INSIDE HOCKEY » ECHL Get Inside! Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:48:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Photo Gallery: Stingrays @ Nailers (4/25/14) Sun, 27 Apr 2014 20:41:10 +0000

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The Wheeling Nailers swept the South Carolina Stingrays in the 1st round of the ECHL playoffs with a 4-2 win Friday, April 25, 2014 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, WV.  (Inside Hockey – Rachel Lewis)

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San Francisco Bulls: No More Comebacks Thu, 30 Jan 2014 20:57:24 +0000

On Monday afternoon, the San Francisco Bulls announced that they would cease operations immediately. They only played 40 games of their second season. The attendance reports are there on the ECHL site for anyone to see, like the catastrophic vitals of a terminal patient. The resounding silence of their marketing campaign, so boisterous last season, had been humming like a flatline tone since October. The surprise is not that the Bulls failed, but that they survived for so long in such a condition. On the ice, the team was stronger than before, but it didn’t show up in their final stats. That was a detail that only those who watched the games would know. Those viewers were too few, but as the link above shows, they were enthusiastic.

The team was 15-20-5 on the season, they were in eighth place in the West. The Bulls’ points leader was Dean Ouellet with 30 points. Their goals leader was Tyler Gron with 17, Dale Mitchell and Jordan Morrison had 11 each. The assists leaders were Dean Ouellet and Brett Findlay with 20 each. Steven Tarasuk lead in points for a defenseman with 15, Dylan King had 12 points. Tyler Beskorowany had a .899 save percentage with a GAA of 3.37. Captain Scott Langdon lead the team in penalty minutes with 100. Langdon, Kyle Bigos and Chris Crane played all 40 games.

Some of the players have already turned up on the ECHL transactions sheet. Defenseman Eriks Sevcenko signed with the Florida Everblades on Wednesday. The San Jose Sharks reassigned Sebastian Stalberg to the Ontario Reign, and reassigned goaltender J.P. Anderson and Chris Crane to Worcester. The Worcester Sharks also loaned Kyle Bigos, Riley Brace and Steven Tarasuk to the Los Angeles Kings affiliate. Tyler Gron is on an AHL contract with the Worcester Sharks, signed on January 6.

What none of that shows is the role the team played for so many people. Interns and rookies got a chance to do things for the first time, or do them more in the real bustle of professional sports. You learn to do nothing so well as you do by doing it, and better still in a hurry and on a tight budget. A lot of people saw live hockey who probably wouldn’t have a had a chance to do so. Fleeting as it was, many people had jobs for a time.

There are plenty of people who justifiably feel betrayed by the organizational failure. Some people didn’t need the experience or the detour in their professional paths. Of course, failure sucks. It is a good thing to avoid if at all possible. It is also a fairly regular occurrence in minor league sports. It is not surprising, therefore, that the team’s demise got more coverage than its life after birth ever did from the local sports media. Amid the recent flurry of simple announcements, one piece stands out to me, a thank you note from Peter Hartlaub at the SF Chronicle. I thank him for that, as I thank the Bulls for a valiant effort.

I was heartsick at the loss of the team, but I am so much more grateful than I am sorry. They gave me words and time and experience. That’s what I might have told them if there had been one last media scrum.

There was one of course, as usual, after that last home game I didn’t know was the last, at Curcio’s desk in the coaches’ office. We asked questions about the game, about the new player, standing with our backs to assistant coach Kyle Paige’s desk. A tv screen on the wall behind us showed some game or another on mute. Then we were huddled in the narrow, bright hallway, getting quotes from players in front of the black curtain that shielded the way to the dressing room and medical treatment room. The treatment room where we had conducted some interviews, with Morrison in the ice tub, or Beskorowany flat on his back on a table.

That black curtain was new this season, so the guys didn’t have to scamper back and forth from shower to locker room, in view of the press. We stood there, talking about the game, this goal, that momentum swing, the final comeback. All ending in “thank you” before the player disappeared behind the curtain again. That was it, the last media scrum for the San Francisco Bulls, just like any other.

Why would there be another one? What more is there to say? The Bulls are gone, leaving behind memories… and a whole lot of collectible fan gear.

I remember my first player interview, sitting on folding chairs with Jordan Morrison, in the dark Cow Palace tunnel after a practice. I asked poorly planned questions, then did an inadequate write up. Another time, writers stood in that tunnel doing post-game interviews while the players gathered with the Utah Grizzlies outside the dressing rooms. The Bulls were catching up with friends, getting ready to go out. Between questions, we studied the condition of Scott Langdon’s hands. He had fought that night.

In that first interview, Morrison described the recurrent theme in all this. He said that he went wherever the wind may carry him. I hope he lands well and prospers. I hope they all do, in Fresno or elsewhere.

