BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The frustration level reached the boiling point Saturday for the Bakersfield Condors, who responded with their fists late in a 5-1 loss to the Ontario Reign at Rabobank Arena.
The Condors struggled from the start of the game and were outplayed in nearly every aspect of the game until the end.
Ontario scored on its first shot of the game and went on to a 5-1 victory over the Condors who were throughly beaten in every almost aspect of the game before 5,188.
When it came to the final, nasty 78 seconds, the Condors were clearly the better team.
A line brawl -- the first of the season at Rabobank Arena -- broke out with 1:18 left after Ian McKenzie leveled Kevin Estrada with what appeared to be clean huge hit next to the Condors cage.
The fighting escalated to where three Reign were engaged with two Condors at center ice, which brought Bakersfield goaltender Bryan Pitton into the fray. Pitton pulled off the extra Reign attacker, which drew Ontario goaltender Jean-Francois Berube out of his net.
Pitton didn't want to go at first, then proceeded to whip Berube at center ice, to the delight of the suddenly enthused crowd.
"When you feel like you're not being treated fairly you stand up for yourselves, that's human nature," said Condors coach Matt O'Dette said. "It shows they care and they're not going to lie down when this happens to us. We're not going to get treated that way or laughed at. That's basically what that was all about and I'm glad the guys did it. I wish I had the gear on myself."
O'Dette, and the players, were clearly frustrated on calls and non-calls by referee JM McNulty.
"You get seven penalties in a row on you (in the first two periods), I don't now how you're expected to play," O'Dette said. "I really don't know. It's like two different rulebooks out there, for one team and the other.
"Obviously guys are frustrated. Guys don't know how to play any more with what's being called. It's impossible to know what's a penalty."
All was not done after the line brawl.
Hans Benson found a dancing partner, who really didn't want to dance with 43 seconds left and three fights broke out with five seconds left. The highlight of that for Condors fan was Tyler Helfrich getting the best of Steven Tarasuk.
That left Bakersfield coach Matt O'Dette and Ontario coach Jason Christie getting into a heated discussion.
"Part of the battle," O'Dette said. "He had some nice things to say and I had some nice things to say back. We talked about our playing careers.
"Their team flops around the ice and dives and they don't answer the bell at all when they get called out on the carpet. That type of stuff boils over but that's hockey."
The final five seconds were calm.
When the final penalty tally came in, it was a Condors combined record of 278 minutes, eclipsing the old benchmark of 254 minutes, set in Alaska exactly one year earlier.
Bill Bagron started the scoring for Ontario 59 seconds into the game and the Reign made it 2-0 on their first shot of the second period on a goal by Tarasuk.
C.J Stretch scored a power-play goal at 13:50 of the second and Ontario went up 4-0 on an Estrada goal four minutes into the third.
Parker Stanfield scored Bakersfield's goal eight minutes into the third and Geoff Irwin got the final goal for Ontario five minutes later.
Pitton -- who played great in a 2-1 overtime loss Friday night -- struggled on Saturday night (26 shaves on 31 shots) but he was far from alone.
Once again the Condors made Berube looking like an All-Star goalie. Berube (6-9-1) entered the game with a 3.42 goals-against average and .874 save percentage.
Bakersfield scored five goals against Berube in the opening game of the season for a 5-4. But Berube stopped all 15 shots against Bakersfield in his last appearance against the Condors on Jan. 3 and he made 28 saves on 29 shots on Saturday night.
The Reign end the season series against the Condors having won the last eight games.
"They're a good team, I'll give them that for sure," O'Dette said. "They outplayed us all year. They can point at the scoreboard but we're not going to let them take liberties on us, that's for sure."
* Forward Ian McKenzie was back on the ice for the Condors on Saturday night after suffering what Condors coach Matt O'Dette initially thought was a potentially serious knee injury in the third period on Friday night.
* The Condors continue their six-game homestand on Wednesday night against the Stockton Thunder.