Slow Starts Cost Bulls Against Aces

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(Originally published at Inside Hockey)

The Alaska Aces may not be the runaway ECHL points leaders they were last season, but they still occupy a special, dark place in the hearts of the San Francisco Bulls and their fans. Last weekend’s trio of games at the Cow Palace did little to change that. Despite a stunning comeback from the Bulls in the middle game, the Bulls only earned two points in three games. Continue reading

Aces Shut the Bulls Down 5-0

The Alaska Aces made the San Francisco Bulls pay dearly for ruining their home opener, beating the Bulls 5-0 on Saturday. It is hard to tell from the score, but the Bulls did show signs that they were working better as a team, leaving fewer gaping holes on defense.

The Bulls went in to their second game in Alaska without Dean Ouellet, who was described as having a non-specific upper body injury. If the team was thrown by that development, it didn’t show as they started the game with more composure in the defensive zone than they displayed in the first game. Despite taking too many penalties and giving up more goals than in the previous game, the team actually had more chances and showed signs of improvement. Continue reading

The Bulls Back at Home for Playoffs

The San Francisco Bulls are back at the Cow Palace. Their first post-season run will resume on Thursday. They lost Game One last Friday to the Alaska Aces by a score of 5-1. They tied the series the next day by winning 1-0.

Kris Belan scored Friday’s goal short-handed. Kory Falite scored the game winner on Saturday, with assists to Brett Findlay and Dean Ouellet. Except for Falite’s, all of those points went to players in their first professional playoff series. Bulls goalie Thomas Heemskerk, who was replaced by Taylor Nelson during Friday’s loss, recorded a shutout in Saturday’s win. This is his first professional post-season too.

For a team that just wrapped up its first regular season, newness is hardly new, but these are the playoffs: Continue reading

SF Bulls Are Getting the Job Done

The San Francisco Bulls have a lot to be excited about as they wind up their first season. They have built successful partnerships in the Bay Area. They are preparing prospects for their NHL affiliate, the San Jose Sharks, and other teams. Not only will they compete in the playoffs (having clinched Tuesday when Bakersfield lost to Las Vegas), but they have something they didn’t have to start this season: information.

Bulls CEO Angela Batinovich explained that the team’s first season gave them a wealth of data to work with this summer. It makes the end of the season almost as exciting as being in the playoffs:

Our whole staff is really excited to close out the season. We have four or five months in the off-season, we are going to grind every number we have, get all the fan feedback we have, we have surveys, we have so much information we just have to sit and actually figure out what to do with it.

The team launched the season with an impressive marketing campaign. Their video ads are memorable and entertaining, their billboards and radio spots let San Franciscans know they were in town. Some of their video work has gone viral through the hockey community. Their merchandise sold extremely well. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Peter Sivak

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Peter Sivak

Peter Sivak was the first player signed by the San Francisco Bulls.  A quick google search for “Peter Sivak” will turn up several mentions of one of the fastest goals in professional hockey history.  Whether it was 5 seconds from the faceoff, 4.8 seconds, or 3.23 seconds isn’t important.  It was very fast.  It isn’t entirely surprising that he did that.  Sivak takes a lot of shots, from every angle, very quickly.  This is one of the reasons he is the Bulls’ leading goal-scorer.

His North American career did not start so auspiciously.  In his first month with the team, he had only one goal, three points, and 22 shots in eight games.

After that slow start, Sivak’s production picked up with a statistical jolt.  In 24 games through November and December, he scored 10 goals, had 25 points, and took 92 shots.    In January and February, he had 16 goals, 20 points, 109 shots in 23 games.  During his first two months in the league, he took a paltry 12 penalty minutes, not bad for a player expected to score and stay out of the box.  Since then, his penalty minutes have gone down even more, to just twelve minutes in 37 games, including a penalty-free February. Continue reading