It is a fine thing to know that what is born will thrive, that your team, win or lose, will be back next season to try again. That is an illusion, of course. Whether by little changes or massive upheavals, rebuilds or relocation, nothing stays the same. When the Bulls came to San Francisco, I had attended exactly one minor league hockey game. Now I have followed a team from the cradle to the grave.

What a whirlwind it was. I marvel at the chutzpah it takes to embark on such a venture. I sympathize with those who were disrupted, relocated and hurt by the failure. I know there was money lost, hopes were crushed, time and effort spent and gone. I feel slightly guilty saying only: thank you.

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Bulls Add Ryan Garlock, Win Two of Three Tue, 21 Jan 2014 02:40:24 +0000

The San Francisco Bulls have won two of their last three games. They won 5-4 at home against the third place Colorado Eagles. They won 4-3 in a shootout on the road against their nearby rivals and last season’s Western Conference Champions, the Stockton Thunder. In between those wins, they lost on the road to the Bakersfield Condors. The Condors are now tied with the Bulls in points but have three games in hand on San Francisco.

The Bulls have been making good comebacks but haven’t played much with a lead this season. This is something the team wants to address, as head coach Pat Curcio explained after Wednesday’s win:

We’re real tired of chasing teams all the time. We need to try to get out– especially in our rink when we’ve got home ice advantage and last change– to get out to an early lead and let teams chase us.

Even though the team did grab the early lead Wednesday, they fell behind again in the second period. Riley Brace says that the team doesn’t panic when they fall behind, as they did on Wednesday:

In my short time here I’ve realized that there’s big momentum swings with this team and when we play against other teams and we just got to stay calm… When other teams come back on us like that, we know we have the firepower to score off the rush. We have a pretty good offensive team when we get going.

The Bulls started the second period with a 2-0 lead, but gave up three goals in the second period before Jordan Morrison scored to tie it up at 19:45 of the period. Of that last-second goal, Curcio said:

It changed the whole game. I think Mo’s the first guy to admit, their line on that last goal they gave up, the third, was something they weren’t too happy about. But they made up for it.

The teams were tied 4-4 by the end of regulation, and the Bulls went on to win 5-4 in overtime. Goals came from Ryan Garlock, Luke Judson, Jordan Morrison, Riley Brace and Dale Mitchell. The Bulls’ power play scored twice in four opportunities, including the overtime winner. Their penalty kill gave up one goal to Colorado’s two power plays.

His goal in that game was Brace’s first with the Bulls. He has only played eight games in his two stints with San Francisco this season. He also has four assists in those games. He has found quick chemistry with linemates. Just before Ryan Flanigan took the faceoff before Brace scored that goal, Brace skated by and appeared to say something to Flanigan. I asked if they were setting up a play there. Brace said not exactly:

I just kinda told him to watch the guy going forward ‘cuz it looked like he switched his hands on his stick and was going to try to walk around him. So I just gave Flanny the heads up that that’s what was probably going to happen. It turned out that’s what happened and we countered it and went the other way.

He went the other way and scored off a very tidy two on one play.

It is strange that in a week when the Bulls were clicking well enough to beat teams ahead of them in the standings, they fell to the Bakersfield Condors on Friday. That loss let the Condors jump over the Bulls in the standings, on the basis of games played.

The Bulls took a first period lead against the Condors, but gave it up in the second and couldn’t get it back. Bakersfield scored three unanswered goals in the second period, and neither team scored in the third. The Bulls’ penalty kill gave up one goal on three penalties, and their power play couldn’t score on two chances. Goals were scored by Brett Findlay and Dean Ouellet, with Beskorowany making 25 saves on 29 shots. The Bulls lost the shot clock race by a slight margin, 29-27.

The Bulls followed that up with a very aggressive game in Stockton on Sunday. The game started with a mid-first period goal from Stockton, followed by a fight between Kyle Bigos and Stockton’s Alex MacLeod. MacLeod had just delivered a check to the head on Luke Judson. MacLeod was given a match penalty.

The Bulls outshot the Thunder by 45-32, and the Bulls tied the game twice to push it to overtime. Bulls goals were scored by Jordan Morrison (with assists to Mitchell and Ouellet) and Sebastian Stalberg (assists to Bigos and Sevcenko). The Bulls survived an overtime penalty to prevail in a shootout. Each team successfully killed 4 penalties.

After Sunday’s shootout win, the Bulls are now 4-1 in shootouts. That record is the third best in the ECHL, and the best in the Western Conference. Bulls’ goaltender Tyler Beskorowany has certainly helped that stat, but the team’s shooters have to get some credit too.

