I attended the Bulls game as a ticket holder last Sunday with a bunch of friends. We had a wonderful time, though watching the Bulls get beaten by Bakersfield put a damper on it. I went ahead and bought an orange hoodie. I don’t buy much fan gear but I can always use another hoodie. I spent yesterday afternoon curled up in a blanket wearing that hoodie watching Chicago beat the Kings before NBC let me watch the Flyers lose. On my way to SF, I got to listen to Worcester lose to the Booshed-up Phantoms too. I started the day in a bad mood, those games did not help.
The Bulls went to Stockton Friday with a revamped roster, working four new players into the mix. They play Stockton again today, making three in a row against the same team. The new Bulls lost that first game to Stockton. The team wasn’t all there though: Scott Langdon, Alternate Captain and much relied-on defenseman, was serving the second of a two game suspension. His absence was felt. For the second game in a row, goalie Taylor Nelson was pulled after a brutal quartet of goals against, to be replaced by Bryan Hince. For a more thorough review of that game, I refer you to someone who was there: Paul Gackle.
Saturday, Taylor Nelson started in goal again. Curcio put Galiardi, Sivak and Dean Ouellet on a line together again. Morrison, Trudeau and Christian Ouellet made up another line. The change Curcio did make was to go with five defensemen instead of six. That made sorting out the pairings a little difficult for me, like guessing a 5-digit lock combination. Likewise the lower forward lines, with two additional players to rotate in… I was at a loss to keep track. It didn’t matter. The Bulls had their game on last night.
Morrison took the first Bulls penalty midway through the first period. He was called for goaltender interference which was fairly amazing since the goalie didn’t go down until Morrison was behind the net. Morrison is a skilled fellow, but I had no idea he also used telekinesis.
Even without him, the pk looked good. You could see the difference Langdon made. Not only Langdon– the new players brought in this last week contributed a lot to the team’s game, as Pat Curcio explained later:
We’ve got more wingers. Now we’ve got Ouellet and Clendenning in the middle of the ice and that gives us guys like Belan, Tuckerman, Lessard, Galiardi. These guys are exceptional along the boards, they’re natural wingers. You can see when they get the puck there they don’t panic, they don’t throw it blindly through the middle of the ice, they go into the battle and they make sure they get the puck out.
During that first pk, Dean Ouellet was even able to pull off a nice short-handed chance. They made it through that, then had two scoreless powerplays, all the while looking confident.
Nevertheless, Mike Little scored first for Stockton not long after the second Bulls power play expired. Cameron Brodie got credit for an assist. It was a pass that connected with Little as he skated fast towards the net. It was an incredibly fast play, the puck moving from behind the net to the front in what could not have been a single move and yet they eye made it seem so.
The Bulls got a power play near the end of the first, a too many men penalty against Stockton. They seemed to be throwing a lot of really hard shots in that no one could control. But they did maintain an attack without being pushed back into their zone.
They ended that with a holding penalty to Sivak which started with six seconds left in the period. That put the Bulls on the pk to start the second. It didn’t last long, as Stockton took a penalty with 1:25 left in their power play. Eric Hunter was called for goaltender interference.
The Bulls were able to keep Stockton from organizing any offense during the four on four play, and when they got to their short power play, they took very little time to launch their own attack. Jordan Morrison later explained how having that penalty cut short gave the team a boost:
Four on four is a great time to gain momentum, you thought you were in the dumps and then you get a call and it kind of lifts your spirits. There’s a lot of room out there, we’ve got a lot of talent so it kind of works to our benefit.
Peter Sivak, coming out of the box, gave the Bulls an additional boost in numbers as they swarmed the Stockton net. A couple of rebounds later, Sivak lifted the puck over a prone Cody Reichard to tie the game. Assists went to Kwiet and Belan.
At even strength, the Thunder mustered some offense, a few shaky passes were intercepted, but the Bulls pushed back quickly. At 5:16 of the period, Jonathan Lessard, assisted by Jordan Morrison and Rob Kwiet, scored to give the Bulls a lead.
Could these really be the same teams who played the night before? How in the world did Stockton win by three?
The Cow Palace is also a part of the team, and I don’t only mean the 5, 618 cheering people in the audience last night. The Cow Palace has the smallest ice in the ECHL, I am told, but distances aren’t the only trick. The reduced length makes the corners a little tighter. At least one writer mentioned that the ice gave San Francisco an advantage:
@Benton_Mike: 2-1 Thunder trails San Francisco after two periods. Reichard coming up huge tonight. Not much space to operate on small ice.
The Bulls started the third ahead by one goal and eight shots. A couple of minutes in, Dean Ouellet was called for high sticking. It was deemed a double-minor.
The Bulls pushed Stockton out of their zone pretty quickly and kept them down ice as the first penalty ticked down. Kris Belan harrassed the Thunder players relentlessly while they tried to collect the puck in their own zone.
The Bulls finished off that double pk, took some time to get out of their zone. When things looked dire, Galiardi plucked the puck out of a shoving contest between a Stockton player and Bulls Goalie Nelson, and threw it to safety.
A lot of players were doing really good things for the Bulls last night. Oddly, the ref did not think Dean Ouellet was one of them. He went to the box again at 12:05 for tripping.
That pk looked a little tired, it took them a very long time to finally clear the puck. Nelson however, looked sharp. He did lose track of the puck one time, but snapped back into place before it made its way back into shooting range.
Or so it seemed. Video replay, something I didn’t think they used in the ECHL, revealed that somewhere during that weary penalty kill, (12:48 of 3rd) Stockton’s Harrison Reed scored a goal to tie the game. It was kind of a weird thing to not experience in real time… even being there we could only perceive it as a historical event.
As I was contemplating this hiccup in the time-space continuum, the Bulls bounced back like the confident team they were and scored to take the lead again. That was Kris Belan, assisted by Clendenning and Lessard.
An aside: I love the way Jordan Morrison carries a puck in through traffic. Just had to mention that.
So the clock ticked down. The puck was stopped in the Bulls zone with 1:02 left in the game. Stockton had pulled their goalie. Dean Ouellet took the faceoff, Morrison came in fast to clear the puck, didn’t quite get it out. Another Bull got to it, sent it back to Morrison, he cleared it this time. Puck came back in, Nelson stopped it.
Another dzone faceoff, Bulls couldn’t clear right away, finally Morrison with a soaring shot at the empty net…… no go. It was a high shot, in another place on the ice, it might have hit the Cube.
The puck made it back to Nelson, he stopped it again.
Another defensive zone faceoff… Ouellet managed to clear it, Morrison got a little jump on that and another shot at the empty net. That one went in.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Final score: 4-2 Bulls.
(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner)