to capture a division championship.
"We're not going to make excuses," he said. "We were ready, we just didn't execute at the level we felt we needed to. We're professionals and we just didn't get it done (Thursday)."
"The most important thing is we clear our minds, we're prepared physically, we're rested, recovered and we're ready to execute come Saturday night."