Last Tuesday, the Bulls added to their arsenal by acquiring Ryan Garlock from Bakersfield. Garlock has played 321 games in the AHL, and only 82 ECHL games. In those 82 games he now has 87 points. Bakersfield probably would have preferred not to trade him to San Francisco, but they found themselves in a bind:

We have a rule in this league that you’re only allowed four veterans and Bakersfield had six and someone has to go. One guy broke his hand so they couldn’t trade him so they had to move one and we were fortunate to be able to pick him up.

We haven’t had a player of his caliber here yet… If you look at his points per game in our league, there’s not a player … that has ever played for us that has done what he’s done.

Garlock introduced himself to San Francisco by scoring the first goal of the game Wednesday, after driving up from Bakersfield the day before.

On December 27, someone who looked like he might be a hockey player was seen in the press box. Unable to put a name to the face, or account for him doing a quick head count, I asked Curcio about him after the game. Curcio said only: “He’s just a ghost right now, that’s all I can say.”

Evidently the contract details had not yet been ironed out between the Bulls and Latvian defenseman Eriks Sevcenko. He has played nine games with the team now, has one goal and four assists. He earned three of those points, including the goal, in his first game.

His arrival eased the departure of Collin Bowman, who was traded to Bakersfield for Garlock. Technically, Bowan was recalled to the AHL by Worcester and then reassigned to Bakersfield. The end result was the same, with the Bulls losing a defenseman and gaining a veteran forward.

In Sunday’s matinee at Stockton, Bulls forward Luke Judson left the game after the hit from Alex MacLeod. He did not return to the game. Judson had a fight in the Bakersfield game two nights before, he has four goals this season, and has been getting more scoring chances. He also played defense in a game back on December 21, when the team was short a few players. The team doesn’t play again until January 30, so hopefully he will have time to recover.

Dean Ouellet has taken over the position of points leader for the team, followed closely by Brett Findlay, Jordan Morrison and Dale Mitchell.

Tyler Gron and Adrian Foster are still at the top of the list but are with the AHL right now. Gron has played five games with the Worcester Sharks, has one goal, two penalty minutes and is a +2. Foster has played five games with the Abbotsford Heat since being called up. He has one assist, two penalty minutes and is even in plus/minus.

The Bulls next play at home against the Stockton Thunder, on January 30. Game time is 7:30. Get to the Cow Palace, listen on or watch on Ticket information can be found on the Bulls’ website.

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Photo Gallery: Walleye @ Royals 01/17/14 Sat, 18 Jan 2014 17:13:11 +0000

READING, Pa. — At the Santander Arena, T.J. Syner had two goals and two assists to lead the Reading Royals to a 5-2 victory over the Toledo Walleye.  The “3 Stars of the Game” were #3 REA Brandon Anderson, #2 REA Brandon Blandina, #1 REA T.J. Syner.  Photos taken by Steve Rusyn for Inside Hockey.

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Slow Starts Cost SF Bulls Against Alaska Aces Wed, 15 Jan 2014 19:23:25 +0000

The Alaska Aces may not be the runaway ECHL point leaders they were last season, but they still occupy a special, dark place in the hearts of the San Francisco Bulls and their fans. Last weekend’s trio of games at the Cow Palace did little to change that. Despite a stunning comeback from the Bulls in Friday’s game, San Francisco only earned two points in three games.

After Saturday’s loss, Bulls head coach Pat Curcio said:

I think we blew a few points this weekend. I thought [Thursday], we started off slow, last night we started slow, and tonight we started slow. It’s hard to come back all the time, always chasing teams from behind.

In light of last week’s numerous roster moves, Curcio anticipates improvement in general:

Obviously, we’re a little bit of a different team, and this was our first weekend together without really getting a chance to practice, so I think that we will become better as a team and hopefully more complete.

Despite the two losses, Curcio saw improvement in the Bulls’ power play by the third game:

We had some puck movement; we had some good chances. Their goaltender made some big saves when he needed to. That’s why he was playoff MVP last year.

The Bulls lost to the Aces four games to one in last season’s playoffs. That memory lingers in their rivalry, as forward Jordan Morrison explained:

We played against them in the playoffs last year, and they’ve got Peter Sivak, and you never like to see a former teammate coming in and winning in our barn. It’s hockey, and you compete out there and every night’s a battle.

That one of the two losses was close is small consolation for the Bulls, who only earned two of six possible points last weekend.

THURSDAY’s game ended 3-2 for Alaska. The Bulls had two power plays in the first period, but Alaska scored first, off of the team’s first shot 11:57 into the game. James Martin’s shot went around Bulls goaltender Tyler Beskorowany and in, off the post. Assists went to Tommy Mele and Evan Trupp.

