By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
Copyright (c) The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – After traveling 2,400 miles by air during the early morning hours Thursday, sitting on the curb at Los Angeles International Airport for 90 minutes due to a late bus and arriving in Bakersfield at 2 p.m., the Condors played an inspired hockey game Saturday night at Rabobank Arena.
They had to.
After dropping games to the Alaska Aces on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Anchorage, the Condors needed a victory to stay alive in the best-of-five first-round ECHL West Division playoff contest.
The Condors got goals from David Kudelka, Connor James and Ashlee Langdone and that was just enough to hand the Aces a 3-2 defeat and force a Game 4 Saturday night back at Rabobank Arena.
Fans were encouraged to wear black for the “Rolling Blackout” promotion, and the Condors played off the vocal — albeit only 5,000-plus strong — crowd to get the win.
Bakersfield goaltender Davis Parley (pictured) had a solid performance in net, stopping 35 shots, including several during the frantic final minute after the Aces pulled goaltender Matt Underhill for an extra attacker.
“There was no room for error,” said Parley, who played the first two periods Tuesday and all three Wednesday.
“We needed to win this game. I got some pretty good sleep on the airplanes and felt pretty good.”
Underhill, playing his first game of the series, stopped 34 shots.
“I thought it was a great game for both teams after the inhumane way we were treated,” Condors coach Marty Raymond said of the grueling schedule, easily the worst of any of the first-round matchups.
Langdone, known more for big hits than big goals, scored what he called “easily the biggest goal of my career” when he got all of a rebound on a one-timer from the slot.
The shot sailed past Underhill and into the top portion of the net seven minutes and 58 seconds into the third period, putting the Condors up 3-1.
Alaska’s Olivier Filion got the final goal on a slap shot from the left point that just got under Parley’s left pad with 8:22 remaining.
“The puck came right to me,” said Langdone, who hustled from deep in Bakersfield’s zone into the attacking zone and did not have an Aces defender near him. “I just wanted to make sure it went in. We live to see another day.”
The key play of the game came with 1:14 remaining in the second period and the game tied at 1-1. That’s when Alaska’s B.J. Young drove his elbow into a prone Bakersfield defenseman Luis Tremblay, who was flat on his back behind the Bakersfield net.
The incident resulted in a match penalty for Young and a seven-minute power play for the Condors.
The Condors, who have struggled throughout the year and this series with the man advantage, connected 15 seconds into the third period, when Kevin St. Jacques came down the right side and lifted a pass through the slot to James, who banged in the puck from the left post.
The Condors took a 1-0 lead into the second period but the Aces drew even on a two-man advantage when Ryan Gaucher blasted a shot from just outside the face-off circle past Parley at 10:59.
It took the Condors just 1:59 to score the opening, the goal coming on an improbable shot as defenseman David Kudelka fired the puck on net from center ice. The puck hit Underhill between the pads but trickled through for the goal.
“I scored one just like that in Game 7 of a playoff five years ago in the Czech Republic,” Kudelka said. “All I wanted to do (both times) was put the puck on the net. (Underhill) was a new goalie and we wanted to get a lot of shots on him.”
Asked how he felt, Kudelka summed it up for the entire team (and probably the Aces, who would have liked to have traveled home today, as well): “Tired, very tired,” he said.