Condors' season on the line as they face elimination game versus the Reign

The Bakersfield Condors must win at home on Saturday night, or a season of so much potential will fall at the first hurdle of the AHL playoffs.
Bakersfield forward Greg McKegg (14) talks with defenseman Cam Dineen (4) and other teammates during
Bakersfield forward Greg McKegg (14) talks with defenseman Cam Dineen (4) and other teammates during / Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY

There were high hopes surrounding the Bakersfield Condors entering the 2023-24 campaign, and with good reason. As the season progressed they lived up to these expectations, and while they faltered close to the finishing line, they still became one of just two Pacific Division teams to qualify for the playoffs five consecutive years.

With qualification came renewed hope for a team with plenty of quality and talent, including the likes of Seth Griffith, Lane Pederson, Raphael Lavoie and Philip Broberg. Combined with one of the better goalie duos in the AHL with Jack Campbell and Olivier Rodrigue, the Condors appeared set to take aim at the Calder Cup.

Instead, the Condors suffered a 5-1 beat down by the Reign in Ontario on Wednesday night. As a result, they now face the very real prospect of elimination on Saturday night back home at Mechanics Bank Arena, in this first round best-of-three series.

The Condors are better than what they showed in game One, and have fought the Reign tough all season. Interestingly they lost the regular season series 3-4-1, but actually outscored their divisional opponents 28-23.

For what it's worth, the Condors are 19-12-5 at home in 2023-24. However, they must contend with a Reign team which is an impressive 23-12-1 on their travels.

Missed opportunities

Condors coach Colin Chaulk genuinely believes his team has a chance heading into Saturday night. Speaking to the media, he said: "We had three Grade A chances that we didn't finish on. We feel like if we would have finished on those chances (we could have won Game One). We're talking five-on-five, we had a couple of real good looks on the power play we didn't finish on either. ... so if we can look to finish on our opportunities, be a little bit harder of a team, we like our chances coming in here in Game Two at home in Condors town, (where) we know we'll have the support of our fans behind us."

Forward Jayden Grubbe also spoke to the media about the missed opportunities in Game One. He said: "Obviously there's a couple of chances early on that we would have liked to have back, but they had their chances too and they buried them. I think for us, we need to play a quicker game, simplify it, put pucks in behind them, a little more physicality for us and we should be good."

A big challenge for the Condors will be dealing with the Reign's power play, which was second best in the AHL this regular season and accounted for two of their goals in the 5-1 win. Meanwhile, the Condors were ranked fifth themselves in 2023-24, with the power play scoring their solitary goal at Toyota Arena on Wednesday night.

If game two goes to overtime, at least history is on the Condors' side. They have won six consecutive times in the playoffs in overtime, dating back to 2019.

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A season of so much promise now comes down to one game for the Condors. Win, and they return to Ontario on Sunday evening for the deciding game; lose, and dreams of a first Calder Cup in team history will evaporate for another year.

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