The Bulls tied it up with just over three minutes left in the period, after a long spell in the offensive zone. They didn’t take many shots in that time, but the Aces had a heck of a time getting the puck out. Finally, Dale Mitchell put the puck on net, and Dean Ouellet tipped it in to tie the game. Assists went to Mitchell and Brett Findlay.

The Aces retook the lead with 4:58 remaining in the second period, when defenseman Dustin Molle beat Beskorowany with a backhand. The Bulls had been mostly trapped in their zone for too long. They extended the lead just over two minutes later when Mathew Sisca took advantage of a breakaway and beat Beskorowany. The lone assist went to Brad Richard.

The Aces were due for a power play when the third period started, and they got one when Scott Langdon was called for slashing at the 1:44 mark. The Bulls killed that off and gained the zone, staying a step ahead of the Aces through several cycles. With 15:23 left, Steven Tarasuk took a shot from the half wall that went by Alaska goaltender Olivier Roy, bringing the Bulls within one. Riley Brace got an assist on the goal.

With 9:46 left in the period, the Bulls were back on the penalty kill. Langdon made his second trip to the box, this time for kneeing. 23 seconds into the penalty kill, Mitchell was called for hooking, putting the Bulls down by two men.

The Bulls killed off both penalties, and Dale Mitchell came out of the box ready for a breakaway, but the pass was ahead of him and the Aces had an eye on him anyway.

With 3:30 left, Langdon took a third trip to the penalty box, this time for interference.

The Bulls had 37 seconds of power play time to end the game but ran out of time.

FRIDAY, Peter Sivak spent the first period catching up on those points he didn’t score Thursday. He scored one and assisted on the two other goals Alaska scored in the first frame.

The Aces kicked the Bulls down early, scoring on a third try after Beskorowany made two quick saves. The goal was scored by Eli Zuck just 18 seconds in to the period. Assists went to Mele and Sivak.

The Bulls had to kill a penalty at 8:41 when Magomed Gimbatov was called for tripping. They killed that off, but on their first power play opportunity they gave up a goal and found themselves down by two.

Alaska’s Ross Ring-Jarvi tripped Beskorowany and in less than a minute, the Bulls found themselves skating the wrong way twice. The second time, Sivak struck.

With 4:48 left in the period, the Aces entered the zone again, and with a shot from the half wall, Drew MacKenzie gave the Aces a three-goal lead. Assists went to Ring-Jarvi and Sivak, who earned his third point of the period.

The Bulls’ new Latvian defenseman, Eriks Sevcenko, had a breakaway to cope with at the very end of the period. He took the opportunity to knock the Alaska player off the puck, using clean, shoulder-to-shoulder contact. It was a small thing, but a tidy maneuver in what had been a very disorderly first period for his team. It also stopped the player from taking the shot. It wasn’t exactly a turning point, but it was a sign of life when things looked dim.

During intermission, the Bulls went and had a chat in their locker room. They returned for the second period to set and reset their record for scoring three goals. First, they scored three in 59 seconds, then they scored a fourth so that the last three of those had been scored in 49 seconds.

Jordan scored the Bulls’ first goal of the game. With 11:11 left in the second period, a good shift from Morrison, Mitchell and Findlay generated several chances and finally one went in for them. A last-moment, tough angle shot found its way in the far side of the net.

Less than a minute later, with the Bulls on a power play, Mitchell skated up the middle to the net, found the rebound from an Ouellet shot and put the puck over Coleman. Seconds later, Findlay and Mitchell got around the Alaska defense for a two on one to tie the game at three.

After the next faceoff, the Bulls quickly gained control of the puck and went in four-on-two. A couple of shots later, and Ouellet put in the rebound from a Sebastian Stalberg shot. That gave the Bulls the lead.

The Aces answered with a fourth goal of their own, with just over five minutes left in the period. Tim Coffman skated into the slot and shot the puck right past the Bulls’ netminder. It was not Beskorowany’s best moment.

He responded by earning an assist on the Bulls’ next goal, when he came out to the faceoff circle to gather in a puck and pass it up to Morrison, who was ready to go the other way with Brett Findlay in a fast two on one. Morrison took a hard shot from above the faceoff dot and beat Alaska goaltender Gerald Coleman.

The period ended with the Bulls up 5-4, though the Aces still led on the shot clock 31-19.

The Aces tied the game again 3:57 in to the third period. Alaska’s Tommy Mele, after winning a battle in the corner, put the puck in front of San Francisco’s net. Peter Sivak was there to put it home.

