The Bulls play the Las Vegas Wranglers tonight. It’s been four days since the Bulls’ last game. Such breaks are fairly common in the ECHL. Pat Curcio explained how the team handles that:
“The biggest thing for us is we want to stick to the plan. We want to make sure we’re working as hard as we can. Win or lose… push a little harder when you’ve got an extra day or two.”
This break is noteworthy because it is the first to follow a winning streak for the Bulls:
@Clendenning49: 4s gotta be a winning streak, Rollin.. @SFBulls @k_belan43 @1986jmorrison
I usually call it a streak at three but certainly four works too. It’s another test for the Bulls: will the break make a difference? I can feel the suspense building.
The Bulls penalty kill has been very effective lately. Curcio credits both players and planners for this:
It was a big win. It didn’t clinch a playoff spot, it wasn’t their first win ever, but it was a big win. It was the first time the team won three in a row, and their first win against the Reign. It was a chance for the team to take a significant lead, hang on to it and build it to a final score of 5-1. It was a big win for the Bulls, and it was a win for Pat Curcio and his roster overhaul.
I felt sort of badly for writing about the 7-0 Bulls loss a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t seem fair to cover that game in such detail, and say so little about them after that. But that was the game I went to. By Friday night, the team looked completely different. If you had told me that replacing half of the players in the space of two weeks would result in a consistent and almost shocking improvement, I would not have believed you. I’m a believer in slow-growth chemistry. You don’t just throw guys together and they all know what to do, not outside of Hollywood disaster films.
The SF Bulls have won three of their last four games. They started the season with only two wins in their first ten. Of the eight after that, they’ve won four. I asked Pat Curcio what changed. He attributed the improvement partly to the fact that a new young team “takes some time to get accustomed.” He also mentioned the latest round of roster moves:
“We wanted to be a young team, hard-working and ready to go to the next level. We made some moves that I thought were best for the team and so far so good.”
Some comments floated around Twitter that echoed my own reaction to the high number of trades, releases and additions. On any given day there will be a good sized list of moves on the ECHL Transactions page. There are many factors at work here, and not only during a lockout. An ECHL team is limited to 20 active players and 2 on reserve, with an unlimited number on 21 day injured reserve. Any move will probably require a second. Curcio explained why the Bulls have made 14 moves in the last two weeks:
After their last meeting, there was reason to doubt the San Francisco Bulls’ chances against the Ontario Reign. During the first 8 minutes, the Bulls didn’t spend a lot of time outside their end of the ice. That turned out to be the case for most of the game. Thomas Heemskerk wasn’t going to have an easy time of it in his second game in two nights. To his credit, he held up better than the rest of the team.
The first penalty was booed roundly before being announced, a tripping penalty against the Bulls’ Clendenning. The Bulls killed that off and celebrated with a brief offensive rush, only to be pushed back again. The Bulls didn’t give the Reign a lot of room to set up their offense, but they couldn’t organize an attack of their own. Frantic passes off the glass went to opposing players, missed passes turned to icing.
With half of the first period gone, the Bulls only had one shot to the Reign’s 7. The Reign scored two goals, just over 30 seconds apart. The Bulls took another penalty and killed it off but didn’t manage to get another short until the second period.
The Worcester Sharks and the San Francisco Bulls both play today. Last weekend was great for Worcester. They won 2 of 3 and got the OT point in the loss. Sunday’s nail-biter featured a 0-0 tie all the way into a shootout, against the Manchester Monarchs who currently sit well above Worcester in the AHL Conference standings. Stalock was in net for that one. All that has to be good for morale.
The SF Bulls wrapped up their long road trip in Ontario on Wednesday night with a 3-1 loss. It was not an easy road trip for them. They haven’t won since their second road game in Bakersfield on October 19. Let’s hope being home can restart the engine.
As has been reported, Ryane Clowe’s agreement with the Bulls was made official and announced by the team. It isn’t clear yet whether he will play. With more NHLers signing deals with ECHL teams this week (Setoguchi helped the Reign beat the Bulls on Wednesday), it would seem like a moot point. Of course Clowe should play, if he wants to. Or should he?