Finally. The San Francisco Bulls will have their season opener on November 8th. The ECHL season opened nearly four weeks ago but the Bulls are the last team to have a season opener, forced to vacate their barn during the annual Grand National Rodeo. They have spent the beginning of the season on the road and have come away with a 2-5-1-0 record. They won their first road game against the Alaska Aces, the top rated team in the ECHL, and by the end of the 18 day trip have found themselves in a four game losing streak, losing 2-0 to the Ontario Reign on Wednesday night. They face the Bakersfield Condors for their big night, a team that has lost all seven games to start the year.
The Bulls are still developing, as their second season as an organization has just begun. The team shows bright spots despite the difficult road start. They have solid goaltending in the 6’5” frame of Tyler Beskorowany, who kept pucks out of the net and gave the team a chance while the offense and defense sorted themselves out, making 201 saves in just 6 games this season. Although one of last season’s top scorers Dean Ouellet has been held off the scoreboard so far this season, newcomers Mark Lee and Dale Mitchell, and second year Bull Jordan Morrison lead the charge in points. Head Coach Pat Curcio thinks his team needs a bit more time together, some home games and a boost of confidence to get on the winning side of the hockey game. “We showed a lot of qualities, our defensive zone coverage, our skill level there… we like our team…you know this hockey team beat Alaska and Alaska is the only undefeated team in the ECHL other than the loss to us so I think we have the ability to win a lot of games,” Curcio said.
Penalties became a factor for the Bulls in their series with the Colorado Eagles. Too Many Penalties and too much time spent on the kill generating very little in the way of offense. Their last game against the Ontario Reign showed a much more disciplined hockey team and the resulting 2-0 loss reflected a tightening of the defense. The first goal scored by Reign rookie Zach O’Brien occurred late in the first period and their second was an empty netter as the Bulls pulled goalie J.P Anderson for the extra attacker with a little over a minute left in the third period. Although six different Bulls players registered shots on Ontario goaltender Michael Hutchinson, the back of the net could not be found for San Francisco. Curcio said, “We have to get back to the basics, get pucks to the net as much as we can, get bodies in front of the net as much as we can, and keep doing the little things right. It’s going to take some real ugly goals to go in for us before the pretty ones start going in.”
The team picks up two new players from the Worcester Sharks, forward Riley Brace and defenseman Collin Bowman, and released forward Christian Ouellet. Riley Brace came out of the OHL red hot (21g-52a) and joined the Sharks at the end of last season registering 3 goals and 3 assists in just 8 games, but has not tallied any points for Worcester this season. He is still developing and has the potential to bring the Bulls an offensive jolt. Curcio said, “I think Riley is a skilled guy and he showed last night that they are not going to keep him off the scoreboard long. I think he will score goals and he will get points, it is just a matter of time. It will take a little time to adjust but he will get better every night.”
The Bulls will look to keep the Bakersfield Condors without a win this season, but as San Francisco’s NHL Affiliate San Jose Sharks learned in their game against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night, it’s best never to underestimate a team with nothing to lose and everything to prove. In this case, both teams are hungry for a win, for the Bulls the pressure is on to put on a show for their home crowd that has so patiently waited for their team to skate on home ice.
Following the home opener on Friday November 8th, the Bulls head out to Stockton to face the Thunder on Monday November 11th before returning for a 3 game home stand against the Idaho Steelheads and the Ontario Reign on November 16-17-18. Tickets to all home games can be found by visiting the Bulls website.