Condors end March on losing run after 4-3 defeat to the Reign

The Bakersfield Condors end the month losing three of their final four games, including two versus the Reign in Ontario.
Bakersfield goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (33) keeps his eyes on the puck during the third period of
Bakersfield goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (33) keeps his eyes on the puck during the third period of / Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY

The Condors ended March the same way they began it, on a losing run. They started the month going 0-3-0 and closed it out losing three of four, following Saturday night's 4-3 loss in Ontario, versus the Reign.

In between, the Condors went 7-2-0 and overall now stand just one point away -- or the San Diego Gulls not winning their next game -- from clinching a playoff spot. At the same time they need to get back on track, in order to finish in the top four in the Pacific Division and clinch home-ice advantage for the first round.

The weekend should have been a reason for Olivier Rodrigue to celebrate, after officially signing a one-year contract extension with the Oilers organisation. However, any joy was compromised by losing his two starts, in Henderson and Ontario.

In an interesting move, Condors coach Colin Chaulk decided to play Rodrigue in net for two consecutive nights. While appreciating that Ryan Fanti had yet to play this season due to a lingering hip issue, he needs to get some action in replacement for the injured Jack Campbell.

Poor end to the month for Rodrigue

If nothing else, the last thing Chaulk wants to do is tire Rodrigue out, or rely on him too much. The 2018 second round draft pick has not been playing as well of late, including Friday's 4-2 loss to the Silver Knights, when he had his third-worst save percentage of the 2023-24 AHL season.

Saturday night saw Rodrigue allow four goals for the second consecutive game, this time on 29 shot attempts by the Reign. The Condors are now 3-4-0 on the season versus their Ontario rivals, with one matchup remaining back in Bakersfield.

The hosts took just 2:24 to land the opening blow at Toyota Arena, through Francesco Pinelli. Rodrigue was unlucky, as he saved the initial shot from Charles Hudon, but Pinelli was on hand to knock home the rebound.

However, this would be a game where the Condors played well offensively, as they outshot the Reign 35-29 on the night. They tied the game 1-1 at the 15:23 mark on a power play, with Philip Broberg setting up Raphael Lavoie to fire home his career-best 27th goal of the campaign.

Short-lived advantage

The Condors would take their first -- and only -- lead of the night with just under five minutes remaining in the second period, this time via a short-handed goal. It was all Adam Erne as he attacked the Reign on the counter, had his first shot saved, but then followed up to slot home for a 2-1 advantage.

However, the lead would only last a shade over two minutes, as the Reign tied the game up courtesy of Andre Lee. The Condors turned over the puck deep in their own half, and Jacob Doty set up Lee to make it 2-2.

The final 20 minutes would see the Condors dominate the Reign 12-6 in shots, but it would be the hosts who retook the lead. This time Lee turned provider, as Rodrigue stopped his long-range shot, but Nikita Pavlychev was on hand to knock home the puck less than three minutes into the third period.

The Condors refused to buckle and their points-leader Seth Griffith made it 3-3 at the 9:21 mark, on another power play. Lavoie fired a shot from the left circle which was stopped, before Griffith hit a one-timer from the right circle, to tie the game up yet again.

Any joy the visitors felt lasted less than two minutes, as the Reign scored what proved to be the winning goal, via T.J. Tynan. This time on a power play of the own, Tynan redirected Martin Chromiak's shot home past a helpless Rodrigue, to make it 4-3.

With the loss, the Condors are now 31-6-1 this season in games where they score at least three goals. On an individual level, Broberg was awarded the game's Third Star thanks to his three assists on the night.

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The Condors finish March with a 8-8-0 record, including going just 4-6-0 on the road. In this respect, six of their final eight regular season games will be at home at Mechanics Bank Arena, including their next matchup on Wednesday Night versus the second-placed Tucson Roadrunners.

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