North to Alaska: Bulls to face Aces after All Star break

The Bulls will face the Alaska Aces on Friday, when play resumes after the ECHL All-Star break.  It will be the Bulls’ first of three games in three days in Alaska.  No team has had a whole lot of luck against this season’s Aces, but since the Bulls last played them, Alaska has lost a few NHLers.  So there is hope.

Dean Ouellet will rejoin the team in Alaska after spending the last few days in Colorado on the ECHL All-Star team.  The All-Stars were pitted against the Colorado Eagles.  Ouellet participated in the accuracy shooting competition on Tuesday.  He hit 4 targets in 7 attempts.  That was the second best score, shared with Dustin Gazely of the Elmira Jackals and Michael Fornley of the Colorado Eagles.  It was enough to help the All Stars win that competition.  Ouellet didn’t score against Colorado’s Ryan Jones in the breakaway relay, but only one of the All Stars did.  Colorado scored four times against Ryan Zapolski of the South Carolina Stingrays.  In all, the Eagles won four of the six events.

The next night, the All Stars won the All Star game 7-3.  They had a little trouble getting organized in the first but they outscored Colorado 6-1 after that.  One surprising stat: the final SOG count was 52-27… for the Eagles.  The All Stars used each of their three goalies (Mike Lee, Phillipp Grubauer and Ryan Zapolski), one in each period, while Colorado’s Kyle Jones played the whole game.  Overall, the game looked a little more intense than the last NHL All Star game I watched.  It was still a high-paced game of shinny, no serious hitting or shot-blocking, but quite competitive for what it was.  Ouellet finished a plus 3 but had no points.  After the game, Zapolski was named the All Star MVP.

The game was broadcast on several networks, including CSN California.  The game attracted a good crowd, the stands looked pretty full.  The broadcasters mentioned an average attendance of 4,000 for ECHL All-Star games.   They counted 5, 289 for last night’s game.  Colorado has a long history of supporting their team, whatever league they belong to.

Dean-O will join the team in Alaska today, where there will be much jollity:

@CurcioSFBulls: On way 2 Alaska, long trip but a great time 4 the boys 2 b together, tomro night a team meal in Alaska n watch @ryaneclowe29 @SanJoseSharks

Among the NHLers that the Alaska Aces lost after the lockout is none other than newly signed San Jose Shark, Scott Gomez.  Brandon Dubinsky was also in their lineup, and Sharks prospect William Wrenn.  Wrenn was signed by the AHL’s Worcester Sharks after the lockout, but was released from his PTO shortly before the All Star game.  He could be resigned today, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the blue line for the Aces.

To examine the relative standings of the Bulls and the Aces can be demoralizing.  Alaska has 64 points to San Francisco’s 35, their record is 31-10-0 to the Bulls’ 15-20-1.  Because of the peculiar division configurations, with only nine teams in the ECHL’s Western conference and fourteen in the Eastern one, the Bulls only have to finish ahead of one team to hold on to 8th place and make the playoffs.  The Bakersfield Condors have 28 points and the Bulls have three games in hand over them.  Still, it would be better to stretch that gap out a little more.  The Bulls are tied with Utah and just five points behind Las Vegas.  Unfortunately, Las Vegas has one game in hand on the Bulls, Utah has two.

On the bright side, the Bulls have a fairly good record against the Stockton Thunder, who are well ahead of the Bulls in the standings.  So nothing is impossible.

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