By Mary Walsh
SAN FRANCISCO- Saturday, the San Francisco Bulls came back from a three-goal deficit to defeat the Stockton Thunder in a shootout. It was the third meeting of the season for the two teams. The first period ended tied at one, the second period ended 4-2. The teams went to a shootout tied at five goals apiece. Two of the Bulls’ goals were scored by Steven Tarasuk, his first two goals of the season. Also, there were teddy bears, lots of teddy bears tossed on the ice.
After the game, Head Coach Pat Curcio said:
From the beginning of the game tonight, we were much better than last night. I think our fans had a lot to do with it, it just gives our guys so much more energy and life out there. I thought in the second period, a couple of the mistakes that we made, it [was] unfair for us to be down 3-1. Obviously Scott Langdon got us on the board there, gave us some life and the guys just thought “if they scored three that quick, we can score three that quick.”
The game was a lot like the last game San Francisco played against Stockton: San Francisco was outshot, they fell behind by three goals, they pulled J.P. Anderson out and put Tyler Beskorowany in net mid-second period. The games were just alike, apart from four San Francisco goals scored in the second half of the game, three by defensemen.
Three and a half minutes of the first period went by before either team got a shot on goal, and then it was San Francisco’s shot. Stockton answered back quickly with two of their own, and then play was interrupted by a hit from Adrian Foster that left a Stockton player down for several seconds. A boarding call put the Bulls on the penalty kill. Stockton had two more shots on the power play but the Bulls’ penalty kill kept the game scoreless.
After 9:50, the Bulls still only had one shot on goal. This wasn’t an accurate reflection of zone time or scoring chances, which looked more even.
The Bulls also took the second penalty of the game, again to Foster, this time for high-sticking. At 14:03 of the first, Stockton scored on their eighth shot, a power play goal by Joey Martin from Corey Trevino and Matt Berglund.
At 13:29 of the period, Tyler Gron tied it up when three Bulls got the jump on the Stockton defense. The teddy bears flew, a significant improvement over last year’s teddy bear toss, when the Bulls didn’t score until the third period.
With 2:50 left in the period, Stockton’s Ryan Constant was called for cross-checking Dale Mitchell. The power play started out well enough, with a series of good chances during a long shift for San Francisco. The Bulls finally lost control of the puck and Stockton kept them from setting up again in the last few seconds of the penalty.
The period ended tied at one, with shots 10-8 for San Francisco.
During that first intermission, the Bulls thanked one of their most loyal fans, Misty. She will be moving to Florida this month and the Bulls aren’t likely to travel there often. The Bulls played a thank you message on the video cube.
The second period started quietly enough. With nearly four minutes gone in the period, Dale Mitchell and Stockton’s Mike Dalhuisen were called for roughing, putting the teams four on four. Neither team scored then, but at 6:31 of the period, Stockton’s Andrew Clark did, with a shot from the faceoff circle that beat Anderson on the far side. Assists went to Greg Miller and Garet Hunt. 33 seconds later, Stockton scored again. Goal by Alex MacLeod, unassisted.
In the next minute, the Bulls got a power play out of an interference penalty called on Larson. As the penalty expired, Stockton went the other way to put the puck in the net for the fourth time. James Henry’s shot got by Anderson but the goal was called off for goaltender interference.
The Thunder had to try again for that fourth goal a few minutes later, which Clark scored with another shot from the faceoff circle, beating Anderson on the far side. In both cases, Anderson had a player in front of him, but that was still four goals too many. Bulls Coach Pat Curcio replaced Anderson with Beskorowany.
A couple of minutes later, Scott Langdon scored his third of the season to make it 4-2. Assists went to Mitchell and Ouellet.
The period ended 4-2, with shots at 25-18, Stockton leading on both counts.
The first few minutes of the third dragged a bit, but at 3:57, Brett Findlay skated straight up the slot in the Thunders’ zone and shot the puck past Phillips to make it a one goal game. Assists went to Jordan Morrison and Steven Tarasuk.
Play picked up then, the teams trading aggressive forechecks, the goalies getting some work. Finally, Dylan King sent the puck along the blue line from one point to the other, where Tarasuk was waiting to slap it to the net. It made it through with help from a screen set by Chris Crane and Magomed Gimbatov. Assists went to Gimbatov and King.
The Bulls earned another power play with just under eight minutes left: a boarding call against James Henry. Half way through the power play, the Bulls gave up a short-handed chance but regrouped in time to go the other way again. A shot from the point gave the Bulls their first lead of the game. It was Tarasuk’s second goal of the game and the season. It was only the Bulls’ tenth shot of the period, and their third goal. Assists went to Kalvin Sagert and Gimbatov.
With under three minutes to go, Stockton tied it again and the game went to overtime tied 5-5. The goal was Mike Dalhuisen’s, with an assist from Clark.
A fast overtime period flew by without many whistles or breaks in play. The shootout went five rounds, with Dean Ouellet and Brett Findlay scoring for San Francisco and Joey Martin scoring for Stockton. Final score: 6-5 San Francisco.
For full game stats, visit the ECHL website.
The last time the Bulls met the Thunder, Stockton won 5-1. Since then, the Bulls have lost Mark Lee to injury, but regained Dale Mitchell and acquired Tyler Gron. That isn’t unusual in the ECHL: roster turnover is pretty high, especially since they have to contend with a roster limit and salary cap.
Nonetheless, it is worth pausing to consider how many players have come or gone from the Bulls’ lineup since November 20. Kyle Bodie, Josh Kidd, Damon Kipp, Riley Emmerson and Rob Linsmayer had been traded away or gone to China. In their places, the Bulls acquired Kalvin Sagert, Adrian Foster, Magomed Gimbatov, and Berkley Scott. In short, the team has replaced almost one third of the roster. Half of the Bulls who scored against Stockton are not playing: Lee and Linsmayer. Worth noting, Tyler Gron did score against the Thunder this season, as a member of the Idaho Steelheads, on November 24.
For Stockton’s part, two players arrived December 11 from the AHL: defenseman Mike Dalhuisen and left wing Nick Larson. Dalhuisen played seven games with the Thunder this season, this was Larson’s first game in the ECHL.