(Originally published at Inside Hockey)
The San Francisco Bulls return to home ice tonight after earning seven points in a five game road trip. The trip started with a win in Utah and included a 4-1 defeat of the Division-leading Ontario Reign. The Bulls finished the trip with a 6-2 win in Las Vegas.
Before hitting the road, the team played the Bakersfield Condors twice in a row. They lost the second of those 5-2, at home, after winning 5-1 in Bakersfield the night before. After the loss, Bulls Captain Scott Langdon was downcast by his team’s inability to play a consistent 60 minutes. The Bakersfield Condors were more ready for the Bulls, after being so badly beaten on their home ice the night before. Langdon pointed out that Bakersfield is probably always ready for the Bulls:
They’re always kind of ready to play us, you know what I mean, since we’re all kind of battling for the basement right now. So it’s a team that we’re supposed to beat, we should beat, we just couldn’t get the job done.
Such an opinion of the team couldn’t bode well for the Bulls as they set out on the road. A 2-1 win in Utah showed a spark of life, but the next night the Bulls fell to the Grizzlies 5-2.
In Ontario, Langdon did not look like a player merely battling for the basement. The Bulls did not look like a team that belonged in the basement. The Bulls’ defenseman scored his first and second goals of the season, and the second was a wrap-around.
I think, maybe they decided to take us lightly because they’re first place or whatever, they were blowing coverage so I just wanted to make them pay for sure. So that’s what I did.
Langdon isn’t known for his hands, not for scoring anyway. Looking back at last season, his hands were usually pretty banged-up from fighting to pick his team up. With Langdon’s two goals and two more from Tyler Gron and Dale Mitchell, the Bulls won 4-1.
The next night, the Reign were eager to get back to their division-leading form. The Bulls chased them through much of the game, on the scoreboard and the shot clock to a 3-2 overtime loss. The Bulls still acquitted themselves respectably. They did force overtime, and never trailed by more than one. The shot disparity spoke well for J.P. Anderson, who stopped 42 of 45 shots in all. The Bulls were outshot but did put 29 shots on net through three periods and 3:24 of overtime. As losses go, it was not a bad one for San Francisco.
The team’s scoring woes this season have been aggravated by injuries to key players, and now one of those players has returned: Dale Mitchell. Mitchell’s first game back was the win against Ontario. His pre-game comments were self-effacing, describing modest but reasonable goals for a player coming back from an 11-game absence with a back injury:
I just want to get the first period out of the way, just kind of get the cobwebs out and just get my game back under me… Just keep it simple. I don’t want to do anything that’ll cost the team a goal against. I know being a road game you want to keep it simple, get it deep, forecheck, maybe get a couple shots and if a goal came out of it that’d be awesome.
Awesome indeed. He has played three games now, and has goals in all of those and an extra assist to boot. By the end of the road trip, Tyler Gron had extended his point streak to eight games. Jordan Morrison and Bret Findlay had five game point streaks interrupted by the overtime loss in Ontario last weekend. They both resumed their point-getting in the next game.
That next game was a 6-2 victory over the Wranglers in Las Vegas. In all, nine Bulls came away from that game with at least a point, and six had more than one.
Chris Crane has taken the team lead for shots on goal with 60 now. Dean Ouellet is right behind him with 56. Tyler Gron still has the lead in points for the season with 15. As four of those points were with the Idaho Steelheads, it is only fair to give Brett Findlay his due for having 14 points this season, all with the Bulls.
San Francisco is presently in sixth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Utah and Las Vegas, and six ahead of Bakersfield. The Bulls might be putting some distance between themselves and that basement.
Tonight they will be tested as they host the Ontario Reign at the Cow Palace. Saturday, the Bulls will host the Stockton Thunder, and hold their annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The Bulls claimed forward Berkley Scott off waivers yesterday. He has six points in 12 games this season, 17 points in 39 games last season with Utah.
Ryan McDonough will not be rejoining the team. McDonough had recovered from his injury and was recalled and released by the Worcester Sharks Tuesday. Bulls Assistant Coach Kyle Paige explained that McDonough expressed a desire to return to Europe.
Rob Linsmayer was traded to the Idaho Steelheads, and Kyle Bodie was traded to the South Carolina Stingrays, both for future considerations.