A different group of guys lost to the same group of guys that beat the Bulls back in early November. Well, not exactly the same group. Two Colorado players from the last meeting have gone (Joey Sides, Adam Chorneyko) and one was added (Kevin Ulanski). In Friday’s game, the quantifiable distinction amounted to one assist from Ulanski. That’s not right, Sides had 2 assists and a goal before. I don’t think the math actually matters here.
Curcio describes falling behind early as a persistent challenge for the Bulls:
“We didn’t get any breaks early. Being such a young team– not making excuses– we don’t battle through adversity… if we get up early, we can do anything once we’re up. When we’re down we’re a different group of guys.”
If you want to look for indicators of how a Bulls game is going to go, Jordan Morrison going to the box early could be one, at least in the games I’ve watched. Still, the Eagles’ didn’t score until after a second penalty was called against Belan, giving the Eagles a minute and 23 seconds of five on three. Then Chad Costello scored his 40th point of the season.
The damage from those penalties was limited to the one goal. Unfortunately, it set the tone for the rest of the period. The little errors crept in and multiplied, passes failed, decisions didn’t work out:
“Our biggest thing is learning to play when you’re down. Sometimes things don’t start the way you hope, it doesn’t mean the whole game’s done. There’s still a whole game ahead of you that they have to be able to find their way. We haven’t been able to do that in 25 games this year.”
Sivak took the third minor (hooking) with just over three minutes left in the period. The call was delayed long enough for the Eagles to get their goalie out, set up and send some pucks at Heemskerk. The Bulls held them off, finally touched the puck, and killed off the actual penalty.
Alex Tuckerman drew a cross checking penalty with 1:10 left in the first. It wasn’t until the last few seconds of the period that the Bulls really got set up and took a few shots. There are worse ways to end a bad first period. The Bulls started the second with 50 seconds still left on their power play. While the Bulls didn’t score there, it was evident they’d had time to regroup. Not so much hesitation, fewer hurried plays.
The team was looking pretty good, was catching up on the shot clock, and then Chris Belan was called for interference after a pile-up in the Bulls’ crease. At 6:29, the Eagles’ Schnell scored Colorado’s second goal.
As the midpoint of the game passed, I began to worry in earnest about the teddy bears. Surely, that must be some kind of bad luck for a goalie to shut out a team playing for teddy bears. You can’t just steal the teddy bear toss and use it as your victory celebration on the road.
The Bulls were still behind on the shot clock as the second period wound down, but they were much closer, and Colorado goalie Kyle Jones was having to make some good saves. Actually, Jones was making some very good saves, and the Bulls had some good chances. That was small comfort for all those grounded teddy bears.
Costello scored his second goal of the game at 15:44 ( from Marto and Smeltzer) and Teegan Moore gave the Eagles a fourth at 18:46 (from Ulanski).
Taylor Nelson was in goal for the Bulls to start the third period. Curcio explained that decision later:
“If we decided to come back with Heemer tomorrow… he’s been going so much, if that makes sense let’s give him a break in the third. I didn’t think any of the goals were his fault. Some of the goals were cross-ice passes, with tic tac toe, and a 5 on 3 goal. He’s been our number one guy, and he is our number one guy.”
53 seconds in to the period, Danis-Pepin (I think) drew a double minor by taking a stick to the face. Before it was over, Jordan Morrison saved the bears, assisted by Dean Ouellet and Sacha Guimond.
Many hands, sticks and some trucks to round up the teddy bears
That left the Bulls three goals down with 15:12 left in the game. Three goals was a long ways to go, against a team that had routed them so badly before. At least the bears flew before the end of the game. If you are going to score the lone goal in a losing effort, the teddy bear goal is a very good goal to score.
At 8:28, Colorado’s Forney went to the box for hooking, and again at 11:12, to no effect. The Eagles killed off both penalties, and Schnell scored on a breakaway with 45 seconds left in the game.
The game ended 5-1 Eagles. The final shot count was 30-28 Bulls. It is worth noting that, the last time the Bulls played Colorado, they were outshot by 10 in each game.
Curcio acknowledged that his team was better this time:
“We were better, we deserved a better fate I thought. We’re also playing with 5 defensemen. We’ve become accustomed to a rhythm with 10 guys and 6 D and any time we break our rhythm, these guys don’t adapt very well. Without having the experience to draw from… it’s hard to find the history to lean on.”
Of Nelson’s third period performance, Curcio said:
“He was great. To me we have two great goaltenders. Just Heemer’s been our number one guy, he won that role early. I’m sure when Nelson gets his chance to play, if he goes tomorrow night he’ll be just as good. I have faith in both these guys.”
The game started with two fights in the first period, and a third in the second. Asked if this was part of a plan to start the game on a physical tone, Curcio said no:
“I think there was some animosity from the last time we played these guys, that wasn’t something we said go out and do … I think we did real well with our fights. Ironically, though, when we get three or four fights, we don’t get momentum off it, because our three or four fighters are in the penalty box. Other teams, three or four fights and the rest of the team gets momentum off it. I dunno, I think we get more momentum when we score goals.”
It was a frustrating game for the Bulls, not a great way to start back to back games against a formidable opponent. Friday’s loss bothered Curcio, he wants a better game tonight:
“I thought the crowd was great, enthusiastic. The teddy bear toss was awesome, I wish we could have given them a better show. I hope we can come back … and give them a better show.”
(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner)