DALY CITY, Calif. – This was an important series for the Bulls. Could they break the “hex” of never beating the Alaska Aces at home? Could they prove themselves against the Beasts of the North?
The Bulls were here to win it and in the three games, they proved they could compete against ECHL elite.
Last season, the Bulls were eliminated by the top seeds of the West, the Aces, in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. San Francisco managed to win the first game, but then Alaska won the rest. But this year’s Bulls team is different. They’re stronger, more experienced, and not as likely to fall without a fight.
Thursday Jan 9, 2014 – Game 1
The weekend series started Thursday night. Both teams were slow starting in the first period with lots of skating around, and not much shooting. Alaska’s James Martin scored first, giving the Aces the lead.
This woke the Bulls up, their skating quickened and the team started to shoot more, creating more chances at goal. Dean Ouellet tied it up close to the end of the first period with Dale Mitchell and Brett Findlay assisting. At the end of one, Alaska led on shots on goal 11-7.
The second period started as a real grindfest with both sides battling back and forth. Five minutes into the period, Aces Dustin Molle scored, followed three minutes later by his teammate Matthew Sisca. Alaska led 3-1.
Steven Tarasuk, after five minutes passed in the third period, scored the second goal for San Francisco, reducing the goal deficit to just one. Captain Scott Langer and Dale Mitchell both received penalties, and the Bulls had to ride through a three-on-five penalty kill. The short-handed team looked sharp and tried to gain back the tying goal, but the buzzer sounded before they could.
This game began slowly but the pace increased and became an exciting contest that could have gone either way. The Aces win this one 3-2. Friday would be an exciting second match.
Friday, Jan 10, 2014 – Game 2
The second of the three games versus Alaska will be one San Francisco fans will talk about for years to come. This was one of the wildest, most heart-pounding games in memory.
It didn’t start out well for the home team. 18 seconds into the first period, Eli Zuck scored. The crowd groaned, hoping the Bulls could even things out. Tommy Mele and Peter Sivak earned assist points. In 1:25 minutes, the Aces scored two more times. First, Sivak chalked up his second point of the game (he would get more), while Drew Mackenzie got the net, making the score 3-0 in Alaska’s favor.
Bulls’ fans were worried. But, as if on script, Captain Scott Langdon and Alaska’s Dustin Molle rounded off in an old-fashioned hockey fight. Langdon got the best of Molle and it not only rallied the crowd but the team as well. The second period would do a 180 on the direction this game was taking.
It was as if someone waved a red flag in front of an angry bull. Its’ red eyes burned, nostrils flared and the ice heated up. San Francisco scored four goals in 1:31 minutes, taking the lead with 4-3. That may not be a record, but it’s some of the craziest scoring witnessed at the Cow Palace. Jordon Morrison got the party started with a shot past Alaska goalie Gerald Coleman. Brett Findlay and Mitchell had assists. Then Mitchell scored not once, but twice, tying the game at 3-3. Ouellet took his turn at dueling goals and gave the Bulls the lead at 4-3. Assists for all the goals went to Eriks Sevcenko, Findlay, Sebastian Stalberg, and Riley Brace. Later in the period, however, Alaska tied it at 4-4 with Tim Coffman’s shot past San Francisco goalie Tyler Beskorowany. Still in the second period, on the offense, Morrison moved one into the net and San Francisco led once more at 5-4.
In the third period, Alaska came back to tie it with a lightning-fast goal from Sivak, fed from Mele. There was lots of nail-biting attempts to score, but neither team’s goalie was going to give up anything in regular time, so the game went into overtime.
At the start of the overtime period, Ouellet caught Coleman too far away from the net and secured a 6-5 victory for the Bulls.
Saturday, Jan 11, 2014 – Game 3
The Bulls adorned special jerseys Saturday night at the Cow Palace. It was LGBT and they wore specially-made white jerseys with rainbows on them for the occasion. These were auctioned off after the game, with proceeds going to SF Pride, who do a lot of great work in the community.
Because San Francisco’s usual backup goalie JP Anderson is on 21-day IR, the Bulls had to quickly get another backup, so they just added Alex Gangas to the team this past week. With the lack of experience playing with the team, it was probably thought best to start Tyler Beskorowany for the third day in a row, but he did indeed seem tired. These games have been difficult and exhausting, especially the overtime win the night before.
Alaska had nearly complete control of the whole game, especially the first period. They scored twice in the first ten minutes, Shawn Skelly and Matthew Sisca getting the puck past Beskorowany.
Brett Findlay, one of the top powerhouse scorers for the Bulls scored first in the second period, erasing the goal deficit to just 2-1. But Alaska wasn’t sitting back and Tim Coffman scored making it 3-1 in Alaska’s favor.
The third period started quickly with Sisca scoring. San Francisco also was prepared to fight back and Sebastian Stalberg sliced one past Coleman, making it 4-2 Alaska. Coffman caught Beskorowany not looking and took the score to 5-2 Alaska, which was the final outcome of the third game.
The Bulls look sharper in many aspects on the ice. Their power play is much sharper, as is the penalty kill. They have a faster offensive, with a few more skaters who are healthy now to contribute. Defense still needs some work, and fans can look forward to Gangas giving Besko some well-earned breaks in these multi-game stretches.
The best part about the Bulls though is that they do not give up. Even when they are down 0-3, it does not matter, the fight and heart is there. They just need to fill in some of the weaker areas and they should be even better and unstoppable.