SAN FRANCISCO- Minor league hockey, much like any minor league sport is constantly changing. Players change teams and leagues on a frequent basis and therefore coaching – or as in SF Bulls Pat Curcio’s case, coaching and general managing – is an arduous task to say the least.
The Bulls stumbled through a nine game road trip (1-6-2) that started just two games into their inaugural campaign. Shortly after that trip ended, Coach Curcio made mention of the difficulties of the ever changing roster.
“What’s difficult is every time you bring in a new player you have to teach them everything you’ve taught everyone else. So you spend a lot of time with the individuals and that’s tough.” admitted Curcio. “We have a great support staff and we are fortunate to have people helping us here. Thats the thing about this league, that’s what it’s all about. People forget we’re a new team. We had a lot of trial and error. We had to bring players in that basically nobody else wanted. There was no expansion draft, we brought in players that weren’t protected. And we knew that there were going to have to be some changes.”
But as the calendar and season push towards December, the SF Bulls have now won four of their past five games and have slowly climbed into the middle of the pack in the ECHL. And tons of credit has to go to Curcio for being able to effectively manage a plethora of different players and personalities. After their latest win on Friday, coach expanded further on the challenges facing his team.
“There’s so many things in hockey, from your neutral zone fore-check, to what your doing off lost draws, won draws, and every time you insert a new player he doesn’t know what needs to be done.” chimed Curcio. “But even when you teach and you coach, and show them all over the board and show them on the video, until they get on the ice and experience it, it takes a long while. There is a learning curve and that’s the difficult part of it. I think for the most part the adjustment has been pretty good with the new guys and the guys who have been here from the beginning are starting to really understand what we’re trying to do here.”
San Francisco’s latest victory, 5-1, over the division leading Ontario Reign on Black Friday improves their record to 7-10-0-2. The Bulls are now third in the Pacific division behind only the Reign and the Stockton Thunder, and San Francisco has shown now the ability to skate stride for stride with both of these clubs.
Earlier this month the Bulls lost a pair of ugly games against the Reign but over the last few games the team has seemed to find a comfort zone with one another. And sticking it to a team like Ontario—a team that you might call their biggest rival thus far in their short history—wasn’t lost on the players.
“It’s good for us, we had a lot of trouble against them. They have a really good team, strong team, really good players” commented Bulls defense scoring leader Sacha Guimond. “Huge win for us tonight”.
As for a reason in the drastic change of success against Ontario, Bulls captain Justin Bowers put it in simple terms.
“Everyone has to buy in to what you’re doing and you know it’s a team effort” commented Bowers. “If it’s not a team effort, you’re not going to win a lot of games and I think we’re just playing a better team game now and we’re getting some success.”
Bowers continues to pace the Bulls in scoring with 19 points but it was the sterling combination of San Jose Sharks prospect Marek Viedensky and Slovakian country-man Peter Sivak that powered the offense in Friday’s victory.
This game story would in fact be centered around the two skilled forwards but the duo were essentially unavailable post-game due to a pre-scheduled post-game autograph session.
Certainly an awesome treat for the fans to have the game’s top two stars available for comment, you don’t get that in the NHL.
Viedensky, the game’s first star, picked up two goals and two assists in the contest while Sivak finished with a goal and two assists of his own as the Bulls’ dynamic duo has thrived playing on the same line.
“They gelled immediately” commented coach Curcio on the pair’s success. “I think they scored on their first shift together, so it’s nice to see.”
“They’re doing a great job together” commented Guimond. “I think it’s good for Peter to, he doesn’t speak a lot of English, it’s his first year in North America.”
Sivak struggled early in the season for the Bulls but with the arrival of Viedensky as linemate and translator, the 30-year-old winger has taken off and quickly shot up the scoring ladder with now 16 points, just three back of Bowers for the team lead.
“Having Marek here has really helped Peter” added winger Jordan Clendenning. “The way they see each other on the ice, you can tell they are pretty similar. I think the language barrier, it definitely helps him communicate. They find each other [out there and] it’s fun to watch.”
It will be interesting to see how Sivak continues to play if and when Viedensky get’s called back to Worcester. With eight points now in five games with the Bulls, there is no telling how much longer Viedensky will remain in the ECHL.
If Sharks fans want to watch him and the red-hot Bulls, time is of the essence to get down to the Cow Palace. Bulls play again at home tonight against the now division leading Thunder and then hit the road for three before returning for a four-game home-stand with games on Dec. 5, 7, 8, and 13.