Bulls fall to Thunder in debut rumble

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

COW PALACE — So, being a lady sportswriter, is it too much to say that I “got a pair” for sitting ice-side for a little hockey after a hot day in October?

The weather in The City by the Bay might have given way to Indian Summer-like temperatures this week, but it was nice and icy cold at the Cow Palace.

Oh yes, sports fans. It’s going to take a lot more than spiking temps to keep these guys from spreading hockey fever down Geneva Avenue, where new-kids-in-town San Francisco Bulls played a very entertaining preseason battle against the Stockton Thunder, only to fall 5-4 in overtime.

The Bulls scored first, with center Justin Bowers getting the drop on goalie Jimmy Spratt for an unassisted goal at 5:38 in the first period.

Following center Kevin Baker’s unassisted goal in the second to give the Bulls a 2-0 lead, Stockton struck back to score on a power play, then tallied two more lightning-quick goals within 17 seconds to snare a 3-2 lead.

The Bulls charged back, with defender Sacha Guimond tying the game back up at 3-3 with 5:25 left in the 2nd period. Stockton center Harrison Reed kept the tie brief, notching his second power play goal of the game with 55 seconds left in the second period giving the Thunder a 4-3 lead.

Both teams beefed up their defense for the start of the third period, until Bowers got his second goal of the game to tie the Thunder 4-4. The clock would wind down, leaving the Bulls and Thunder tied 4-4 at the end of regulation.

Overtime got off to a violent start with Stockton left wing Matt Bergland taking a skate to the face. The penalty put the Thunder on the power play, where Gabriel Levesque wasted no time, tallying the winning goal just 41 seconds into overtime.

And yes, as is customary at hockey games, there was fighting. A lot of fighting. With 11 minutes left in the first period, Bulls defender Scott Langdon and Stockton center Ryan Green took off their masks for a little corner ice brawl.

Both got five for fighting. Sweet.

Langdon would land back in the box later in the period for elbowing, and then take his gloves off with 1:54 left in the first period and grapple right on the ice.

Again, sweet. What can I say? A good hockey fight is worth the price of admission.

And I wasn’t the only one, as an announced crowd of 4,836 — some in hockey jerseys, others rocking Giants and A’s merch — showed up to the Cow Palace for a first look at this new team.

Not only were they cheering, and jeering like long-time die-hard fans, but there was enough dancing in the stands to rival the seventh-inning-stretch crowd at a Giants game.

If their first game is any sign of what’s to come, the Bulls are going to be right at home here in San Francisco.

The Bulls are the newest addition to the ECHL — yes, the former East Coast Hockey League (now just ECHL) boasts a Western division — since the league expanded to the Pacific coast in the early 2000s.

Their season boasts schedule where they face the likes of the Las Vegas Wranglers, Bakersfield Condors and Stockton Thunder, just to name a few.

All this should give San Jose Sharks fans a way to get their hockey fix now that the NHL lockout has stretched into October and all pre-season games have been cancelled. And, of course, the Bulls are a Sharks minor-league affiliate.

The Bulls season kicks off at home Friday October 12 against the Bakersfield Condors. For ticket and promo information, visit sfbulls.com.

As for Bulls coverage? Well, we’ve got you covered all season long here at SFBay!