ONTARIO, Calif. — Not much has changed for the San Francisco Bulls against the Ontario Reign in the last week, or this whole season for that matter.
Mario Lamoureux netted a hat trick and teammate Derek Couture added a goal and three assists as the Orlando Reign steamrolled the visiting Bulls 8-1.
Though the Bulls scored one goal early in the second period, they were outscored by 7, just as they were last Saturday back home when they didn’t manage to get a single puck in the net. Their loss Wednesday night at the Citizens Business Bank Arena did not put them in the mood to comment after the game.
However, head coach Jason Christie of the Reign – first in the Pacific Division of the ECHL – said it wasn’t the way it looked:
“Nothing ever comes easy. We had a battle. We knew they were going to come out hard so we had to match the tempo.”
The Reign did in fact take charge from the outset, scoring all of the first period’s three goals, starting 6:26 into the game. Forward Jason Beeman, credited with the assist, fought the Bulls defenseman hard and dished it off to right wing Dan DaSilva for the 1-0 score.
Beeman told SFBay:
“We just stayed hungry for the puck.”
The Reign’s next two goals came from forward Mario Lamoureux. He said his first one, 13:03 into the period, was:
“… a little lucky. I was actually just going for a change. The puck just came to me and I tried to get it to the net and then their defenseman tipped it in.”
Lamoureaux slid home his second goal with less than two minutes left in the period thanks to a turnover by the Bulls. Beeman tapped the puck to Reign forward Kyle Kraemer, who in turn made a good pass. Lamoureaux credited the chemistry of his teammates on the ice, saying they just seemed to gel:
“… when all 5 of our guys are working together, plays happen for us.”
Thirsty for their first victory against Ontario, the Bulls charged into the second period with a goal 1:26 in. Center Chris Lawrence, receiving the puck from defenseman Sacha Guimond, sent it sailing from behind the right circle and straight past Reign goalie Jean-François Bérubé.
But just over a minute later, the Reign’s right wing Devin Setoguchi — former San Jose Sharks forward — answered with a goal of his own to up his team’s lead to 4-1 for the remainder of the middle frame.
The Reign would double their score in the final period while holding the Bulls to their single goal.
A mere 27 seconds in, Reign center C.J. Stretch, assisted by right wing Derek Couture, fired a wrister from inside the right circle.
The Ontario crowd, numbering 5,561 and nowhere near a sellout, started to chant to its visitors:
The next Reign goal came 10:09 in when Colton Yellow Horn — fourth leading scorer in the league — blasted in a shot from near the crease.
Less than three minutes later, Couture scored on a power play from the far left, revving up the crowd and the players on the ice. Three back-to-back fights stalled the game, as Theo Peckham, Kris Belan and Dylan King all mixed it up, followed by more taunting from fans.
After the game, the Reign’s Beeman told SFBay the physical aggression seemed to stem from the Bulls’ frustration, and understandably so:
“We’ve played them three times in the last week. There’s some vendettas, some things that have happened where you need to step up and hold your ground.”
Lamoureaux — who notched a hat trick with his final goal 17:54 into the third period right in front of Bulls goalie Taylor Nelson — said of San Francisco:
“They’re a hardworking team. We’re playing the best we’ve played this whole year.”
The Bulls remain in fourth place in the Pacific Division with a 3-9-0-2 record, while the Reign’s six-game winning streak is keeping them in first place with a 10-4-0-0 record and 20 points. The Stockton Thunder are in second place with 17 points.
The Bulls, ready or not, will next face the Reign again at the Cow Palace Nov. 23. Before that, though, they’ll have chances for victories against the Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies — both with fewer wins under their belts— this Friday and Saturday at 7:15 p.m at the Cow Palace.
In three games since Nov. 7, the Reign outscored the Bulls 18-2. With his third period dust-up, Left winger Kris Belan moved into the Bulls lead in penalty minutes, with 53 PIM in 14 games. Belan and Scott Langdon appear destined to keep each other’s pace. Langdon — who stayed out of the sin bin Wednesday night — is second on the team with 48 PIM. The Bulls have given up 63 goals in 14 games, the worst in the ECHL.