Condors make it two-for-two in Tucson with 5-1 win

Coachella Valley Firebirds fell to the Bakersfield Condors 3-2 in their season opener at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023.
Coachella Valley Firebirds fell to the Bakersfield Condors 3-2 in their season opener at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. /

The Condors are off to their best start since joining the AHL, beating the Roadrunners 5-1 on the road and improving their record to 4-1-0.

The Bakersfield Condors entered the 2023-24 AHL season with high hopes, thanks to a strong roster. So far, they’re living up to the hype with an impressive start to the campaign.

The Condors beat the Tucson Roadrunners on the road for a second consecutive night on Saturday, this time winning 5-1. With a record a 4-1-0, they are off to their best start since joining the AHL for the 2015-16 season.

There were numerous highlights on the night, including Sam Gagner scoring his first goal for the Condors. In addition, Olivier Rodrigue excelled between the pipes, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced.

However, arguably most impressive of all, was Raphael Lavoie finishing with the Gordie Howe hat-trick. He scored two goals, notched an assist, and had a fight with Travis Barron in the third period.

Unlike the previous night when they came out flat, the Roadrunners looked ready from the first puck drop. They were determined to avenge the 4-1 loss on Friday evening, and outshot the Condors 9-7 in the first period.

Clinical finishing

However, one thing we’ve learned during the weekend in Tucson, is that the Condors are more clinical when it comes to taking advantage of the opportunities they create. This was evidenced, by taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the end of the opening 20 minutes.

Dino Kambeitz got things going at the 7:47 mark, with his first goal of the AHL season. Noel Hoefenmayer and Brad Malone were credited with the assists, as the visitors took the 1-0 lead.

James Hamblin then doubled the advantage just past the 15-minute point of the first period. Filled with confidence after a tremendous solo effort the night before, he has now scored three goals to begin the 2023-24 campaign.

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The Roadrunners started strong in the second period, and took just over a minutes to get back into the game. Jan Jenik scored on a power-play, to bring the hosts to within 2-1.

Galvanized by the goal, the Roadrunners turned it up a notch. They outshot the visitors 13-7 during the second 20 minutes, but just couldn’t find the tying goal.

The hosts were eventually made to play, as the Condors restored their two-goal lead at the 15:13 mark. Lavoie scored on the power-play, as Gagner and Xavier Bourgault recorded the helpers.

Hope extinguished quickly

As we entered the final period, the game was theoretically still within reach for the Roadrunners. However, it took just over one minute for the Condors to all but seal the deal, courtesy of that man Lavoie.

Set up by Hamblin, the 2019 second round draft pick scored with a sublime wrist shot, to make it 4-1 to the visitors. Unfortunate not to be on the Oilers’ opening night roster, the forward is serving notice of what he’s capable of.

As if the 2,742 fans in attendance at Tucson Convention Center Arena weren’t suffering enough, it still wasn’t over. Gagner slotted home from close range to make it 5-1 with just over five minutes remaining, with the goal also notable for Ethan de Jong getting his first professional assist.

To be fair to the Roadrunners, the game was closer than the final 5-1 scoreline suggests, but this will be of scant consolation to them. The Condors have proven to be extremely solid defensively thus far, and have now allowed just eight goals in five games this season.

Next. Is it time for a Condors call up to the Oilers?. dark

As a result of the two-game sweep in Tucson, the Condors move up to fourth place in the Pacific Division standings. They now return home, to renew hostilities with the Coachella Valley Firebirds on Saturday night.