BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer email@example.com
Liam Huculak was signed on Thursday to provide a physical presence for the Condors.
On Friday night at Rabobank Arena he scored a goal in his first game in a Condors sweater since he played here in the 2008-09 season.
It wasn't enough.
The ECHL-leading Alaska Aces, with only one of its three NHL players in the lineup, came away with a 2-1 victory before 4,092 who had little reason to cheer.
"It's one thing to lose to that team and give our best effort, leave it all out on the ice," Condors coach Matt O'Dette said. "That wasn't the case. It's a good team but they were beatable tonight. No oomph. I don't know if that makes any sense but no oomph from our forwards or urgency to compete hard enough to score a goal."
It was the sixth straight loss for the Condors (5-12-1-2) and the fourth straight win for the Aces (15-5-0-0)
Bobby Hughes broke a 1-1 tie and scored the game-winner for the Aces 1:35 into the second period.
Playing catchup, the Condors generated almost zero offensive chances, getting just six shot shots in the second after Alaska's go-ahead goal and generating just four shots in the third. They were outshot 41-21 for the game, the 15th straight game they have been out shot.
Brian Stewart kept it close, making 39 saves.
"He played great," O'Dette said of Stewart. "Obviously, especially on our power play. They had two or three breakaways and some 2 on 1s and he stood tall for us. He's a battler. If his compete level was in the rest of our guys we probably win that game 5-2. But his compete level is not in the rest of our guys. Unfortunately."
The power play was, in a word, atrocious as the Condors went 0-for-6 and generated just one shot on goal. A two-man advantage in the first period resulted in four shots that sailed wide or high and two that hit bodies.
"Guys that think they're power play players, well, maybe they're not," O'"Dette said. "They're not showing it ... The compete level for the power play guys was brutal. They had more scoring chances on their PK than we did on our PP."
Searching for a highlight, O'Dette cited his penalty killers, who stopped all five Alaska power plays, even though the Aces spent a lot of time in the Bakersfield zone.
"Our PK was our bright spot," he said. "We did well on the PK."
As usual, the first period was the best for the Condors, despite the Aces jumping out to an early lead.
NHL players Nate Thompson and Scott Gomez sat out leaving Joey Crabb, Alaska's leading scorer, as the only NHLer on the ice.
It took just 5:44 for Cobb to make his presence known as, all alone the the bottom of the left circle, he rifled a shot past Stewart to stake the Aces to a 1-0 lead.
Bakersfield battled back with Huculak getting a strange goal at the 9:22 mark.
Evan Trupp's shot from the right circle went in on Alaska goaltender Gerald Coleman and through his legs, sitting behind him just inches from the goal line. A pair of Alaska players in front of Coleman stopped but referee Chris Pitoscia, positioned right behind the net, saw the puck was not covered a never blew the whistle.
Huculak, at the right edge of the net, reached in behind Coleman and jammed the puck over the line.
The Condors had 10 shots in that period, one less than the next two periods combined.
Center Levi Nelson is no longer wearing the "C" as the captain. Erik Burgdoerfer, Peter Boyd and Trevor Hendrikx all wore an "A" as alternate captain.
Tonight's game in Stockton starts a sort of tour of California. The Condors will bus back to Bakersfield afterward then bus up to San Francisco on Wednesday. They will bus back after the game against the Bulls then bus to Ontario for a Friday night game.