COW PALACE — Typically, opposing hockey teams wait until play starts to get in each others faces.
But at the Cow Palace Thursday night, the San Francisco Bulls and Ontario Reign were getting up close and personal during pre-game skate. That should have been a sign that the game wasn’t going to be pretty.
Indeed, it would be another frustrating battle against the Pacific Division-leading Reign, who would beat the Bulls 5-2.
The Bulls went into the match 1-5-0-2 against the dominant Reign, who had a luxuriant four days rest going into Thursday’s game. San Francisco, on the other hand, had just come off a five-game road trip, including last night’s 3-2 loss in Stockton.
President and Head Coach Pat Curcio discussed the frustration of having a quick turnaround and not playing to the highest of their ability:
“I think that we were a little fatigued. They’d been off since Saturday. We played Sunday in Alaska, in Stockton last night. I hate to make excuses but we looked flat, and the next thing you know we found ourselves in a 2-0 hole.”
Goalie Taylor Nelson would get right back to work after fighting off 42 of the Stockton Thunder’s attempts the night before. The Reign weren’t going to show him any mercy.
Ontario’s Matthew Clune would score his first goal of the season at 7:34 in the first period to put Ontario on the board 1-0. Then 22 seconds later, C.J. Stretch would shoot the puck past Nelson’s glove, giving the Reign the 2-0 advantage.
The Bulls would go on their first power play of the night at 13:28 in the second period. But following a called “no goal” that would have put San Francisco on the board, Ontario’s Mario Lamoureux broke away and charged the net for a shorthanded goal, giving the Reign a 3-0 lead.
The Reign would get themselves into penalty trouble halfway through the third period. Back-to-back Ontario penalties that would put San Francisco on a two-man advantage.
On the ensuing power play, Dean Ouellet would knock the puck past Jean-Francois Berube for his 22nd goal of the season to put the Bulls on the board 3-1. Cody Carlson and Sebastien Trudeau would pick up assists.
Peter Sivak would then add to San Francisco’s offensive assault with a shot beyond Berube’s glove, bringing the Bulls within a goal of tying the game at with less than three minutes remaining. It would be Sivak’s 21st goal of the season.
It looked as if the electric jolt in the offense might allow the Bulls to tie up the game. But just over a minute later, the Reign’s C.J. Stretch would get the jump on Nelson for the second time during the evening, giving Ontario the 4-2 advantage. Nelson would turn away 24 of 28 Bulls shots on the night.
A decision to pull Nelson from the goal would only dig the Bulls deeper, as Kyle Kraemer would get a shot on the empty net, sealing the 5-2 defeat with 1:02 left in regulation.
The team’s plans between now and their next game on Wednesday? Curcio explained:
”For now, it’s not about working them hard. I’ve got to give them some time off away from the rink. Give them some rest, and then the next hard skate will be on Monday for sure.”
The San Francisco Bulls will be back at the Cow Palace next Wednesday to host the Las Vegas Wranglers.