Dean Ouellet went to the box for hooking at 7:45 of the period. 33 seconds in to that penalty, Riley Brace went to the box for tripping, leaving the Bulls to defend almost 90 seconds of 5 on 3 for the Aces. The units for killing that were Morrison, King and Segert, then Judson, Bigos and Segert. Segert was on the ice for the full 90 seconds of 5 on 3.

The teams fought on, including some actual fights conveniently close to the penalty boxes. Those broke out in the last four minutes of regulation, and the Bulls ended up with a power play. They didn’t convert, and the game went to overtime.

Like Sivak, the Bulls’ Morrison and Mitchell also scored two goals apiece. The only Bulls goal scorer who hadn’t scored two was Dean Ouellet. It fell to him to win the game in overtime:

I didn’t do much on that. It was all Jordan Morrison there, he skated, he used his speed and he did a nice move. I think all the boys went on him. I think he fell and he did a second effort because he saw me there, he pushed the puck to me, I had a wide open net, so I didn’t have to do much.

SATURDAY, the Aces would not be turned back after taking the lead, which they did just over five minutes into the game. The Bulls couldn’t get the puck out of their zone, and Shawn Skelly had too much room to skate in front of Beskorowany and pick his spot. The assist went to Nick Mazzolini.

They followed that up by scoring off the rush. Mathew Sisca skated in and put the puck past Beskorowany on the far side, with an assists going to Evan Trupp.

The first ended with the Aces leading yet again, on the scoreboard 2-0, and in shots 11-8.

The second period started out slowly, but when Aces goaltender Roy mishandled the puck next to his net, Brett Findlay was able to take advantage and cut Alaska’s lead in half. Assist to Dale Mitchell.

The Bulls had two power plays near the midpoint of the period, but didn’t score on either one. Shortly after the second penalty expired, the Aces pushed into the Bulls’ zone and Tim Coffman extended Alaska’s lead back to two.

At the 20-minute mark of the second period, Brett Findlay took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It took the Aces seven seconds to score on that power play.

The Bulls reduced the deficit by one with 16:24 left in the period, when Sebastian Stalberg made his way to the net and scored his first goal as a Bull. Assists went to Riley Brace and Dean Ouellet.

The Bulls couldn’t score again, and gave up another in the final five minutes of the period. That was Coffman’s second of the game.

The Bulls are still in seventh place in the western conference, but the Bakersfield Condors are only one point behind them, with four games in hand.

Kris Belan needed surgery for a broken hand and is out for four to six weeks. J.P. Anderson was also on the injured list, explaining the acquisition of goaltender Alex Kangas last Wednesday.

The Bulls play Wednesday night at 7:30 against the Colorado Eagles. Get to the Cow Palace, listen on or watch on Ticket information can be found on the Bulls’ website.

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Photo Gallery: Jackals @ Royals (1/12/14) Mon, 13 Jan 2014 12:51:45 +0000

  In Reading, PA, the Reading Royals goaltender Brandon Anderson stopped all 30 shots he faced to lead the Royals to a 3-0 win over the Elmira Jackals.  The “3 Stars of the Game” were #3 REA Sean Wiles, #2 REA Brett Flemming, and #1 REA Brandon Anderson. Photos taken by Steve Rusyn for Inside Hockey.

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Bulls Add Four Players Before 3-in-3 Against Aces Thu, 09 Jan 2014 20:54:13 +0000

The San Francisco Bulls will play three games in three days between Thursday and Saturday, all against the Alaska Aces, and all at the Cow Palace. They should be interesting games.

Since their three-game sweep of the Utah Grizzlies (December 18 to 21), the Alaska Aces haven’t lost two games in a row. They also haven’t won two in row. Their road record isn’t as daunting as their home record: they have won 8 of 14 on the road, compared to 11 wins in 16 home games. The Bulls have only won four of their last ten games, and earned points in two more. All of that might be irrelevant in light of the number of changes to the Bulls’ lineup.

The Bulls’ roster was reeling from injuries and departures of key players. Just back from injury, Mark Lee left for a tryout with a team in Europe. The Bulls suspended him, which allows them to retain his contract rights in case he returns to the ECHL this season. Tyler Gron, the Bulls’ scoring leader acquired from Utah, was called up by the Worcester Sharks on January 6. Adrian Foster was called up by the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames AHL affiliate) on December 30. Foster had 17 points in 15 games with the Bulls. In the team’s January 5 game in Ontario, both Jordan Morrison and Dean Ouellet left with injuries.

The Bulls’ AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, sent reinforcements this week. Riley Brace and Sebastian Stalberg were assigned to San Francisco on Wednesday.

Brace was only with the Bulls for a week in November, but he played two games and looked like a great addition before being recalled by the Sharks. His return is a welcome one. In Worcester this season, he played 23 games and had 3 points.

