Condors suffer demoralising 4-1 loss to the Firebirds

The Bakersfield Condors play arguably their worst game of the season, as they are defeated on home ice by last season's Calder Cup finalists.
The Coachella Valley Firebirds play the Bakersfield Condors at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert,
The Coachella Valley Firebirds play the Bakersfield Condors at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, / Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY

March couldn't have gotten off to a much worse start for the Condors, as they endured a 4-1 loss to the Firebirds on home ice. In fact, you can make the case that it was arguably their worst performance of the 2023-24 season to date.

The effort by the Condors was as surprising as it was unacceptable. They had entered Friday night on a four-game winning streak, which included a hugely impressive 7-2 win over the Roadrunners in their previous outing, the largest margin of victory for the team this season.

The Condors were thoroughly dominated in the shots on goal count, by a significant 35-14 edge in favour of the Firebirds. In fact the 14 shot attempts by the hosts, were the fewest ever in their time as an AHL team.

Facing the Pacific Division leaders and last season's Calder Cup finalist, was seen as a great opportunity for the Condors to show just how good they could be versus one of the AHL's top teams. Instead they fell flat, putting on a lacklustre display in front of an attendance of 5,813 at Mechanics Bank Arena.

Start as they mean to go on

The visitors were in control from the get-go, as they held a 10-5 edge in shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. This actually turned out to be their smallest advantage of the three periods on the night.

Olivier Rodrigue and the Condors just about kept it together in only allowing the one first period goal, from Shane Wright. The Firebirds dissected the hosts' defence with ease, for Wright to fire home his 19th goal of the season just under halfway through the period.

The Condors seemingly gave themselves a chance by tying the game just 3:05 into the second period, through Cam Dineen. It was an impressive solo effort as he went flying down the left wing, before shooting home from range with a shot that gave Chris Driedger little chance in the Firebirds goal.

Short-lived hope

Unfortunately for the fans in attendance, any optimism was soon erased within four minutes, as the visitors retook the lead via a shorthanded goal. Marian Studenic gained control of the puck just inside his own half and then split the Condors defence in half, before calmly finishing low past Rodrigue to make it 2-1.

This resulted in boos from sections of the Condors fans inside the arena, but worse was to come in the second period with another goal for the visitors, this time on a powerplay. Unlike the first two goals allowed, Rodrigue should have done better, as Logan Morrison fired through him for a 3-1 advantage at the 14:19 mark of the middle period.

The Condors just couldn't get anything going offensively, showing no sense of urgency as they only managed five shots on goal in the last 20 minutes. The visitors added another goal on the powerplay, this time courtesy of Logan Morrison just past the halfway point of the final period.

Rodrogue was screened on the shot by Morrison, so had little chance to stop it. Overall on the night he allowed four goals on 35 shots, resulting in a .886 save percentage.

As a result, the 2018 second round draft pick remains one win short of tying his career-high 13 victories from a season ago. He is still on course to have his best ever season, which includes a save percentage that stands at .918 at the time of posting.

Postgame, Condors coach Colin Chaulk made no excuses for the loss. Speaking to the media, he said: "We have to give a little more than that. I think we passed up a lot of opportunities to shoot the puck. Special teams need to be better. i thought overall we were a little bit sleepy and we let the game get away from us tonight."

Connor McDavid February award serves as warning to rest of NHL. Connor McDavid February award serves as warning to rest of NHL. dark. Next

With the loss the Condors' record drops to 27-18-4 on the season, with them remaining seventh in the Pacific Division but with the sixth-best winning percentage in the Western Conference. They at least get an immediate opportunity to bounce back on Saturday night, as they host the Canucks.

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