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Photo: Mark Nessia

A brotherhood in Bakersfield

by Ryan Holt | AHL On The Beat

“It’s a good time of year to get on a roll.”

Caleb Jones’ words are emblematic of the Bakersfield Condors’ current 15-game winning streak. But while the team is seeing the fruits of their labor during the second half of the season, Bakersfield’s success has been an evolution of a brotherhood culture established from day one.

“The culture and work ethic of this team has been outstanding,” said first-year head coach Jay Woodcroft. “Their care for each other runs marrow-deep. All the credit goes to these players who are really working their tails off.”

Woodcroft was named head coach in Bakersfield on April 27, 2018. At that time, he was given a mandate from management to “make the playoffs and develop players for the Edmonton Oilers.” From that point forward, he has taken steps to make his mandate a reality, building a staff, and developing players in a winning environment along the way.

“At the end of the day, winning is important. Everyone wants winners. We’ve ingrained that in these players right from our opening meeting of training camp and so far our players have really bought in.”

One of those players who has benefited has been Josh Currie. Now in his fifth full season in Bakersfield, last season’s leading scorer and this season’s leader in goals earned his first NHL recall on Monday. A point of pride for the player and the coaching staff, and a result of the dedication to put the team first to develop individual success.

“Jay is a very personable guy,” Currie said. “He really gets to know you on a one-on-one level and away from the rink. It’s been huge for us this year to have a guy get to know who you are as a person, not just a hockey player. He’s very detail-oriented, it’s good for our group, and it’s definitely been working.”

Photo: Mark Nessia

 

And while the players are certainly learning under the tutelage of a head coach with 13 years of experience in the NHL, their bench boss is studying under them as well.

“I think in the game of hockey, you learn from different people every single day,” he said. “And to me I’ve learned from some great coaches in my career and a great staff here in Bakersfield. But, I’ve also learned from some great players here who have kept me on my toes and put a bounce in my step to make sure I’m bringing something every day to them.”

The Condors became one of just seven AHL teams to ever win 15 games in a row, tied for the fourth-longest streak in AHL history. They will look to make it 16 on Saturday night in Tucson. They have trailed for just over 49 minutes during this stretch and have outscored teams 69-31 over those 15 games.

No matter how much longer this streak carries on, the team knows that being a team and playing for one another will ultimately be what defines this year’s Condors.

“Jay in an unbelievable coach and his staff have all been really good compliments to what he’s brought to Bakersfield,” said second-year winger Joe Gambardella. “He’s brought a team-first game and everyone is excited to come to the rink. Everyone wants to be here and everyone wants to get better.”

And while everything about the past six weeks has been fun, the brotherhood and tight-knit bond of this year’s Condors is dead set on making sure the fun carries into the spring.

Because, after all, nobody has more fun.