The Edmonton Oilers’ affiliate American Hockey League (AHL) team, the Bakersfield Condors, have battled their way back into contention after an abysmal 5-game losing skid to start their season. The Condors would go on a 9-game win streak in which they outscored their opponents 38-12 and are currently in the second position in the Pacific Division, only behind the Henderson Silver Knights.
Currently, both the Oilers and the Condors have the two top scorers in their respective leagues. The Oilers having Connor McDavid (20 goals, 38 assists for 58 points) and Leon Draisaitl with 17 goals, 32 assists for 49 points, while the Condors have Cooper Marody (12 goals, nine assists for 21 points) and Tyler Benson with five goals, 12 assist for 17 points; the latter is tied with two other players for the second spot with 17 points in the league.
Marody Magic + Benson-McLeod Excellence
A big component to the success of the Condors is the heroics of Marody, McLeod and Benson this season. I’ve already touched on how Marody’s leading the league in points with Benson following closely behind him, so let’s dive into how the three are accomplishing those feats while having amazing performances night-to-night.
On March 6, they faced-off against the Ontario Reign at home for the first time this season. During that first game of the weekend series, Marody drilled two goals home in the first period and got another one at 9:12 in the second on the power play for his first hat trick of the season. Benson and McLeod had four points each on that night, and the Condors got their fourth-straight win. With eight points, five goals and three assists in three games, Marody was named the CCM Hockey AHL player of the week.
During the March 10 matchup against the San Diego Gulls, Marody assisted on Max Gildon’s first goal in the pros, building upon Cooper’s 7-game point streak. McLeod also had a penalty-shot goal, to note. Fast forward to that weekend, which was the start of a 4-game series against the San Jose Barracuda, and McLeod and Benson helped Marody reach quite the milestone during the first game. McLeod and Benson would get helpers on a Marody goal, which was his 100th point in a Condors jersey after lacing up for 102 games.
Last Saturday was a huge night for the Condors’ leading scorers and for the penalty kill, as they killed their 21st straight one-man disadvantage. Marody opened up the scoring from a pass by Benson to make it 1-0. After the Barracuda tied it up early in the second, Marody’s 11th goal of the season gave Bakersfield the 2-1 lead going into the third period. San Jose scored twice in the period giving them the lead. However, with 45.8 seconds to go in the final frame, you guessed it, Marody scored the equalizer for the game to go into overtime, which was also his second hat trick of the season.
McLeod came out of the penalty box, received a great pass from Marody, entered the offensive zone with blistering speed all alone to win it for the Condors. Marody had 11 goals and six assists over the past nine games coming out of the weekend.
The Condors have led for over 316 minutes and only trailed in a game for 15 minutes during the eight-game win streak at that time. During those eight games, Benson tallied four goals and 11 assists for 15 points with a plus/minus of plus-10, and McLeod was boasting six goals and eight assists for 14 points and a plus-14. Marody had 10 goals, six assists for 16 points with a plus/minus of plus-10.
This last Tuesday night’s game went into overtime, and who else but Marody got the assist on the game-winning goal. The Barracuda was up early in Wednesday’s game and ultimately overcame the Condors 4-3, ending their 9-game win streak.
Benson got a goal and Marody recorded an assist in the losing effort, extending Marody’s point streak to a team record of 11 games. McLeod is sitting pretty at 12th in the league in points with six goals and eight assists.
The Amazing Play of Skinner
Someone I haven’t mentioned yet who deserves a lot of the credit for the wins is starting goaltender Stuart Skinner, a name that Oilers fans would recognize from his first career start earlier this season. (from ‘Unproven Stuart Skinner to get the start for Oilers vs. Ottawa tonight, reports Ryan Rishaug,‘ Edmonton Journal, 01/31/2021) With veteran Mike Smith still injured, Skinner served as the Oilers’ backup to Mikko Koskinen for the first nine games of the season. Skinner got his first chance in net, as he started in the Jan. 31 game against the Ottawa Senators. The Oilers did come out victorious by a score of 8-5. Yes, Skinner did let five get past him, but that was a wild and open game anyways.
Skinner is the much-needed rock for the Condors this season, effectively turning the tide for them since he stepped in between the pipes. After claiming the net for his own on Feb. 19, Skinner stopped 177 of the 184 shots that he faced en route to their first seven wins of the season, two of them were shutouts, for a .962 save percentage (SV%) with a 1.00 goals-against average (GAA). Add in the other two wins to make it nine straight, and his numbers were 9-0-0 with a .948 SV% and a .948 GAA. Those numbers have dipped after the Wednesday loss but are still 9-2-0 on the season with .935 SV% and 1.72 GAA.
With the continued scoring from Marody, Benson and McLeod, plus the fantastically stable work in between the pipes from Skinner, the Condors certainly have a good chance of making the playoffs. If it wasn’t for the mandatory two-week quarantine, the Oilers could be less hesitant to call up Marody this season for some extra scoring help, or call upon Skinner once again to see what he’s made of. If the Oilers did decide to have Skinner come in as a reliever, I would suggest that they do it sparingly. We will see if the COVID-19 restrictions start to become looser in the coming months to allow this player movement, if and only if the Oilers decide to go down that route.
Teagan Giselbrecht is a writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning & Colorado Avalanche here at The Hockey Writers. He completed the Television Broadcasting and Journalism program at N.A.I.T. in 2019. During his first stint in Edmonton, he did Play-by-play for the NAIT Ooks Men’s and Women’s hockey teams. He also worked for the Oilers Entertainment Group, Oilers and Oil Kings respectfully. He has covered various sports at different levels including the NHL, CFL, WHL, AJHL and ACAC. Former television news and sports reporter for Prime Time Local News in Lloydminster, he moved back to Edmonton to pursue career development opportunities with 630 CHED. When he’s not writing for THW, you can find him playing sports and spending time with loved ones.