Not that long ago, it looked like the Condors were getting a handle on what Jay Woodcroft called “learning to win.”
They had won four straight games, all by a goal, including one in overtime.
But since then they have gone 2-4 and Woodcroft was once again talking about how his young team still had to learn how to win following a 3-2 loss at home to Ontario on Thursday.
“I think we have a real young team here in Bakersfield,” he said. “Lots of players under the age of 21 which means we have to learn how to win in a man’s league. It’s about understanding what gamesmanship is, understanding how you have to make another team’s goaltender work, understanding how important it is to get the puck out at your blue line and in at the other team’s blue line.”
That said, Woodcroft puts a lot of trust into his younger players and on Thursday he put together what is being dubbed the 21-and-under power play line: Tyler Benson at center, Cameron Hebig and Kailer Yamamoto on the wings, and Cooper Marody and Caleb Jones on the points. Marody, who turns 22 on Dec. 20, is the oldest of the group. All, with the exception of` second-year defenseman Jones, are rookies.
The power play was near the top of the league early on but has struggled recently. It was 1-23 in seven games before Thursday. The power play finally connected on the last of four power-play opportunities on Thursday and is now 2-27 over eight games.
“They’re all skilled players,” Woodcroft said. “We’re looking for some answers on the power play. Looking for some players who are going to step up and take the mantle of responsibility that a power play requires.
“They’ve shown early in the season that they’re a very good power play. Adding Yamo to that group makes them dangerous.”
The Condors have dropped the first two games of a five-game homestand and will be trying to right the ship on Saturday night against Manitoba.
“We want to make Rabobank Arena a real tough place to play for other teams,” he said. “To do that, it’s going to require all 20 players to trust our structure.”