Bulls walloped by Wranglers in shutout

COW PALACE — Wednesday night’s “Wrangle A Date” promotion may have aimed for love in the stands, but there certainly wasn’t any love on the ice at the Cow Palace Wednesday night as the Bulls faced off against the visiting Las Vegas Wranglers.

Las Vegas rolled into the mid-week matchup on a four-game winning streak with no intention of slowing down. The Bulls would put up serious fight — and be immaculate on the penalty kill in their first game in six days — but the Wranglers would prevail, racking up 5-0 shutout on a rare natural hat trick by Las Vegas’ Andrew Sarauer.

President and Head Coach Pat Curcio said postgame:

“We just weren’t sharp. Six days off, and another team plays three games and just, were in game shape. And we weren’t. … We just need to find consistency.”

San Francisco would find themselves in an early 2-0 hole halfway through the first period. The first goal came on a deflection shot by Josh Lunden at 6:58. The second would be an unassisted shorthanded goal by Sarauer on a Bulls power play.

The Bulls would kill off a penalty to open up the second period, then charge rookie goaltender Jody O’Neill. But Las Vegas would continue their assault on the home team with a second goal by Sarauer at 8:58, bringing the deficit to 3-0.

Sarauer would strike again to complete his natural hat trick at 17:36, bringing the score to 4-0 in favor of the Wranglers. It would be Sarauer’s 16th goal of the season, and the seventh hat trick against the Bulls this season.

The fourth goal would also result in a goalie change. San Francisco would bring Thomas Heemskerk in for Nelson, who left after letting in four of 23 Las Vegas shots.

Despite the change, Curcio still spoke positively of Nelson’s performance:

“I’m sure there are a couple of goals that he wishes he could have back. Definitely not his fault. He’s played great for us and he’s made saves for us when we needed them.”

Las Vegas would seal the 5-0 fate with a goal by Matt Campanale at 9:58 in the third period. Scott Langdon and Hans Benson would both drop their gloves before the game was over, including 17 minutes in penalties for Benson — as instigator in his bout with Josh Godfrey — in the game’s final minute.

The game was the first of four games in a five-day span for the Bulls. When asked how to turn the frustrating first game into a productive weekend series, Curcio responded:

“A lot of yelling tomorrow morning! I think we’re going to practice at 8 a.m., and get on the bus at 10 a.m. Try to find our legs, and try to prepare for Friday as best we can. We know we’re going to Ontario. And it’s not getting any easier.”

The Bulls travel to Ontario to face the Reign Friday night, then return to the Cow Palace Saturday for a weekend series against the Bakersfield Condors. The puck drops back at the Cow Palace Saturday at 7:15 p.m.