(Originally published at Inside Hockey)
The San Francisco Bulls will play three games in three days between Thursday and Saturday, all against the Alaska Aces, and all at the Cow Palace. They should be interesting games.
Since their three-game sweep of the Utah Grizzlies (December 18 to 21), the Alaska Aces haven’t lost two games in a row. They also haven’t won two in row. Their road record isn’t as daunting as their home record: they have won 8 of 14 on the road, compared to 11 wins in 16 home games. The Bulls have only won four of their last ten games, and earned points in two more. All of that might be irrelevant in light of the number of changes to the Bulls’ lineup.
The Bulls’ roster was reeling from injuries and departures of key players. Just back from injury, Mark Lee left for a tryout with a team in Europe. The Bulls suspended him, which allows them to retain his contract rights in case he returns to the ECHL this season. Tyler Gron, the Bulls’ scoring leader acquired from Utah, was called up by the Worcester Sharks on January 6. Adrian Foster was called up by the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames AHL affiliate) on December 30. Foster had 17 points in 15 games with the Bulls. In the team’s January 5 game in Ontario, both Jordan Morrison and Dean Ouellet left with injuries.
The Bulls’ AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, sent reinforcements this week. Riley Brace and Sebastian Stalberg were assigned to San Francisco on Wednesday.
Brace was only with the Bulls for a week in November, but he played two games and looked like a great addition before being recalled by the Sharks. His return is a welcome one. In Worcester this season, he played 23 games and had 3 points.
Stalberg is in his third season with the Sharks. He has played 23 games this season and has 5 points. He has taken 40 shots. The Bulls can always use more shots on goal, and he should be a good addition.
After missing four games with an injury, Dale Mitchell returned for the January 5 game in Ontario and promptly earned an assist.
The severity of recent injuries might be deduced by the Bulls’ recent trades. Wednesday, San Francisco acquired forward Ryan Flanigan from the Toledo Walleye. Flanigan has 6 points in 19 games this season. It is his second season in the ECHL. In 2011-12, his final season with Merrimack College, he had 29 points in 36 games. He finished that season by playing four games with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, earning two points. He spent last season between the ECHL’s Greenville Road Warriors (18 points in 30 games) and the CHL’s Wichita Thunder (15 points in 29 games).
The Bulls also acquired 26 year old goaltender Alex Kangas from the Alaska Aces on Wednesday. Per Eliteprospects.com, Kangas was with the University of Minnesota just two seasons ago, and played four games with the CHL’s Fort Wayne Komets. He has played just one game with Alaska this season. His arrival has to make people wonder if one of the goaltenders is injured or otherwise unavailable, since the Bulls have not carried more than two healthy goalies on their roster before.
In a transaction so fast that it makes your head spin, Aaron Clarke was apparently traded to the Toledo Walleye from San Francisco. Clarke didn’t play with the Bulls, and was just acquired on January 6 from the Kalamazoo Wings. The Bulls also traded Josh Kidd’s rights to Kalamazoo. Since it has only been a couple of days, it isn’t clear whether or not Kidd has returned from China or not.
Not to be lost in the transaction fracas is the fact that some of the Bulls have upped their games recently. Luke Judson has three goals in his his last seven games. Those are his first goals of the season. Berkeley Scott also scored his first goal with the Bulls on January 5 against the Ontario Reign. Defensemen Scott Langdon and Kyle Bigos both played as forwards in that same game. Langdon had assist and Bigos was a +1. All in all, that last OT loss was a big point for the Bulls.
The Bulls are still in third place in the Pacific Division, good for seventh in the Western Conference.