Don't look now, but the Bakersfield Condors are beginning to show signs of life. And fair or not to mention, it has coincided with Jack Campbell being replaced as the number one goalie by Olivier Rodrigue.
Rodrigue has started the last four games between the pipes and the Condors have taken seven out of a possible eight points. This includes two points on Wednesday night in front of 3,556 fans at Mechanics Bank Arena, with a 3-1 win over the Henderson Silver Knights.
Drake Caggiula was deservedly named First Star in his return from a two-game suspension, thanks to two goals and an assist. As a result, he now leads the Condors with 16 overall points (five goals and 11 assists), in 14 games.
It tells you something that Rodrigue stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced, but still wasn't one of the game's Three Stars. Regardless, he more than played his part in the win and now leads all qualifying AHL goaltenders with a .938 save percentage.
We are still of the opinion that it's not the right time for the Oilers to call up their 2018 second round draft pick. However, we appreciate why this sentiment is only growing, as he now also has a 5-2-2 record and 2.09 Goals Against Average in 10 games for the Condors this season.
Rodrigue did his best work during the first 20 minutes versus the Silver Knights, as the visitors outshot the hosts 13-9 but were unable to score. Instead, it was the Condors who took the lead with just over three minutes remaining in the opening period.
The Condors sliced through the Silver Knights defence and Caggiula scored from the rebound after a save. Cameron Wright and Brad Malone were credited with the primary and secondary helper respectively.
The Condors donimanted the visitors 17-6 in shots on goal during the second period, but were unable to add to their lead. As a result, it was delicately poised at 1-0 to the home team with less than 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
Jayden Grubbe finally got what proved to be an invaluable second goal, as he scored at the 12:51 mark of the final period. It was an excellent move, with Malone and Caggiula combining to set Grubbe up for the finish and the 2-0 lead.
It wasn't quite over yet however, as the Silver Knights pulled to within 2-1 just 31 seconds later. Jakub Demek scored from long range in off the pipe, for his third AHL goal of the season.
The game would remain tight until just over a minute from the end, as the Silver Knights pushed for the tying goal in a period when they had a 11-8 advantage in shots on goal. However, Caggiula then sealed the game with his second goal of the game courtesy of an empty netter, to make it 3-1.
With the win, the Condors are now 9-1-2 in games this season when they score at least three goals. They also improve to 11-2-1, in contests where they are at least holding a share of the lead going into the third period.
Making the Condors' win even more impressive was the defensive effort despite having three regulars out of the lineup. Speaking to the media postgame about this, combined with the performance of Rodrigue, coach Colin Chaulk said:
"With (Xavier) Bernard and (Connor Corcoran) coming up tonight, I thought they were solid back there with little practice time. A similar system in (ECHL affiliate) Fort Wayne helps, but those guys were solid back there. When Ollie was called upon, he made the saves (and) that's always a comforting and confidence-building type thing."
As for Caggiula, he discussed his suspension and how it might have inadvertently helped contribute towards him scoring two goals for the first time this season. Speaking to the media, he said:
"Having a little longer break maybe did give me some extra rest. Obviously you never want to be suspended and I take full responsibility for what I did, but I just utilised the break to enjoy some family time (and) recuperate. When I got back, I wanted to make sure I got off to a good start and help the team win. "
With the win, the Condors improve to 11-10-2 on the season and move up to eighth in the Pacific Division. Next up, they will host the San Jose Barracuda on Friday night.