Recapping a whirlwind trip to watch the Bakersfield Condors

Photo credit:Zach Laing
Zach Laing
9 months ago
The Scotiabank Saddledome is far from a perfect arena.
In its bowels, the Bakersfield Condors dressing room was no more than a closet under the bleachers. It’s a tight, cramped space, but there’s something about it that has some charm. A lot of it, I think, has to do with its press levels.
It truly is a unique experience to walk the catwalk, which I nervously did for the first time in years, but sitting right above the ice is an experience like no other. It’s where I found myself on Thursday and Friday nights sitting alongside our prospect writer Bruce Curlock. The two of us got some media passes set up, and I took the trek down the QE2 to meet up with Bruce and see what this team was all about.
Both games were a blast, and it marked the first time I covered a hockey game in the Saddledome since I covered the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen in the 2018-19 season. On Thursday, the Condors had a massive 5-1 victory over the Calgary Wranglers. This is a young Bakersfield side that was going up against a veteran-laden, big, strong Wranglers side. Calgary sits near the top of the AHL’s Pacific Division, and the AHL as a whole, while the Condors, who are starting to find their game, are far from the top of either ranking. Yet still, they didn’t allow themselves to be pushed around at all. Impressive stuff.
As the clock ticked down in the dying minutes of the game, Bruce and I took off for the elevators and for the depths of the ‘Dome once again. We chatted with Condors head coach Colin Chaulk, as well as Oilers draft picks Raphael Lavoie and Michael Kesselring. Both were great interviews and have sky-rocketed up the Oilers’ prospect list. I’ll be doing features on both players early this week, as well as another on some of the veteran players that are helping to lead the way.
Friday night, the Condors stayed hot. Dino Kambeitz scored two minutes into the game and they carried a great third period Thursday night into Friday. The Wranglers tried to push the Condors around with a heavy forecheck and physical play, but Bakersfield played around it very well. Tensions ran hot and early in the third it came to a head when Wranglers forward Adam Klapka took a run at Condors forward Noah Philp. Bakersfield defenceman Alex Peters took exception and got the best of Klapka. Things got off the rails late. With around 40 seconds left in the frame, the Wranglers came clear-as-day offside into the Condors zone, and were able to score with seconds left on the clock.
It was an ugly end to what was a strong game from the Bakersfield side pushing the pace of play all game long. The Condors side was irate, and for some reason, this one didn’t go to review. I’d be curious to know what was said after the final whistle, because Seth Griffith, Luke Esposito and others from the Bakersfield side clearly got under the skin of the Wranglers. Those two and a few others were nearly surrounded by Calgary players after the game looking for a scrap. Understandably, the Condors weren’t available for interviews after Friday’s game.
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to watch this back-to-back, and getting live looks at lots of these prospects only further solidified the belief that there’s some real solid prospects still in the Oilers system.

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