Photo Credit: @condors on twitter

Bakersfield Condors win AHL Pacific Division title

The Condors keep on flying.

The Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield was named Pacific Division winners Saturday night after edging out the Henderson Silver Knights 3-2.

For the Condors, it marks their second title in the last three years.

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“Having the opportunity to win your last game is a special thing,” Condors Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said following Saturday’s victory. “We wanted to finish this thing off, and to do it in the fashion they did it in impressed me immensely. They’re a special group. I’m very proud of them.”

It was an impressive turnaround season for the Condors after a rocky start. Out of the gate, the Condors dropped the first five games of the season only to roar back going 28-11-1 the remainder of the season.

For the Condors, it’s as far as their season would take them as the AHL didn’t have a competition for the Calder Cup this year.

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Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft felt it was a very important year for some of the organization’s young players.

“I believe playing this season in the AHL was important for our organization’s younger players. I’m not sure people understand what happened here this year. Our organization stepped up big time and absorbed the major expenses involved with all the COVID protocols, testing and everything else involved. Some organizations made a decision to not play in the AHL, but ours stepped up and invested in our younger players We made sure that this was going to be an important year for players to take a step in their careers and develop and I think, as an organization, we’re reaping the benefits of that.

A lot of our younger players took a big step. First and foremost, you saw Ryan McLeod graduate to the NHL and perform admirably. He was one of our success stories down here. He played on a line that I felt was the best in our division with Benson and Cooper Marody. Anytime they were on the ice together, they controlled the puck. Their growth was obvious.

“On the back end, we also had guys take big steps. Markus Niemelainen was someone we didn’t know a ton about but he came down and opened a lot of eyes. We had a draft pick in Vincent Desharnais, a six-foot-seven defenceman who took a big step in his game. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about Stuart Skinner. 

“So, to me, the organization, in committing to playing in the AHL, was a big deal. And we saw the benefits of that.

“Our team started on Jan. 25, when our training camp opened. The teams down here, because they are right beside their NHL team, had been skating together since September. Because of the border issues and quarantines, we didn’t have the start we wanted at 0-5. But we won nine in a row after that. We worked hard to get to the position to win our last game of the year.” – Postmedia

Cooper Marody led the AHL is goal scoring filling the net 21 times with his 36 points in 39 games ranking third in the league. Teammate Tyler Benson wasn’t far being scoring 36 points in 36 games finishing fifth in scoring.

In net, Edmonton’s own Stuart Skinner won a league-high 20 games this year while his .914 save percentage and 2.38 GAA both ranked sixth among eligible goalies. Nobody in the AHL faced more shots than Skinner, who saw 824 fired his way in the 31 games he played.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]