By Mary Walsh
ANCHORAGE- 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.
San Francisco looked sharp to start the game. Things looked bright when Dale Mitchell had a great opportunity on a breakaway. Aces goaltender Joni Ortio was ready for him and thwarted the Bulls’ best chance to take an early lead.
A lapse in defensive focus gave the Aces a 3 on 2 and the 1-0 lead at 10:01 of the first. The goal was scored by Jordan Kremyr, with assists to Dustin Molle and Tommy Mele. That goal took the wind out of the Bulls and they too much time trapped in their own zone. They finished the period credited with only two shots on goal to Alaska’s 17.
The second period got interesting quickly when Dylan King took a boarding penalty while the Bulls were already killing Luke Judson‘s hooking penalty. Kris Belan, Scott Langdon and Kyle Bigos valiantly killed off a 5 on 3 that lasted for over a minute. Judson came out of the box at the end of his penalty and helped them clear the zone. The Bulls killed off the rest of the penalty and within a couple of shifts seemed invigorated by that success.
Defenseman Kyle Bigos was assigned to the Bulls by the AHL Worcester Sharks. He was conspicuous during the troubled second period, making a number of critical interceptions and clears for his team. Bulls goaltender Tyler Beskorowany doesn’t leave a lot of dangerous rebounds but it was a good sign that Bulls skaters were there to clean them up anyway.
The Bulls were taking too many penalties in the period, and it cost them when the Aces scored on their third power play of the period. That power play goal scored by Evan Trupp, with assists to Peter Sivak and Zach Davies.
Ironically, the Bulls more than doubled their first period shot total during the first half of the second period. They finally earned a power play at 11:58 of the period. It did not start out well as the Bulls let Aces center Nick Mazzolini break the other way unfettered. Narrowly escaping another goal against, the Bulls held the zone for the rest of the power play. They came close but lacked polish and didn’t score. Less than two minutes later, the Bulls were on the penalty kill again, this time with Jordan Morrison in the box. The Bulls killed off the penalty and responded with some good offensive rushes. Still they didn’t score and by the end of the period it was evident that they’d spent too much time short-handed. They had lost a step, but they had also outshot the Aces 8-6 in the period.
The Aces jumped into the third period with an early goal, a second for Evan Trupp off a cross-crease pass from Peter Sivak. As if killing penalties were the Bulls’ theme of the night, Mark Lee went to the box at 4:51 for cross-checking. Before that ended, Brett Parnham was called for the same and the Bulls were down two men. The team survived that but did not make it through their next penalty, Alaska’s seventh power play of the game. That put the Bulls in a 4-0 hole. Alaska’s fourth goal was scored by B.J. Crum, with assists to Sivak and Mazzolini.
A power play at 10:20 of the third gave the Bulls some energy. Alaska seemed to sit back on their four goal lead, still able to frustrate the Bulls’ offense. In the last two minutes of the game, Zach Davies took advantage of Scott Langdon’s errant pass up the boards and scored the Aces’ fifth goal.
The Bulls finished the game on the penalty kill. Sullivan Arena played “All By Myself” while Chris Crane went to the box. To make matters worse, the refs gave Crane four minutes for his high stick.
Scoring summary: Alaska: Jordan Kremyr (Molle, Mele) 11:59, Evan Trupp(PPG, Sivak, Davies) 9:57, Trupp (Sivak, Mazzolini) 1:47, B.J. Crum (PPG Sivak, Mazzolini) 7:55, Zach Davies (Sivak) 18:02. Alaska killed 3 of 3 penalties. Joni Ortio made 17 saves for the win.
San Francisco killed 7 of 9 penalties and Tyler Beskorowany made 34 saves on 39 shots for San Francisco.
The Bulls play next in Idaho, on Wednesday at 6:10 PT. Listen on KNBR.com or watch on AmericaOneSports.com. The team’s full schedule can be found on their website.