SF Bulls Looking More Confident

San Francisco Bulls’ Head Coach Pat Curcio was pleased with the way his team looked before their third game last Wednesday:

I like the way the guys are bouncing, I like the way they’ve practiced in the last few days. -Bulls’ Pre-game report

The team did look good in Idaho, and bounces have certainly been a factor in their season so far. After a theft of a win in their first game of the season, the Bulls came down to earth with a thud in game two. Their third game of the season showed the team improving, becoming more consistent and more confident. Their record is a pretty good reflection of their progress: a lucky win, a bad loss and an overtime loss. By the time the Bulls return to San Francisco, fans could be in for a treat.

Winning their first game of the season despite a shot deficit of 45-19 might have blown the team’s luck quota for the month. The Alaska Aces’ home opener showcased the Bulls’ new goaltender, who seems to thrive on facing breakaways. Bulls fans should be very excited to have Tyler Beskorowany on the team, but a team needs more than a goaltender for the long haul. Both teams made adjustments for their second meeting, when Alaska redeemed themselves as perennial Conference favorites.

It is difficult to find even a moral victory in a 5-0 loss. The Bulls were plagued by penalties, giving up two goals on the Aces’ eight power play opportunities. Ironically, Bulls players were where they needed to be, but often too late or not ready for the next move. It was as if they were learning new steps but had not mastered them yet.  In that regard, it was an improvement from the prior game, when San Francisco won despite allowing multiple breakaways and failing to carry their weight offensively. The Bulls allowed fewer breakaways, or jumped on them more quickly. Alaska didn’t score at their leisure. They had to get traffic to the net and crowd the crease. They did so, but at least they weren’t skating alone up the ice.

Before their third game, the Bulls had time for several practices. Dean Ouellet returned after missing a game with an upper-body injury, and Riley Emmerson joined the team.  Curcio expects Emmerson’s size (he is listed at 6′ 8″) and experience to add physicality and leadership.  During his first game as a Bull, he certainly impressed even before he dropped the gloves.  He has a reputation for toughness and fighting, but his skating and vision should be more valuable still.

The Bulls addressed a number of issues before the Wednesday game in Idaho. During the pregame report, Bulls’ broadcaster Jason Lockhart asked Pat Curcio what the team had been working on in practice. The coach was not very specific:

I think for us we just wanted to regain some of our confidence. I didn’t think that the [score] Saturday night was indicative of the game we played.

Curcio added that the team is working on “a shoot-first mentality.” A few more things were clear. The Bulls had worked on their power play. Though it took them four tries to score a power play goal, it looked much more controlled and finally paid off. The Bulls also maintained discipline, taking only two minor penalties. Players went to the net more often, and were quicker to get going the other way. That last part was important, as the game was very much a foot race, with both teams allowing too many breakaways.

The game was a homecoming for Beskorowany, who spent his first two pro seasons with the Steelheads. He spoke with Lockhart for an intermission report:

It’s definitely weird, that’s for sure seeing… old faces again. Being on the other side… the two years that I was here, I’d never actually been in [the visitors'] dressing room…

There’s a lot of new faces this year. I guess four guys, five guys back from last year. It’s a completely different team. The coaches are the same, one of the trainers is the same. It’ll definitely be weird seeing them come down on me in a game.

The game was scoreless through two periods, despite fast play and many chances for both teams. The first goals of the game both came on power plays in the third period, one for each team. The Bulls took the lead at even strength, before Idaho tied it up again in the dying seconds of regulation. That came on a power play. It was not a great night for the Bulls’ penalty kill.Overtime featured a great 2-on-1 opportunity for Mark Lee and Chris Crane. Crane’s shot just missed the far post and play went the other way. After a defensive zone draw that Christian Ouellet won, the Bulls couldn’t control the puck and a quick shot from Nigro gave the Bulls their first overtime loss of the season.

It was their first truly close game of the season. The 2013-14 Bulls are still a work in progress, but that progress is visible.

Scoring summaries:

10/18/13: 
San Francisco: 1st: Jordan Morrison (Langdon, Findlay) 2:22, 3rd: Brett Parnham (Mitchell, Lee) 13:44. Beskorowany with 44 saves on 45 shots. San Francisco’s power play went 0/3, their penalty kill 5/5.
Alaska: 2nd: AK Coffman (Sivak) 4:55. Joni Ortio made 17 saves on 19 shots. 
First period fighting majors to Mark Lee (SF) and Robert Farmer (AK) at 19:42. 

10/19/13:
Alaska: 1st: Jordan Kremyr (Molle, Mele) 11:59, 2nd: Evan Trupp(PPG, Sivak, Davies) 9:57, 3rd: Trupp (Sivak, Mazzolini) 1:47, B.J. Crum (PPG, Sivak, Mazzolini) 7:55, Zach Davies (Sivak) 18:02. Alaska killed 3 of 3 penalties. Joni Ortio made 17 saves for the win.
San Francisco killed 7 of 9 penalties and Tyler Beskorowany made 34 saves on 39 shots for San Francisco.

10/24/13:
Idaho: 3rd: William Rapuzzi (PPG, Wahl, Nigro) 1:39, Anthony Nigro (PPG, Wahl, Sneep) 19:42, OT: Nigro (Rapuzzi) 1:52. Josh Robinson made 34 saves on 36 shots.
San Francisco: 3rd: SF Crane (PPG, Kipp, Parnham) 8:28, Dale Mitchell (Lee) 15:57. Beskorowany made 39 saves on 42 shots. The Bulls’ power play went 1/5, their penalty kill 0/2.
First period fighting majors at 8:41 to Scott Langdon (SF) and Anthony Nigro (ID), and at 8:43 to Riley Emmerson (SF) and Jeremy Yablonski (ID). Emmerson and Yablonski received an additional two minutes for removing their helmets.

Listen to Bulls games on KNBR.com or watch on AmericaOneSports.com. The team’s full schedule can be found on their website.

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