Bulls finish 4 at home, score 4 to win

Last night, the San Francisco Bulls beat the Stockton Thunder 4-3 in overtime.  It was their fourth of four games at home, the first of three games in three nights, the second and third to be played in Ontario and Bakersfield.

New things seen at last night’s game: The Cube can be broken, and repaired quickly.  A shot from I’m not sure who in the first period went too high and hit the board right in the period number.  A panel was knocked loose but was as easily fixed during intermission.

Also new: Peter Sivak moved to the line with Justin Bowers and Dean Ouellet, and Jordan Morrison centered both Sharks forward prospects Marek Viedensky and Daniil Tarasov.  That second line scored the first goal of the game, credited to Tarasov, with the assist to Viedensky.  

Stockton’s only goal before the third period was a power play goal, scored with only 13 seconds left on a double minor against Justin Bowers in the second.  When they say “the puck took a crazy bounce”, they mean this one– it took several pinball-like bounces before popping over Heemskerk’s glove and into the net.  It really shouldn’t have been a very disheartening goal– bouncing plus four minute penalty kill should warrant some self-forgiveness.  Nevertheless, it put a damper on the Bulls.  The Bulls had outshot the Thunder in the first period but didn’t do so again in the second or third.

Stockton had passed the Bulls on the shot clock when Eric Hunter scored on a breakaway to give his team a lead in the third.  That goal was more straightforward than the power play goal in the second.

From there, the Bulls went right to a power play, but failed to score though they had an extra advantage when a Stockton player lost his stick.  The power play wound down, Stockton intercepted a pass and skated away with the puck.

It was a good minute later when the Bulls’ Kris Belan saw his chance and put the puck past Stockton goaltender Tyler Bunz. Tie game again, with assists going to Toronto prospect Andrew Crescenzi and defenseman Dylan King.

The third period was really nothing like the first two.  Penalties seemed to abound, though by comparison to other games, they really didn’t: three minors and a double minor.  Those first two periods combined only had two minors and a double.  It seems fitting for these regional rivals to play a tied game.  They may not be close in the standings but when they play each other they look like they should be.

There were no fights in the game.  Some suspenseful scrums got fans shouting but they didn’t come to anything.  I saw the occasional glove on the ice, but that was unintentional, no one was deliberately disrobing.  It wasn’t until the middle of the third that a jersey came off:  Jordan Clendenning removed his and gave it away, as promised by an in-game promotion.  The recipient put it on immediately.

Play resumed and, about three minutes later, Belan went to the box for tripping.  It took Stockton a little over a minute to score.  Considering their power play was ranked fifth in the league, that was not terribly surprising.

Less than a minute after that, the Bulls had a power play of their own.

Pat Curcio, while explaining how he doesn’t like to rank lines a while back, had said they need scoring from three lines.  How many times have we heard that from coaches, even when they have four lines to think about?  Sure, some call the Bulls’ third line a checking line, but in the ECHL a team can’t afford to put a line on the ice that doesn’t score.  So I shouldn’t have been so surprised that the second and third Bulls goals both came from that line.  There was that second from Belan, and then a third from Andrew Crescenzi.  He earned a second point and tied the game with just under three minutes to go.  The assist went to Clendenning.

Seconds later, the Bulls drew a double minor.  Overtime probably wasn’t what the Bulls had in mind for Thursday’s game.  They were scheduled to get on the bus and head for Ontario.  They even had scratched players doing the post-game autographs to let the rest of the team get packed.

But their travel plans meant little to the fans.  One thing about a small mid-week crowd: you know these are the boiled-down, essential, true devotees.  They were on their feet, bouncing up and down during the break.  They weren’t going anywhere.

If they wanted to hang around for a shootout, they were disappointed.  The Bulls finished it off with a power play goal 1:13 into OT.  Sivak scored the game winner, assists to defenseman Rob Kweit and  Dean Ouellet.

Of course Sivak scored the game winner.  Of course.  That line had to score, they were the only line that hadn’t scored yet.

The Bulls play again tonight, and again tomorrow night, with a day off before they play Stockton again at HP Pavilion.

1st star: Peter Sivak, 2nd: Kris Belan, 3rd: Jordan Clendenning.

(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner)

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