Condors second-best as they lose 2-1 to Firebirds

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. /

Bakersfield Condors see their three-game winning streak come to an end, in a 2-1 loss at home to the Coachella Firebirds.

With a 4-1-0 record through five games, the Bakersfield Condors were off to their best start since joining the AHL. As such, they entered Saturday’s home tilt with the Coachella Firebirds in confident mood.

This mood was helped, by having already beaten last season’s Calder Cup finalists 3-2 on the road, in the season-opener. However, the Condors soon came crashing back down to earth, as they saw their three-game winning streak come to an end in a 2-1 loss versus the Firebirds.

In truth, the Condors were second-best on the night, in front of 5,613 fans at Mechanics Bank Arena. The Firebirds were more aggressive throughout, as they outshot the hosts 34-19.

As much as one player shouldn’t make that much of a difference, you have to wonder if the Condors missed their leading goal-scorer, Raphael Lavoie. The forward had been recalled by the Oilers, due to injury issues on the roster.

Visitors come out on fire

The visitors came out firing right from the first puck drop, dominating the Condors 12-4 in shots on goal. The pressure paid off at the 6:54 mark, as the Firebirds took a 1-0 lead through Max McCormick’s fourth goal of the season.

The Condors did well to reach the end of the first period down just one goal. Calvin Pickard was playing well, to keep the hosts in the contest.

It seemed as if the tide might begin to turn in the second 20 minutes, when the Condors tied the game at 1-1 courtesy of Adam Erne’s debut goal. Greg McKegg had the primary assist, while Philip Broberg picked up the secondary helper in his first game since being loaned from the Oilers.

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Unfortunately for the Condors, any jubilation lasted a tick under two minutes, as the Firebirds regained the advantage at the 11:04 mark of the second period. Andrew Poturalski notched his second goal of the season, as the visitors took the lead on the power play.

Talking of the power play, the Condors had no such good fortune with the man-advantage. They went 0-for-4, while the Firebirds were 1-for-3 thanks to the aforementioned Poturalski goal.

The Condors pushed forward in the final period in search of the tying goal, at one point hitting the post. Ultimately though they just couldn’t break through, as the Firebirds secured an impressive 2-1 win on the road.

Better away from home

Interestingly, the Condors have been average so far at home this season, as they saw their record drop to 1-2-0 at Mechanics Bank Arena. By comparison, they are 3-0-0 on their travels.

Pickard deserves praise for keeping the hosts in the game, as he saved 32 of the 34 shots he faced. Ultimately though, the Condors could only mange one goal after a combined 14 in their previous three games.

Coach Colin Chaulk was under no illusion as to what contributed to the loss on the night, although he liked the way the players responded. Speaking postgame to the media, he said:

"“Our team didn’t like our first period. There was an individual error on the first goal, which I know we’d like to have back. We challenged our team in the first intermission. I thought the second and third period, there was emotion, there was physicality, there was push-back …  Unfortunately we came up one short tonight. I think everybody would believe that we need to shoot the puck more and that’s an area we’ll discuss on Monday, but there was a hell of an effort from our team in the second and third periods.”"

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With the loss, the Condors go to 4-2-0 on the season and drop to eighth in the Pacific Division, albeit with games in hand on all those above them in the standings. Next up they begin a four-game road trip by travelling to British Columbia, to face the Abbotsford Canucks on Thursday night.