Stalberg is in his third season with the Sharks. He has played 23 games this season and has 5 points. He has taken 40 shots. The Bulls can always use more shots on goal, and he should be a good addition.

After missing four games with an injury, Dale Mitchell returned for the January 5 game in Ontario and promptly earned an assist.

The severity of recent injuries might be deduced by the Bulls’ recent trades. Wednesday, San Francisco acquired forward Ryan Flanigan from the Toledo Walleye. Flanigan has 6 points in 19 games this season. It is his second season in the ECHL. In 2011-12, his final season with Merrimack College, he had 29 points in 36 games. He finished that season by playing four games with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, earning two points. He spent last season between the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors (18 points in 30 games) and the CHL’s Wichita Thunder (15 points in 29 games).

The Bulls also acquired 26 year old goaltender Alex Kangas from the Alaska Aces on Wednesday. Per, Kangas was with the University of Minnesota just two seasons ago, and played four games with the CHL’s Fort Wayne Komets. He has played just one game with Alaska this season. His arrival has to make people wonder if one of the goaltenders is injured or otherwise unavailable, since the Bulls have not carried more than two healthy goalies on their roster before.

In a transaction so fast that it makes your head spin, Aaron Clarke was apparently traded to the Toledo Walleye from San Francisco. Clarke didn’t play with the Bulls, and was just acquired on January 6 from the Kalamazoo Wings. The Bulls also traded Josh Kidd’s rights to Kalamazoo. Since it has only been a couple of days, it isn’t clear whether or not Kidd has returned from China or not.

Not to be lost in the transaction fracas is the fact that some of the Bulls have upped their games recently. Luke Judson has three goals in his his last seven games. Those are his first goals of the season. Berkeley Scott also scored his first goal with the Bulls on January 5 against the Ontario Reign. Defensemen Scott Langdon and Kyle Bigos both played as forwards in that same game. Langdon had assist and Bigos was a +1. All in all, that last OT loss was a big point for the Bulls.

The Bulls are still in third place in the Pacific Division, good for seventh in the Western Conference.

Puck drop is at 7:30 pm. Get to the Cow Palace, listen on or watch on Ticket information can be found on the Bulls’ website.

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Bulls Dig Deep, Find New Mettle Wed, 18 Dec 2013 17:10:59 +0000

The San Francisco Bulls started a six-game homestand last weekend, with two games against the top two teams in the ECHL’s Pacific Division. The Bulls lost the first to Ontario 4-1, and won the second against Stockton in a shootout 6-5. The loss was a big letdown after the team had competed so effectively against Ontario the weekend before.

The shootout victory required an improbable comeback from a three-goal deficit. It was also the team’s Teddy Bear Toss night, which guaranteed a very hopeful and enthusiastic audience worth playing for.  Last season, the team barely escaped a post-game toss by scoring once in the third period of a 5-1 loss.

Of Saturday’s win, Bulls Head Coach Pat Curcio said:

I think our fans had a lot to do with it, it just gives our guys so much more energy and life out there. I thought in the second period, a couple of the mistakes that we made, it [was] unfair for us to be down 3-1. Obviously Scott Langdon got us on the board there, gave us some life and the guys just thought “if they scored three that quick, we can score three that quick.”

That represented a significant mental reset from the night before, when the Bulls hosted the Ontario Reign. The weekend before that, the Bulls played twice against the Reign, winning one and losing one in overtime. The Reign are currently in first place in the Western Conference. In the 4-1 loss Friday, San Francisco’s power play went 0-8, and their penalty kill finished 3-6.

It was a disappointing game, especially as their first game back from a road trip that should have boosted their confidence. In response to what he saw in Friday’s loss, Curcio decided to keep the next morning’s practice simple and short:

We spent a lot of time this morning working on going D to D and getting pucks to the net. After we watched the game we thought we were lacking in that area. That’s all we did. I think we were on the ice twenty minutes. I think [the players] were shocked that the only thing we did was work on the power play as a whole team.

Curcio opted to start J.P. Anderson Saturday against the Stockton Thunder. As the second of back to back games, it was a logical choice, since Tyler Beskorowany had played the night before. It was also a rematch after a bad loss to the Thunder. On November 20 in Stockton, the Bulls fell 5-1 and sent Beskorowany in to relieve Anderson in the middle of the second period. Did that loss have something to do with why Curcio opted to start Anderson on Saturday?

It didn’t really, but I did mention to him, I said “last game you started we had to get you out, let’s redeem yourself tonight and come back with a big win.” Unfortunately we had to pull him tonight but the good news is we got a win out of it.

