By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Joe Dustin spent last summer at home in Vadnais Heights, Minn., getting sold on the Bakersfield Condors.
Not by anyone on the coaching staff, but by fellow Minnesotan Josh Liebenow, who played for the Condors the past two seasons and lives just across Interstate 35 from Dustin.
Liebenow was heading to Germany for financial reasons this season but thought Dustin would be a good fit for the Condors. So did coach Marty Raymond after getting a rare face-to-face meeting with a prospective player.
Raymond was part of the coaching staff at a youth hockey school not far from the Twin Cities suburb of Vadnais Heights, so Dustin took the opportunity to stop by and introduce himself.
“It’s not often you have the chance to meet a player and I did,” Raymond said. “We sat down and had dinner after a staff game we played against each other. I had a good feeling about the guy, his behavior and demeanor.”
Dustin hasn’t disappointed. He’s is tied for second on the team in points with 13 and is the top point producing defenseman.
Dustin scored 41 points in 64 games for Oklahoma City in the Central Hockey League two seasons ago and said that while he does enjoy putting up numbers, his first responsibility has to be defensively.
“My personal goal is to play strong defensively first and if I have an opportunity to check up in the offensive zone do it,” he said. “I’d like to put up numbers, score goals and have assists, but I want to take care of the defensive zone first.”
Raymond said his biggest concerns about Dustin heading into the season were on defense but noted the fourth-year pro is taking care of business in his own zone.
“At first I wondered if he was weak defensively but he’s done his job,” Raymond said. “He’s thriving doing the simple things he has to do. He has kind of a settling effect on some of our guys.”
Dustin took the first half of last season off, with the blessing of his coach in Oklahoma City, to do a semester of student teaching, thus earning his teaching credential.
“It was important for me to finish up, I wanted to get it down and out of the way so I have a backup plan and always have that degree,” Dustin said.
But for now, it’s all about hockey for Dustin, who, along with the rest of the team, is trying to dig out of an early-season funk that has left them 4-10-3.
“Anytime you lose a game it’s difficult,” Dustin said. “Sometimes you feel like you did enough to win but it didn’t work out. You just have to go back to the drawing board and keep battling. You have to keep working even harder and create our own bounces so we can start putting a little winning streak together.
“We have the personnel here. We have to stick with the systems that are given to us. If we do that and win the little one-on-one battles on the ice things will turn around.”
While winning would make everything more palatable, Dustin said Bakersfield and the Condors organization are everything Liebenow advertised.
“The organization has been great, the fans are great, they’re always behind you and the guys are just as good,” he said. “Obviously, winning would feed into that, but that will come.”