SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Late in the third period, Tyler Benson scored one of the most important goals of his young professional career to send Wednesday night’s game three to overtime. The Bakersfield Condors went on to win 7-6, cutting the San Diego Gulls’ series lead to 2-1.
The Condors got things started early as Joe Gambardella scored his first of three goals on the night. Brad Malone made the play happen with a cross-ice pass to Gambardella, who fired a shot past San Diego netminder Jeff Glass.
Bakersfield retained the lead until the late parts of the first period when San Diego found an answer. With just under six minutes in the period, Adam Cracknell gave the Gulls some life, scoring on a rebound off Shane Starrett.
Bakersfield responded well for the first time this series, as Gambardella found the back of the net for the second time 52 seconds later.
The Condors took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission, out-shooting San Diego 13-10. The period was the best the Condors had played this series.
Ethan Bear picked up where Gambardella left off to start the second. 1:05 into the period, Bear took a one-timer from the top of the zone, beating Glass for his second of the playoffs to give the Condors a 3-1 lead.
Four minutes later, the collapse began for the Condors. Kalle Kossila beat Starrett to the left side during a San Diego power play. The power play came from a careless interference penalty by Evan Bouchard.
11 second later, the Gulls’ offensive explosion continued, as Kiefer Sherwood scored directly after a face off, his fourth goal of the playoffs and the game was now knotted three all.
The Condors played the next two minutes tired and behind the play. Caleb Jones took a slashing call in that time and once again, San Diego cashed in on the opportunity. At 8:10 in the second, the Gulls scored their third goal in three minutes for their first lead of the game. Andy Welinski took a cross-ice feed from Cracknell and buried it to Starrett’s right.
This would be the end of Starrett’s night as the Condors brought out their third goalie of the series, Stuart Skinner.
With six minutes remaining in the second, Gambardella completed his hat trick, scoring on a rebound off of Glass to tie the game for the third time at four apiece. Skinner and the Condors controlled the remainder of the second well, keeping the Gulls off the board. Bakersfield continued to out-shoot San Diego, 24-20.
San Diego’s fire was reignited as the teams took the ice for period three. Just 34 seconds into the period the Gulls would retake the lead when they got the puck in deep, causing Skinner to lose the puck. Corey Tropp eventually found the back of the net with Ben Street getting the helper to give the Gulls their second lead of the evening.
With a bit under the 13 minutes remaining, the Condors took a convincing two-goal lead, courtesy of Sam Steel and an easy back-door goal.
The Condors hopes were holding on by a thread when Malone scored as the puck rolled in following a redirection in front of Glass, his fourth of the playoffs. Bakersfield now found itself within one goal of tying this game yet again.
In the last minute of the game, the Condors pulled Skinner for the extra attacker after a timeout in hopes to tie the game. With 15 seconds left, Bakersfield got a puck deep and put three shots on net before Benson picked up a rebound and sent in behind Glass, who was out of position due to the rebounds.
The goal sent the series to its second overtime in three games. After regulation, Bakersfield still held the shot advantage, 36-29, and it was 6 all where it mattered the most.
It took just one shot and 33 seconds of extra time for Bakersfield to take its first game of the series when William Lagesson netted his second of the playoffs, a top-shelf goal over Glass’ left shoulder.
Bakersfield’s 7-6 overtime win gave it life, as the Pacific Division’s best regular-season team was now only down 2-1 in the division finals.
The Condors outshot the Gulls 37-29 in the game. Both teams were 50% on the power play, with San Diego going 2-for-4 and Bakersfield converting on 1-of-2 opportunities.
Gambardella led the way with five points (3G, 2A) while fellow Condor Malone had four points (1G, 3A) in the high-scoring shootout. As for San Diego, Cracknell led the way with three points (1G, 2A).
Skinner made 10 saves on 12 shots to earn his first professional playoff win in relief of Starrett (who allowed four goals on 17 shots). On the other end, Glass allowed seven goals on 37 shots in the loss.
The Condors and Gulls remain in San Diego for game four on Friday night, with San Diego holding a 2-1 series lead. Thanks to the game three win, the Condors have assured a game five in Bakersfield on Saturday night.
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