After being tied at one at the end of the first period, the Bulls were down 4-1 late in the second, after giving up three goals in ten minutes. Curcio pulled Anderson. That was probably one factor that galvanized the team, but it wasn’t the only one. Captain Scott Langdon scored in the waning moments of the period, and the team came out for the third with renewed vigor. Langdon attributed his team’s rough second period to a lack of focus and energy:

I think we just went for a little snooze in the second there, everybody was kind of sitting back and they were taking it to us. Some mistakes, me personally and some other guys. They capitalized on them. We weren’t trying not to score, you know what I mean? Finally, once that one went in we came into the locker room and said “we’re probably going to bag three more in this period” and we went out and did it.

By “that one,” he meant his goal at 17:37 of the second. If all he has to do is say they will score three goals, shouldn’t he say it more often?

I have said it other games, we actually just did it tonight.

One of the players to score in the third period was Steven Tarasuk. He ended the night with two goals and an assist. Tarasuk explained what the team had to do to recover from the terrible ten minutes in the second:

I think the idea was just to stick to our game, make sure we were still getting pucks in, make sure we were still getting after their d-men obviously they like to jump, so I think just capitalizing on their mistakes was the biggest part.

Sticking to your game sounds like something that is easier said that done, when you are so far behind and the clock is ticking:

[You've] really got to dig deep. I think as a team we really owed it to our fans. We only had the one win this year at home so I think it was really big for us to win especially on the Teddy Bear Toss night. So I think moving forward everybody’s pretty positive and I think this is a good step towards getting a winning organization.

Saturday was forward Berkley Scott’s first game with the Bulls. The Bulls claimed him off waivers from the Utah Grizzlies last Thursday. Curcio was pleased with what he saw from Scott, and from a lot of players on Saturday, despite their early second period struggles:

I liked him a lot. I thought he worked really hard. I liked him last year. I wish I could have given him a little more ice tonight but the way the game went. Everyone I liked tonight, and it’s hard because you start to see that there’s positives… As long as we’re winning I guess we’re doing things right. I really liked what I saw but I’d like to give them a little more ice time, with Gimbatov and Scott and Craner and these guys I think there’s something there.

Another realtively recent arrival to the team is defenseman Kalvin Sagert. Saturday was his ninth game with the team. He is becoming increasingly noticeable for being in the right place at the right time. Curcio appreciates the way Sagert keeps things simple:

Sagert and [King], that style of defenseman is something I really like. They just keep it simple. And that’s what you have to do- keep it simple, move the puck and do the right things, all the time. It doesn’t have to be fancy. When you do that you have success. That’s the hardest thing in the game to teach the guys to keep the game simple and play the right way because they all want to make these highlight plays but it just doesn’t happen.

Brett Findlay, who joined the Bulls last season just before playoffs, has come a long way. Findlay is tied with Tyler Gron for the team lead in points. Of his contribution in Saturday’s game (a goal and an assist, and the shootout winner), he said:

It’s always nice to help out with the team, whatever it is. I felt like last night I didn’t have my best game so I tried to bounce back tonight, and fortunately I got a couple of bounces.

Findlay has been playing on a line with Gron and Jordan Morrison. Gron has been scoring at a furious pace since arriving. On the recent success of his line, Findlay said:

He’s a great player, he’s got lots of speed. I think my passing goes well with his speed, and [Morrison]‘s a veteran player in the middle so we seem to be clicking right now and hopefully we can keep it going.

The Bulls are still in sixth place in the Western Conference, and third in the Pacific Division. They are two points ahead of Las Vegas, and eight behind Stockton.

Going back to Langdon’s comment at the end of the previous homestand, when he described San Francisco and Bakersfield as “battling for the basement,” the Captain does think the Bulls should aim higher:

We’re better than that, I think we could be a top four team in this league. We beat Ontario in Ontario, we beat Vegas in Vegas. We beat all the teams that we know we can beat so we’ve just got to be consistent and do it every night. The naps we take in the second period, we’ve go to stop doing that. If we don’t take those naps I bet you we win a lot more games. I’m looking forward to winning more games here at home.

The Bulls will have three chances to win at home this coming weekend, with night games Friday and Saturday, and a matinee Sunday. All three games will be against the Colorado Eagles.

The Bulls played the Eagles three times between October 30 and November 2. San Francisco lost all three games in Colorado, twice by a margin of three goals, once by four goals. Next weekend should be a good test of the Bulls’ new mettle.

Get to the Cow Palace this weekend, listen on or watch on Ticket information can be found on the Bulls’ website.

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Bulls at Home After Successful Road Trip Fri, 13 Dec 2013 19:15:54 +0000

The San Francisco Bulls return to home ice tonight after earning seven points in a five game road trip. The trip started with a win in Utah and included a 4-1 defeat of the Division-leading Ontario Reign. The Bulls finished the trip with a 6-2 win in Las Vegas.

