BENTON’S BLOG: Emotion and Atmosphere

Thursday, 02.21.13 / 12:57 PM
By Mike Benton

Needless to say, this is a test of endurance. Tonight, it moves to a place that should feature no shortage of emotion.

Four games in five days marches on with the Thunder and Bakersfield Condors meeting in a rivalry renewed at Rabobank Arena which has featured plenty of twists, turns and magic of the offensively-fueled and “creative” kind.

Bakersfield put voodoo dolls bearing the Thunder name in front of their fans in late December. All the Thunder has done? Boast six games of scoring four goals or more in nine outings against the Condors. Putting the puck to the back of the net is no problem.

They’ve handled the atmosphere quite well too. Tonight will be the final time the two teams meet at Rabobank Arena this season – a venue that’s quite famous for its boisterous atmosphere. So far, the Thunder is 3-2-0 at the venue off “Korn Row” (yes, the street named after the famous metal band). It’s a big reason why the Thunder has guaranteed itself a season series win – they know how to handle this road situation.

One player to keep an eye on: Shawn Weller. The 26-year old forward and former Condor captain (09-10) returns to the venue he used to call “home.” Two points in four games is a bit of a quiet start for him since joining the Thunder, but don’t forget that he was banged up for several weeks in the American Hockey League before returning to the ECHL.

Following today’s morning skate at Ontario, Weller admitted he’s still a work in progress with getting back to where he wants to be physically. Patience is a key – he’s a forward who relies on physical play when he’s at his best. Tonight’s game location could be a factor if Weller comes flying out of the gate.

“I had a great time in Bakersfield,” said Weller. “It was a great place to play and we had a real good team when I was there. I’ll be excited to go back.”

And about those Condors? Don’t count them out yet. A four game win streak (their longest of the season) has put them back in the playoff hunt. With San Francisco trending in the wrong direction (2-6-2 in the last ten games), Bakersfield is just four points back with 15 to play.

A Thunder win tonight also knocks its magic number down to four points for a Kelly Cup Playoff berth.

Indeed, tonight will feature no shortage of emotion.

We’ll talk with you at 6:45 p.m. on 1280 AM KWSX and AmericaOne.

Mike Benton has served the Thunder as television and radio play-by-play announcer since the team’s inception. Got a question or comment? Follow Mike on twitter at twitter.com/Benton_mike