Photo credit: @sjbarracuda
by Marko Ukalovic
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Bakersfield Condors are a reckoning force that can not be stopped. They dominated from start to finish as they scored four unanswered goals in the first period on their way to a commanding 8-4 victory over the San Jose Barracuda on Wednesday evening at SAP Center.
For Bakersfield they have won 19 of their last 20 games and have a firm grip on the Pacific Division standings with 73 points and a seven point lead on both San Jose and San Diego. The Cuda have lost three in a row for the second time this season.
Bakersfield (35-16-2-1) drew first blood in the first period. Cooper Marody led a two-on-one odd man rush with Tyler Benson after a turnover in the neutral zone. A nice give and go between Benson and Marody resulted in Benson beating Cuda goalie Antoine Bibeau (11-10-5) to the left side of the net for his 10th goal of the season at 7:49 mark. Kailer Yamamoto received the secondary assist.
The Condors doubled their lead when Marody worked a pretty give and go with Yamamoto. Marody skated in from the right slot and fed a pass over to the Yamamoto at the left faceoff circle and he buried a one-timer past Bibeau for his 10th goal of the season at the 13:12 mark. Logan Day received the secondary assist.
Bakersfield extended their lead over two minutes later. Mitch Callahan chased down a puck near the blue line and sent a wrist shot at the net, where Bibeau initially saved but David Gust, who had crashed the net, was able to gather the rebound and shoot it around Bibeau for his 15th goal of the season at the 15:36 mark. That would be the end of Bibeau’s night as he was replaced by Josef Korenar.
San Jose (30-17-2-4) had a chance to break the seal late in the first period when they had a five-on-three power play, but weren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity once Dylan Gambrell went into the sin bin for interference with just under 30 seconds left on the power play.
“We gotta play better defensively,” said Cuda head coach Roy Sommer. “You can talk about offense all you want but we can’t give up this many pucks. We’re not stopping shots. We were doing that before. We were getting big saves and we’re not getting that right now.”
The Condors did take advantage with their brief power play opportunity right before the period ended. Caleb Jones sent in a shot from the point where Patrick Russell deflected the puck off Korenar and a crashing Callahan was able to tap in the puck into a wide-open net for his 11th goal of the season at 19:34 mark to end a dominating opening 20 minutes by Bakersfield in which they out shot San Jose 16-7.
Bakersfield kept pouring it on to start the second period. Gust led a two-on-one into the Cuda zone. He lost control of the puck that pinballed in front of the crease off the skate of Evan Polei past Korenar on the short side for his sixth goal of the season at the 2:27 mark.
“It’s really frustrating,” said captain John McCarthy. “We’re going through some adversity which the first half of the year we didn’t have. It’s on us as a group to figure it out. We still got 15 games left (in the season) to turn things around and got ourselves in the playoffs.”
San Jose finally broke through in the second period. TJ Hensick fed a cross ice pass from his own blue line over to a wide open Anti Suomela who skated in alone on a breakaway and beat Condors goalie Shane Starrett (22-4-3) with a wrist shot through the five-hole for his fifth goal of the season at the 7:25 mark. Cavan Fitzgerald picked up the secondary assist.
Bakersfield regained their five-goal lead right at the end of the middle frame. Gust skated in between the face off circles and sent a pass over to William Lagesson at the left circle and he blasted a slap shot top-self into the far corner of the net for his fifth goal of the season at the 18:42 mark.
San Jose made it interesting in the third period. Jacob Middleton brought the deficit to 6-2 when he won a battle along the left boards. He skated the puck back out to the point where he wristed a shot past Starrett for his fourth goal of the season at 3:16 mark. Jeffery Viel and Jon Martin were credited with assists.
“Scoring goals is always fun,” said Middleton. “But if you can come out on top with a win, it would be a lot more fun. You play to win the game.”
Middleton wasn’t done as just over a minute later he scored his second goal of the evening. He skated into the Condor zone, fed a pass over to Hensick who fed it right back to a Middleton and he snapped a wrist shot past Starrett to the left side of the net for his fifth goal of the season at the 4:21 mark.
“I don’t think we’ve been playing what I like to call Cuda hockey as of late,” said Middleton. “I think we’ve been letting other teams slow us down and box us out. If we get back to doing what made us successful (earlier in the season), it will be good and that is a necessity at this point of the season.”
San Jose scored its third unanswered goal of the period when Francis Perron sent in a shot from the left point that caromed off the back boards onto the stick of Alex True who fed a sweet backhand pass over to Dylan Gambrell all alone on the left side of the net. Gambrell buried the puck past Starrett for his 16th goal of the season at the 10:21 mark.
Bakersfield regained a three-goal lead when Gust sent in a shot from the point that ricochet off Korenar and Ethan Bear onto the stick of Polei. After three whacks at the pick, Polei scored his second goal of the evening and seventh goal of the season at the 13:22 mark.
“Yeah, big time!” said a frustrated Sommer when asked if his team’s losing streak is a result of not paying attention to details. “We got a lot of guys that aren’t committed to playing the way we were playing before that’s for sure.”
Joe Gambradella completed the scoring with an empty netter for his team leading 27th goal of the season at the 17:45 mark.
Starrett finished the game making 33 saves on 37 shots to earn the victory. Bibeau gave up three goals on just 12 shots. Korenar (19-7-1) suffered the loss as he made 13 saves on 17 shots in mop-up duty.
GAME NOTES: San Jose was 0/4 on the power play. Bakersfield was 1/2.
San Jose has lost the last four games to Bakersfield and are 3-3-1-1 on the season against their Pacific Division rival.
The announced attendance was 2,360.
UP NEXT: The Barracuda take on the Condors on Saturday 3/9 in the second game of a five game homestand at 6:00 pm at SAP Center.