The San Francisco Bulls begin their season in Anchorage, Alaska to kick off an 18-day road trip while their home barn is home to a rodeo. They will face the Alaska Aces in back to back games Friday and Saturday nights at Sullivan Arena. The Bulls last faced the Aces during the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs where they lost to the Aces in 5 games. The memory is still fresh for the players that were on the ice for the Bulls last season. The Aces have consistently been one of the top teams, finishing first in the ECHL last season with 106 points and have an impressive home record. Over half of Alaska’s players have returned from last year’s roster along with some new skill up front including former Bulls forward and top scorer for the team last season Peter Sivak. Rookie goaltender Joni Ortio, down from the Abbotsford Heat will start in goal for the Aces on Friday night.

 

Scott Langdon, the Bulls Captain knows what the Aces are all about and is expecting them to come out strong for their home opener and try to use the Olympic sized ice surface at Sullivan Arena to their advantage. He says, especially with the larger ice, it’s important to keep the game simple and focus on positioning.

 

“You can’t be chasing guys around the ice, it’s really position in those big arenas. We’ve had success there because we keep it simple, little simple plays , just stay between them and your net is what I think is going to keep us successful while we are up there. Don’t go running around after guys cause it’s hard to get back to your net when you are running around.”

 

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Kyle Bigos, assigned to the Bulls by the Worcester Sharks
photo: Misty Wichman

The Bulls have a physically large defensive core and the long strides of Kyle Bigos and Josh Kidd along with veterans Langdon and King should help contain some of Alaska’s puck movement with the faster moving defenceman Tarasuk helping to move it out of the zone. Damon Kipp, newly acquired from the Reading Royals will also contribute his size to the blueline for San Francisco. Coach Curcio is confident in his defensive core and said, “We have to be disciplined and slow down their top players. I think they have pretty much the same team as last year but they added 2 more real solid forwards so we know what to expect. All the guys that were here, they know how hard it is to win up there, how good they are, but we have to find a way to keep pucks out of our net and find ways to score a little more than we have up there before.”

 

Curcio is optimistic that if his team tightens up defensively and makes the other team work hard to earn goals the Bulls will make a good start to the season up in Alaska, despite their losses in the preseason games against the Bakersfield Condors and the Stockton Thunder. Of the preseason Curcio said, “You can see we’ve got some skill, we had a lot of scoring chances. A lot of guys that played in Europe last year are getting assimilated back to the North American game and I think it does take a little time to adjust … there’s a lot of things we can improve on that comes with time and a little more teaching.”

 

The team will have a lot of time on the road together after their weekend tilt in Alaska. They will head to Idaho and Utah for a game a piece before heading to Colorado for a three game series against the Eagles. They will then make a stop in Ontario, California to take on the Reign before the home opener against the Bakersfield Condors on November 8th.

 

A West Coast girl, born and raised in the Bay Area in the most non-traditional Hockey Market you could imagine for a long time... When the Sharks came to town it changed the Bay Area hockey landscape forever. Her first love will always be the Red Wings but she has embraced the Sharks since their debut in 1991. She has a passion for minor league grind-it-out-in the-corners hockey. Her heart broke when the ECHL Bulls folded , but luckily the Stockton Thunder are still close enough for her to get her gritty-hockey fix. Besides watching hockey, she is an American Tribal Style belly-dancer and trolls the blue-line, playing defence in a local rec hockey league... A somehow strange but balanced juxtaposition.

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