Condors eliminated from playoffs after 3-1 loss to the Reign

The Bakersfield Condors go quietly into the night, as the Ontario Reign dominate the third period and complete a first round sweep of their divisional opponent.
Bakersfield goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (33) skates away from the net to stay loose during a break
Bakersfield goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (33) skates away from the net to stay loose during a break / Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY

The Bakersfield Condors entered Saturday night, with their season on the line. Lose at home to the Ontario Reign, and they would be eliminated at the first round stage of the AHL playoffs.

Pregame, Condors coach Colin Chaulk had discussed with the media how confident he was in his players' abilities to rebound from the 5-1 defeat in game one and put on a better display. Unfortunately this belief never came to fruition, with a 3-1 loss resulting in the teams being swept.

In truth, the Condors should be disappointed with their effort, given what was at stake. With the game tied at 1-1 entering the third period, they were subsequently dominated during the final 20 minutes, with the Reign outshooting their hosts 15-2.

More importantly, the visitors' dominance finally paid off by scoring twice in the final 3:06 of the game, to provide the final scoreline of 3-1. The last goal came with just one second remaining, courtesy of an empty-netter by Charles Hudon.

A positive start

The game had actually started out very well for the Condors, as they had a 11-8 edge in shots on goal during the first period. Seth Griffith gave the home side the lead 6:10 into the contest via a power play after a mad scramble by both teams in front of the Reign net, much to the delight of the 6,609 in attendance at Mechanics Bank Arena.

At that point, no one could have anticipated that the Condors would not score again on the night Instead, it was the Reign who struck next, tying the game at 1-1 just 2:42 into the second period through Taylor Ward.

On the night the Condors would manage just 24 total shots on goal, including their paltry two efforts during the final 20 minutes. Olivier Rodrigue performed wonders in net, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced on the night.

It was Rodrigue's first ever playoff start and speaks volumes about his ability to step up on the big stage. Fair or not, it also leads to the question of if starting Jack Campbell in game one was the right call, given how he struggled at Toyota Arena.

The Condors did well overall at the defensive end of the ice, all things considered. While it ultimately didn't matter, this including holding the Reign's second ranked power play unit scoreless on five occasions.

A learning experience for the Condors

Postgame, Chaulk was asked about the Condors' inability to generate much offence during the third period. Speaking to the media, he said: "I felt like we were trying to encourage our guys to skate with the puck and be confident, but they found out that it's hard to play in playoff hockey and there's not a lot of time and space. We had some moments that we got to the inside, we shot pucks and got pucks back, and then we had some moments when we didn't. That's all part of learning how to win and learning how to develop."

With the loss, it also meant the end of Brad Malone's playing career. He retires as the longest-serving captain in Condors team history and he marked his final ever appearance with the primary assist on Griffith's goal.

Malone also spoke to the media postgame. Asked about it being a tough way to end a season and his career, he said: "Yeah, the result is the result. I'm proud of the effort, but at this time of year results are what matter and we just didn't get it done."

The inconsolable 34-year-old was also asked about taking his uniform off for the last time. He said: "It took a while. A lot of emotion, a lot of thoughts. Yeah, I went right back to my parents; it wasn't easy."

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Finally, Chaulk was asked to sum up the Condors' season. He said: "I thought we were a competitive team. We won, we developed, we played hard. The special teams were bright spots and different areas we saw players grow, in (Max) Wanner, (Philip) Broberg and Dylan Holloway. We saw Raphael Lavoie score 25+ goals, we saw some development in Olivier Rodrigue. There's lots of things to be proud of, but there's still lots of work to be done to be able to win a playoff series and I'm excited to get back after it."

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