Wednesday night was definitely a time for the Bakersfield Condors to look to the future as they headed into their final three games of the season.
For the San Jose Barracuda, a win (coupled with a San Diego loss) would keep its razor-thin playoff hopes alive.
A whopping 12 rookies were in the lineup for the Condors, who came up short in a 2-1 loss.
The two teams meet again Thursday night in San Jose and a Condors win there would eliminate the Barracuda.
But Condors coach Gerry Fleming said before the game it was not about being spoilers, it was about continuing the strong play of the last few weeks.
“You don’t change the approach, people pay money to watch us play so we gotta go out and play to our maximum every night regardless of the circumstance,” Fleming said. "(It is) a totally different team than what we started with but that’s the nature of the American Hockey League. It gave us a good opportunity to see some guys that we signed for next year and some guys that have potential for next year."
Among the youthful players was University of Michigan standout Cooper Marody, who was signed by the Edmonton Oilers after Michigan lost to Notre Dame in the Frozen Four semifinals last Thursday.
Marody, who finished his junior season with a Big 10-high 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists), centered the all-collegiate line in his first pro game. To his left was rookie David Gust out of Ohio State. On his right was Tyler Vesel, who has been on an Amateur Try Out with the Condors since March 21 after finishing play at Nebraska-Omaha.
That combination led to Bakersfield’s lone goal, that coming with three minutes left in the contest.
Gust made an outlet pass to Marody who drove down the left side before feeding a cosss-ice pass to Vesel who scored his second goal in nine games.
“I thought they played well,” Fleming said “They had good chemistry for guys who hadn’t played together and played against each other for the last couple of years.”
The Barracuda took a 1-0 lead 13:36 into the second when Rudolfs Balcers scored on a two-man advantage. The game winner came off the stick of Rourke Chartier at 10:59 of the third.
The Condors were outshot 34-23 with Laurent Brossoit stopping 32 in the loss.
As for the rookie-heavy lineup, all part of the plan, Fleming said.
“We want to see what guys can do under pressure at this level,” he said. “Guys are bigger, stronger and faster and they think the game differently.”