STOCKTON – Team SFBay found itself in foreign territory Wednesday night, watching the San Francisco Bulls take on the Stockton Thunder out at the Stockton Arena.
But the hard hits and dramatic goals were very familiar as the Northern California rivals met up for a mid-week rumble.
The last time these two foes met up was in early January, when San Francisco took two out of three in a weekend series and held Stockton to 1-for-7 on the power play. This time, it would be Stockton and its home crowd of 6,497 that would turn up victorious in this battle, winning 4-3 in a shootout.
Despite the loss, President and Head Coach Pat Curcio was not disappointed with his team’s performance:
Post-Game Audio: Bulls Head Coach Pat Curcio
“It’s almost like if you lose in regulation you deal with it better. But the positive side is that we’ve been on the road for five straight games, we’ve found a way to get on point. Our guys are relentless, we had some great chances in overtime. … But, our positives tonight are that our guys are a good group, they want to get better, they want to learn, they want to win. And there are no egos in that room.”
The Thunder got to work early in the first period, as Gabriel Levesque lasered the puck past Nelson’s outstretched glove to give Stockton a 1-0 advantage 30 seconds into the game.
But following a fight-loaded and penalty-laden 18 minutes of play, the Bulls would retaliate. With 19 seconds left in the first period and San Francisco on a two-man advantage, Rob Kwiet would skate up close and knock a shot past Stockton goaltender Cody Reichard. Cody Carlson and Peter Sivak would pick up assists.
San Francisco was about to kill a penalty early in the second period, when defenseman Tony DeHart would find the opening over Nelson’s left shoulder, bringing the score to 2-1, Thunder.
Not that a one-point deficit would get the Bulls down, as they proceeded to score back-to-back goals to bring the score to 3-2. Alex Tuckerman would feed Dean Ouellet the puck from behind the net for a wraparound goal at 8:49.
Then 17 seconds later, Christian Ouellet would get the puck on the breakaway and bee-line it past Reichard to give the Bulls the lead. It would be Ouellet’s 12th goal of the year and fourth as a Bull.
Forward Jordan Morrison spoke post-game about the chemistry playing on a line with Ouellet and Tuckerman:
Post-Game Audio: Bulls Forward Jordan Morrison
“It feels great. They’re both speedy, intense forwards. And ever since he put us together back in Stockton before we went to Alaska it’s just been clicking. It just takes time to find chemistry with guys, and we finally found it and it’s going well so far.”
Despite having the one-point lead heading into the dressing room, the Thunder would outshoot the Bulls through two periods, 29-14.
The lead wouldn’t last long into the third period, as Rylan Constant would get the tying goal at 2:06. The tie would remain at the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
The Bulls had the opportunity to end it in the extra session and in one final assault. They quickly charged Reichard with three quality scoring chances on net with 44 seconds left, but none would get past the crease for the game winner.
Although the Thunder would get the best of goalie Taylor Nelson in the shootout, the team would still skate out to congratulate him to blocking 43 shots on the night.
Defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin talked post-game about rallying from behind:
Post-Game Audio: Bulls Defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin
“Nelly’s just been such a catalyst for our team. And we know how hard he works. We all work really hard for each other. We’ve got Nelly’s back, game in and game out.”
The San Francisco Bulls return to the Cow Palace Thursday night take on the Pacific Division-leading Ontario Reign. The puck drops at 7:15 p.m.