Before hitting the road, the team played the Bakersfield Condors twice in a row. They lost the second of those 5-2, at home, after winning 5-1 in Bakersfield the night before. After the loss, Bulls Captain Scott Langdon was downcast by his team’s inability to play a consistent 60 minutes. The Bakersfield Condors were more ready for the Bulls, after being so badly beaten on their home ice the night before. Langdon pointed out that Bakersfield is probably always ready for the Bulls:

They’re always kind of ready to play us, you know what I mean, since we’re all kind of battling for the basement right now. So it’s a team that we’re supposed to beat, we should beat, we just couldn’t get the job done.

Such an opinion of the team couldn’t bode well for the Bulls as they set out on the road. A 2-1 win in Utah showed a spark of life, but the next night the Bulls fell to the Grizzlies 5-2.

In Ontario, Langdon did not look like a player merely battling for the basement. The Bulls did not look like a team that belonged in the basement. The Bulls’ defenseman scored his first and second goals of the season, and the second was a wrap-around.

I think, maybe they decided to take us lightly because they’re first place or whatever, they were blowing coverage so I just wanted to make them pay for sure. So that’s what I did.

Langdon isn’t known for his hands, not for scoring anyway. Looking back at last season, his hands were usually pretty banged-up from fighting to pick his team up. With Langdon’s two goals and two more from Tyler Gron and Dale Mitchell, the Bulls won 4-1.

The next night, the Reign were eager to get back to their division-leading form. The Bulls chased them through much of the game, on the scoreboard and the shot clock to a 3-2 overtime loss. The Bulls still acquitted themselves respectably. They did force overtime, and never trailed by more than one. The shot disparity spoke well for J.P. Anderson, who stopped 42 of 45 shots in all. The Bulls were outshot but did put 29 shots on net through three periods and 3:24 of overtime. As losses go, it was not a bad one for San Francisco.

The team’s scoring woes this season have been aggravated by injuries to key players, and now one of those players has returned: Dale Mitchell. Mitchell’s first game back was the win against Ontario. His pre-game comments were self-effacing, describing modest but reasonable goals for a player coming back from an 11-game absence with a back injury:

I just want to get the first period out of the way, just kind of get the cobwebs out and just get my game back under me… Just keep it simple. I don’t want to do anything that’ll cost the team a goal against. I know being a road game you want to keep it simple, get it deep, forecheck, maybe get a couple shots and if a goal came out of it that’d be awesome.

Awesome indeed. He has played three games now, and has goals in all of those and an extra assist to boot. By the end of the road trip, Tyler Gron had extended his point streak to eight games. Jordan Morrison and Bret Findlay had five game point streaks interrupted by the overtime loss in Ontario last weekend. They both resumed their point-getting in the next game.

That next game was a 6-2 victory over the Wranglers in Las Vegas. In all, nine Bulls came away from that game with at least a point, and six had more than one.

Chris Crane has taken the team lead for shots on goal with 60 now. Dean Ouellet is right behind him with 56. Tyler Gron still has the lead in points for the season with 15. As four of those points were with the Idaho Steelheads, it is only fair to give Brett Findlay his due for having 14 points this season, all with the Bulls.

San Francisco is presently in sixth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Utah and Las Vegas, and six ahead of Bakersfield. The Bulls might be putting some distance between themselves and that basement.

Tonight they will be tested as they host the Ontario Reign at the Cow Palace. Saturday, the Bulls will host the Stockton Thunder, and hold their annual Teddy Bear Toss.

Puck drop is at 7:30 PT. Be at the Cow Palacewatch or listen online.

Roster Notes

The Bulls claimed forward Berkley Scott off waivers yesterday. He has six points in 12 games this season, 17 points in 39 games last season with Utah.

Another addition since the Bulls hit the road is 23-year old forward Magomed Gimbatovrecently of the KHL. He has now played three games with San Francisco and has one assist.

Ryan McDonough will not be rejoining the team. McDonough had recovered from his injury and was recalled and released by the Worcester Sharks Tuesday. Bulls Assistant Coach Kyle Paige explained that McDonough expressed a desire to return to Europe.

Rob Linsmayer was traded to the Idaho Steelheads, and Kyle Bodie was traded to the South Carolina Stingrays, both for future considerations.

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Photo Gallery: Cyclones @ Nailers (12/1/13) Mon, 02 Dec 2013 14:27:10 +0000

The Cincinnati Cyclones get the 3-2 shootout win over the Wheeling Nailers, Sunday, December 1, 2013 at Wesbanco Arena in Wheeling, WV.  (Inside Hockey – Rachel Lewis)

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