BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
For whatever reason, the Condors can't seem to win in front of large gatherings on home ice.
The Stockton Thunder roared out to a 3-0 lead and went on to a 4-1 victory Thursday night at Rabobank Arena before 8,023, the second-largest crowd this season.
The Condors, who entered the game riding a four-game winning streak, are now 1-4 on home ice in front of crowds in excess of 6,600.
Gone in 60 minutes was the previously stellar play of Condors goaltender Brian Stewart, and the chance to gain ground on the San Francisco Bulls.
Gone, too, were prolific scorers Nicholas Tremblay (loaned to Providence, R.I., in the American Hockey League) and Scott Freeman (injury). Freeman and Tremblay had combined for 10 points over the past four games and 40 overall in a combined 36 games with the Condors.
Two of Stockton's first three goals came on power plays, and gone, too, was Condors coach Matt O'Dette's patience with referee J.M. McNaulty.
"We were better than them. We outplayed them," O'Dette said.
(McNaulty) took it away from us. Again. Same guy every time. It's embarrassing. I don't know what to say about the officiating, but he robbed us."
O'Dette was called for a bench minor -- abusive language -- with nine minutes left in the game and let McNaulty know exactly how he felt after the game. That earned him a game misconduct after the fact.
"It's one thing calling our penalties, it's fine," said O'Dette, still fuming as she spoke with the media. "There's handfuls of penalties he could have called our way early in the game. He spites us and calls make-up ones with under a minute to go. That's unacceptable.
"He's just making the score sheet look good at the end of the night. It's a friggin' joke. A joke."
The Thunder won in much the same fashion the Condors had in their past four games: Superb goaltending and opportunistic scoring, despite being outshot 39-26
The Condors were dictating play in the first period -- outshooting the Thunder 11-5 -- when the momentum turned on one whistle and one shot.
A high-sticking call against Tyler Maxwell put the Thunder on a power play and Shawn Weller redirected the first shot of that power play past Stewart for a 1-0 lead with 3:47 left in the period.
Matt Bergland put the Thunder up 2-0 seven minutes into the second period and Tony Dehart made it 3-0 with a power-play goal at 8:25.
The Condors went on a power play right after that and cut the lead to 3-1 on an Evan Trupp goal at 10:38.
"We had some scoring opportunities," O'Dette said. "We're missing a couple of offensive players tonight that might have been able to convert some of those.
"But I thought we worked extremely hard and deserved a better fate."
The Thunder ended any hopes of a Bakersfield comeback when Maxime Boisclair scored with under six minutes to play.
Stewart (21 saves on 25 shots) left the game at that point and went right to the locker room.
"He's been playing a lot of hockey lately and I think he got hurt there at the end of the game," O'Dette said. "He's been carrying us. I can't say enough about him."