The Colorado Eagles tried everything they could on Saturday night at Rabobank Arena to get the Condors off their game.
It didn’t work.
The Condors weathered a barrage of first-period hits from the Eagles.
Including one that sent Condors rookie All Star Cooper Marody to the locker room for good.
Even a Colorado power-play goal that put the Eagles up 2-1 with .5 of a second left in the second period could not shake the inner confidence of a Bakersfield team on a mission.
The Condors answered the bell with four third-period goals for a 5-2 victory, eliminating the Eagles three games to one in the best-of-five Calder Cup opening round playoff series before a playoff record crows of 8,120.
Bakersfield opens the Pacific Division Finals best-of-seven series against San Diego on Friday and Saturday nights at Rabobank Arena.
“We knew we couldn’t hit the panic button,” said Joe Gambardella. “We still had 20 minutes to play. We were going to have the whole 20 to get that goal back. It didn’t need to come in the first two minutes and hit the panic button. I thought we did a good job of sitting back, relaxing, taking a deep breath between period and I thought we came out in the third period running.”
The Condors did just that, getting contributions as they have all season from both rookies and veterans.
Defenseman Evan Bouchard, playing just his second AHL game after coming up from Major Juniors, tied the game with a rocket of a shot from the point just two minutes into the third.
Third-year player Patrick Russell and veteran Bran Malone scored the next two goals and second-year player Luke Esposito sealed the win with an empty netter.
It was Russell’s shorthanded goal, off a feed from Malone on a 2-on-1 break, that basically broke Colorado’s back.
“We're always talking about how we can get some opportunities on the PK and that was a big one tonight,” Malone said. Russell and Malone each had two short-handed goals in the regular season.
Just under two minutes later, Malone drove down the right side and had a rebound kick off his body and into the net.
“We’re resilient,” Malone said of the Condors. “Everyone keeps talking about how close we are and stuff but I think we knew that. Being resilient when you’re down and trying to tie it up and come back, or after a big hit or when we’re pushing back, standing up for ourselves and playing hard.
“Good teams find a way to get the momentum back in their favor. Everyone’s contributing so that’s the biggest thing right now.”
The Condors had a regeneration day (yoga/workout) on Sunday, which is their standard from the regular season. They will take Monday off and begin preparations for the series against San Diego on Tuesday.