(photo: San Francisco Bulls )
The Stockton Thunder hosted the San Francisco Bulls for an early evening tilt in what was the first of fifteen meetings between the teams for this season. The Thunder played against the Bakersfield Condors in Bakersfield the previous evening and the Bulls last played for their home opener on Friday November 8th. Stockton showed their fatigue, with the Bulls getting the win 3-2 with a late goal by Bulls points leader Mark Lee.
The first period started out slow for both teams with the first shot on goal coming at 13:44 by Matt Bergland of the Stockton Thunder. The first penalty of the evening got both the Thunder and the Bulls into the game when Bulls forward Kris Belan was called for holding. The Bulls quickly followed up with another penalty as Collin Bowman would go off for boarding, giving the Thunder over a minute with a 5 on 3 advantage. The Thunder would put their stellar power play unit to work and Andrew Clark would find the back of the net as he shot from the left circle off a feed from Nathan Deck and Ryan Hayes. The puck crossed past Bulls netminder Beskorowany through his stick side and found the left corner of the net, putting the Thunder up 1-0. San Francisco would answer back with a power play goal of their own, when Thunder Ryan Constant was called for hooking. Stockton put the pressure on but the Bulls set up shop in the Stockton zone. The Bulls Jordan Morrison sent a pass to Kyle Bigos who fired on Thunder goaltender Milner. Chris Crane for San Francisco was waiting on the doorstep and deflected the shot in to tie the game 1-1 with 3:06 left to play in the period.
Stockton found themselves in penalty trouble for most of the second frame, taking 10 minutes in the box. Ryan Hayes would be the first to visit, tripping Bulls defenceman Dylan King less than 2 minutes in to the period. Nathan Deck put the Bulls on a 5-3 advantage, grabbing a boarding call. Dean Ouellet would grab a rebound and put it over the stick side of Milner with Collin Bowman and Steve Tarasuk notching the assists on the power play, putting San Francisco ahead 2-1. The Thunder put the Bulls on another power play when Mathieu Gagnon shoved Luke Judson from behind, drawing a cross-checking penalty. Despite being hemmed in their zone, Stockton kept the puck out of their net, holding San Francisco off the scoreboard on their third power play. Stockton took yet another penalty, this time a double minor went to Shawn Boutin, his extra two minutes for his boisterous disagreement with the holding penalty on his way to the box. The Thunder again had a successful kill, allowing the Bulls to tally only 3 shots on goal during their four minute power play opportunity, with none finding their way past Milner. Stockton would then rally as Corey Trivino, who played well all night, raced in on the Bulls’ Beskorowany but was stonewalled by the large-framed netminder. Sean Escobedo and Joey Martin would all try to get past him but could not sneak any pucks in the net.
The Thunder began the third period with urgency, down a goal and looking for the equalizer. It would come on the power play when Nathan Deck was able to tap it in past Beskorowany’s shoulder off a good feed from Andrew Clark and Ryan Hayes.
“It was a big goal at the time, we were down 2-1 and I kind of came in late. It was a change from the other d-man so I snuck back door. Clark made a great pass through a guy’s feet and I just put it on net low blocks and it found its way,” said Deck.
With just a little under 3 minutes left to go, and overtime looking like a possibility, Bulls forward and points leader Mark Lee took a feed from Chris Crane from behind the net off a steal from the Thunder to edge San Francisco ahead 3-2. “It was just a quick play behind the net. I think he grabbed it off of one of our guys pretty quick and pushed it out front and it got redirected in. It’s definitely one I have to have,” said Milner of the Bulls late goal.
Stockton was plagued by second period penalties. “It’s not good for momentum, they took over there, they got a bunch of shots and we played in the d-zone a lot the second period. It’s hard to come back when you are killing the whole period, we did it but its tough, you don’t want to be doing that in back to back games, “ said Deck.
Coach Kromm felt that several of the penalties were “a little undisciplined and unnecessary….and that changed the momentum of the game. It took a while to get back and start playing again.” He believes his team can generate the offensive push and that they had their chances but the Bulls goaltender played very well for them. Kromm said “ I think our group looked a little bit tired at times tonight, I think we are going to have to regroup here in the next few days and get some energy back.”
The Bulls capitalized on the Thunder’s lack of discipline and showed a power play with a bit more bite than has been evident in their early season games. Coach Curcio impressed on his team the necessity of shooting the puck before tonite’s game. “We showed a lot of video this morning .We pulled about 20 clips of the most recent NHL power play goals and every one was just getting pucks to the net and finding loose pucks, and you are outnumbering guys in front, that’s the hardest thing.” He talked about the challenge of facing the Thunder, one of the better teams in the division and he wanted his team to match their energy and work ethic, something he felt they were able to do and get the win.
The San Francisco Bulls have lost three forwards to injury and call-ups. Ryan McDonough is out indefinitely with a possible concussion from an illegal check to the head by Ontario Reign defenceman Van de Mosselaer. Dale Mitchell is out with a lower body injury after colliding with Bakersfield goalie Chiodo during the Bulls Home Opener. Riley Brace has been recalled by the Worcester Sharks having played just two games with San Francisco.
The Stockton Thunder have lost defenceman Mike Dalhuisen as he was recalled to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers earlier in the week.
The Thunder will head out on the road to face the Bakersfield Condors on Thursday November 14th before returning for a six game homestand.
The Bulls begin a three game homestand with the Idaho Steelheads on Friday November 15th.