Based on the standings, the San Francisco Bulls are outmatched against the Idaho Steelheads. Idaho is third in the West with 67 points, San Francisco is eighth with 43. They had only played twice before Tuesday, and split those games. Except for the need to earn some points and boost morale, a 3-2 loss wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to the Bulls at the start of their road trip.
Taylor Nelson was in net Tuesday for the first of back to back games against the Steelheads. The game started much like Sunday’s game against Bakersfield at the Cow Palace, with a lot of offensive zone time for the Bulls. After five minutes, they led 6-2 in shots on goal.
A play in the Steelhead’s zone gave Peter Sivak some time to shoot from the faceoff circle, but no one on the ice knew where the puck had gone or why the goal light lit up. Only the goal judge saw the puck deflect off Idaho goalie Tyler Beskorowany’s back and into the net. The Bulls didn’t even celebrate until they were told they had scored. The goal was credited to Scott Langdon, though several replays failed to show how that happened.
About a minute later, Scott Todd and Hans Benson had a scrap.
After the halfway point of the first, the Steelheads found their offense, testing Nelson. The Bulls’ Jonathan Lessard and Idaho’s Sam Carrick dropped the gloves with a little over seven minutes left. The fight didn’t do much to disrupt Idaho’s offensive push, and the Bulls had to fend off an offensive onslaught for the rest of the period.
With under a minute left in the period, Bulls’ forward Alex Tuckerman took a hooking penalty. By the end of the period, the shots were 16-9 for Idaho.
The Steelheads made short work of the remaining powerplay to start the second. A shot from the blue line bounced around a bit and was finally pushed past Nelson. Brett Robinson’s third goal of the season tied the game and ended the Bulls’ perfect penalty killing streak at 22.
The Bulls maintained their composure, with a nice rush from Dean Ouellet and Sebastian Trudeau that was thwarted by an Idaho stick. Another good rush by Jordan Morrison and Jordan Clendenning also failed but gave Idaho something to think about.
Thinking or not, Idaho kept Nelson busy.
Another power play for the Bulls couldn’t get organized, but showed some progress in the area of defensive awareness. A short handed breakaway was tidily interrupted by Rob Kwiet.
The Bulls ended the power play with a good push and a couple of shots, but came up empty.
Clendenning was called for boarding Ken Trentowski with 11:44 left in the period. The Bulls had just managed to kill the penalty when the Steelheads took the lead with a goal from Carrick. It was his 15th of the season.
After the faceoff, Benson and Marek Viedensky carried the puck back into the Idaho zone two on four, but Beskorowany gloved Viedensky’s shot. The Bulls came out of the faceoff circle with some determination and one shot that went off the post from Sebastian Trudeau.
The game picked up then, with aggressive breakaways on both sides.
After the next tv break, the Bulls charged into the Idaho zone but were quickly pushed back and found themselves out of position while the Steelheads organized a cross-ice play that left the net open for Tristan King to shoot at. Nelson couldn’t get his glove there quickly enough and the Bulls found themselves down by two.
Bulls Forward Kris Belan went to the box for roughing with 4:59 left in the period. The Bulls killed the penalty off.
Viedensky had an impressive shift during the last two minutes of the period, spending some quality time in the offensive zone with Peter Sivak. The Bulls protected the puck admirably, confounded their opponents with some good passes and kept the attack alive until Beskorowany finally gloved a shot.
The Bulls still went into the third period down by two. They drew a holding penalty just 2:50 in. Sivak, Dean Ouellet and Viedensky were the forwards on first power play unit, with Kwiet and Cody Carlson on the points. Curcio opted to use a second power play unit of Lessard, Sebastian Trudeau and Christian Ouellet. That unit had a some success holding the zone, but still didn’t score.
The shots stood at 32-30 for Idaho by the eleven minute mark of the third. That showed a significantly improved effort from the Bulls, but they still weren’t getting enough traffic in front of Beskorowany.
During one of the team’s best shifts, David Toews took a roughing penalty to give the Bulls another power play.
Sivak and Viedensky quickly got the puck to Dean Ouellet for a good scoring chance, but Beskorowany stopped him twice.
This time, Curcio put Morrison out on the second power play unit with Christian Ouellet and Trudeau. After being pushed back into their own zone, the trio beat Idaho’s penalty killers through the neutral zone and set up a tidy play that finally got by Beskorowany. It was Jordan Morrison’s 14th goal of the season.
That brought the Bulls within a goal, with five minutes left to play.
The Bulls kept steady pressure on Idaho’s defense that finally ended in a pile of bodies in front of the Idaho net. Curcio called a time out with 1:06 left in the game.
Curcio pulled Nelson before the offensive zone faceoff, which the Bulls lost. An odd man rush by Idaho on the empty net failed to score, but the chaos that ensued resulted in a Bulls penalty. Even a good short-handed attempt from Dean Ouellet couldn’t fix that.
Idaho goals were scored by Brett Robinson (PPG, Blain, King), Sam Carrick (de Kastrozza, Case) and Tristan King (Toews, Gron). Tyler Beskorowany made 35 saves.
San Francisco goals were scored by Scott Langdon (Carlson, Lessard) and Jordan Morrison (C Ouellet, Trudeau). Taylor Nelson made 30 saves.
Monday, the Bulls announced that defenseman Scott Langdon would be the team’s new Captain. After Justin Bowers was traded to Gwinnett, the team continued with three Alternate Captains: Langdon, Jordan Morrison and Hans Benson. Langdon’s promotion left another A to be assigned. Dean Ouellet, the team’s representative at the 2013 ECHL All Star game, received that honor.
The Bulls got some welcome reinforcement Monday, from their AHL affiliate in Worcester: Mikael Tam was loaned to San Francisco after two defensemen were returned to Worcester from San Jose. It was very surprising, therefore, to see Tam scratched at the last minute.
The line of Lessard, Trudeau and Christian Ouellet was dubbed the “French Connection” by Bulls play-by-play man Jason Lockhart, since they all come from the province of Quebec.
The Bulls face Idaho again Wednesday, puck drop at 6:10 PST.