Bulls Drown Out the Thunder 7-2

For the first time this season, the San Francisco Bulls scored seven goals, and won by five.  The victims of this scoring binge were the Stockton Thunder.  One game can make a point.  Two games doesn’t make a pattern, but a line from Sunday’s 4-1 win to Wednesday’s 7-2 win leads to the question: how far can these Bulls go?  The Bulls have scored as many as six goals in a game before, but rarely with such a voracious offensive appetite.   Quite simply, they ran away with the game and looked ready to keep going if the final buzzer hadn’t stopped them.

Wednesday’s game plan was not an ambitious one: survive the first ten minutes and go from there.  In their losses to Stockton, the Bulls were frequently overwhelmed by the Thunder’s quick starts, putting them down by one or two goals before they knew it. No one wants to hear that a team plans to merely survive the first ten minutes of a game, but it was a good plan. Stockton did take an early lead, when Ryan Hayes scored 5:57 into the first. Then, as if they had been waiting for the critical ten minutes to pass, the Bulls went on the attack and finished that first period up by two goals. Kory Falite, Nick Walsh and Peter Sivak all scored in under three minutes.

As if to make up for penalty minutes not taken this season, Sivak went to the box twice in a row, late in the first period and early in the second.  During that second period penalty kill, the Bulls got a two-on-one chance.  Defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin went to the net while Jordan Morrison carried the puck in and passed it to him. They didn’t score, but it was a little surprising to see Danis-Pepin engaged in a short-handed rush.  The Bulls were not going to be pushed back on their heels, even when they were short-handed.

The Bulls drew a penalty before the Stockton power play expired. During the four on four play, Tommy Grant scored, followed by a power play goal from Bryan Cameron. The score was 5-1 and it was only 3:35 into the second period.  Four minutes and two seconds later, it was 6-1.  The Bulls had six goals from six players.

The Thunder changed goalies, putting Matt Cooper into his first professional game.  The Thunder finally struck back with 2:55 left in the second period.  The only third period goal came from Sivak during a late four on four after matching minors were given to San Francisco’s Mikael Tam and Stockton’s Shawn Weller.

In the course of the game, the Bulls only had two power plays, but scored on one of them. The Thunder had six power plays, one was abbreviated, another included a short five-on-three. The Bulls’ penalty kill was perfect, and they still finished only eight behind Stockton on the shot clock.  It was as overwhelming a win as the Bulls have ever had.

If a team’s recent record is relevant, the Thunder fell to the Las Vegas Wranglers 3-2 last Saturday, but came back Sunday to beat the Ontario Reign 4-3. That could put the Bulls’ recent record in a very good light, since the Bulls defeated the Wranglers 4-1, and haven’t met the Ontario Reign since the last roster overhaul. A more cynical view would be that the Thunder, like the Reign and the Wranglers, have already clinched a playoff spot. It is possible that the Stockton team wasn’t in top form mentally, but somewhere along the way a player with any competitive pride would surely push back to prevent or answer a five-goal deficit.

San Francisco has been surprisingly successful against Stockton throughout the season, considering that Stockton is 20 points ahead of the Bulls in the standings.  San Francisco has beaten Stockton by three goals three times before, but also been shut out 4-0.  San Francisco has now won six of eleven games against Stockton. It has been a hard-fought series and has the makings of a great rivalry. They will play twice more this season.

In Sunday’s win, Taylor Nelson only faced 17 shots. Wednesday he faced 40 shots. It is a good sign that he is finding his game again. The team needs him at the top of his game for this last push into the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks have not indicated that Thomas Greiss is ready to play, and have not sent Alex Stalock down. Until they do that, Thomas Heemskerk will stay in Worcester and Taylor Nelson is San Francisco’s number one and only goalie, despite the emergency signing of Dave Guy.

This was Tommy Grant’s first game with the Bulls. Grant was reassigned by the Sharks from Worcester at the same time that Yanni Gourde was recalled. Since his first pro season in 2010-11, Grant played 127 regular season games and 16 playoff games in the AHL. This is his first stint in the ECHL. Grant was acquired by the Sharks back in January from the New York Rangers in exchange for Brandon Mashinter.  The move was one that agitated many Connecticut Whale and Worcester Sharks fans.  Both players were fan favorites, as evinced by a series of tweets passing back and forth to ensure a warm reception for the players from their new fans.  Grant didn’t need a Twitter introduction to make an impression on Bulls’ fans, a goal and two assists should do the trick.

Another acquisition that seemed to fly under the radar is Nick Walsh, recently of the Gwinnett Gladiators. As Paul Gackle pointed out during the play by play, Walsh may be the best “future considerations” ever.  He has four points in four games with San Francisco.

Ian Schultz did not play and is day-to-day with an injury. That must be seen as a blow since he was a featured part of the trade deadline deal with the Utah Grizzlies.

In the meantime, the Bulls appear to have the depth to make due, even charge ahead while they wait for players to recover and possibly return from the AHL.

Scores and saves:

Kory Falite(13)(C. Ouellet, Morrison), Nick Walsh(5)(Sivak, Grant), Peter Sivak(30)(Grant), Tommy Grant(1)(Tam, Falite), Bryan Cameron(19)(PPG, T King), Tristan King(22)(Isherwood, C Ouellet), Sivak(31)(Kwiet, D King). Taylor Nelson made 38 saves for the win. The Bulls power play went 1/2, their penalty kill 6/6.

Stockton: Ryan Hayes(12)(Weller, Boutin), Gabriel Levesque(9)(Little, Boisclair). Tyler Bunz made 15 saves, Matt Cooper made 10 for Stockton.

The Bulls will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Saturday’s game with green hats and beer- yes, the beer will be green too.  The Ontario Reign are also invited to the party.  Pre-game antics might make an early arrival worth your time.  Puck drop at 7:15 PDT.

Sunday, the team will celebrate Star Wars.  They invite fans to come in their favorite Star Wars gear, with proceeds going to Kristi Yamaguchi’s Always Dream Foundation.  Yamaguchi and Bret Hedican will be on hand for the event.  Puck drop against the Utah Grizzlies will be at 2:25 PDT.

Additionally, Bulls of note will remove their jerseys during the game, without penalty:

@SFBulls: Jersey off the backs this weekend: Scott Langdon on Sat and Dean Ouellet on Sun. Raffle to win just $1 and get the jersey during 3rd period

If you can’t make it to the Cow Palace, listen to the festivities online at KNBR or watch on America One Sports.  Both games will also be broadcast on Comcast Hometown Network Digital Channel 104.

(Originally published at Inside Hockey)


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