Monday, Jan 14 2013 07:29 PM

Optimism reigns in Condorland

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    By Rod Thornburg/ Special to The Californian

    Condors vs. Idaho Condor's #83 Jacob Lagace takes a spill in the first period against the Idaho Steelheads.

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BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer

After three straight wins in the span of 2½ days, the Condors had a well-deserved day off from practice Monday.

Not so for coach Matt O'Dette and assistant coach Kevin Barrett, who where holed up in a Rabobank Arena office doing what they normally do -- going over video, plotting strategy and looking for ways to keep improving the team.

Related Info

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Rabobank Arena

Radio: KHTY (970 AM)

Reign record: 25-10-3

Condors' record: 11-25-3

Series: Bakersfield is 0-3-1

Notes: The Reign lost several key players, including both goaltenders, after the lockout ended and are coming of a trip to Alaska where it went 1-1. Dustin Carlson is now the goaltender for Ontario ... Condors defenseman Trevor Hendrikx has missed 16 games due to injury. Forward Brett Perlini, who suffered a broken jaw in the seventh game of the season, is also close to returning to action ... Anyone bringing two canned food items to tonight's game will get into the game for $1 ...The Condors play their next seven games on the road and do not return to Rabobank Arena until Feb. 1.

The Condors. who had just eight wins through 36 games before the National Hockey League lockout ended, are riding a three-game winning streak in the new-look ECHL, one of four teams on such a streak.

"Its the new season we've been talking about, it really is," O'Dette said of Bakersfield's sudden success. "There's a ton of optimism and it's our time to shine but we've got to keep it going."

O'Dette said the toughest task for him and Barrett over the past month was trying to keep a positive vibe on a team where the losses were mounting faster than the federal deficit.

"It's important the players are experiencing everything we've been saying was going to happen," O'Dette said. "(The losing) has been frustrating an has taken a toll mentally. One of the biggest jobs we've had was trying to keep everything positive.

"We knew this day would come; we just thought it would be a lot sooner. Now we're here and the guys are feeling the shift. This is the ECHL the way its meant to be, not loaded up with a bunch of players who should be in the AHL."

Around 110 players have been called up from the ECHL and the Condors became the last team to experience that on Monday as forward Tyler Brenner, assigned to them by Toronto, was recalled to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Brenner had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 32 games with the Condors.

Actually Brenner is the second player the Condors have lost due to the ending of the lockout as Max Campbell, who played two games after being acquired in a trade, suddenly left for Norway after a job opened up with the end of the lockout.

"I came in on Friday and found out Campbell was leaving an that's the day stuff started happening with Brenner so the weekend didn't get off to a great start," O'Dette said. "We took a couple of hits and the better we play the more our guys will get noticed, and maybe have a chance to go up, but that's what we want. We want our guys to do well."

Certainly, the end of the lockout and some recent trades and acquisitions have changed the look of the Condors, who racked up 15 goals in the three wins. Prior to that the team totaled 15 goals in seven games.

Newcomers forward Nicholas Tremblay, defenseman Kyle Haines and forward Francis Verreault have played a huge role in the three wins, combining for 15 points (eight goals, seven assists)."

"He's a talented player, that's for sure," O'Dette said of Tremblay, who had four goals and four assists in his first three games of the season. "To do what he did this weekend in his first three games is impressive, to say the least.

"And Haines (three goals, one assist) is the type of defenseman we thought he would be -- offensively-minded but strong in his own zone."

Also having a strong weekend after coming back from injury was Jacob Lagace. Lagace had two goals, two assists, plus-four rating and drew several penalties in the two games against Idaho.

"That's something that doesn't go unnoticed," O'Dette said of Lagace's play. "He works his butt off, is responsible defensively and draws a lot of attention to himself. He plays hard."

But as good as the weekend ened up, O'Dette realizes there is a lot of ground to be made up and there can be no rest for the coaching staff.

"We'll alway keep trying to improve, no matter where we are in the standings." O'Dette said. "We always want to be better."

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