Bulls toppled by Grizzlies in 5-3 defeat

COW PALACE — Saturday night had all the trappings of a comeback game: A dramatic third period, a rowdy crowd of 4,854, and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” playing over the speakers.

The end result, though, was a deflating loss for the San Francisco Bulls, whose late rally wasn’t quite enough to get past the Utah Grizzlies, who triumphed 5-3.

Bulls Head Coach Pat Curcio was straightforward when he spoke to the press post-game, acknowledging the team’s need to play more than just a solid third period:

“We sound like a broken record when we talk about having to play for 60 minutes, and until we figure out that we have to play for 60 minutes you’re going to have games that you lose. Tonight, we had let-downs, and it was too big of a hole to dig out of.”

The first period got under way with lots of hits and blocked shots by Grizzlies goalie Grant Rollheiser. Utah would strike first with a power play goal by former San Jose Shark Riley Armstrong at 11:13 in the first period.

Coach Curcio commented on Rollheiser’s efforts to keep the Bulls — who had 21 shots to the Grizzlies’ 11 at the end of the first period, and ended up outshooting them 40-28 — from putting more points on the board:

“You sometimes run into a goaltender and he’s due for a win. He made some big saves early.”

The Bulls answered shortly after when Kris Belan put the puck in the net with help from Andrew Crescenzi, bringing the score to 1-1. The tie wouldn’t last long, as the Grizzlies took advantage of a power play and a goal by Bryan Cameron with a mere 3.43 left in the period to give Utah the 2-1 lead going into the break.

The Grizzlies would continue their offensive tear well into the second period. Cameron slammed home the puck in San Francisco’s net a second with help from Tuzzolino, who picked up his second assist for the night.

Both teams would make several attempts with no success until 12:46 in the period when Utah’s Evan Vosser made an unassisted goal to give the visiting team the 4-1 lead.

Then, in what is seeming to be something of “SF Bulls fashion,” the home team went on a hot streak in the third period. Hot newcomer Marek Viedensky made an unassisted goal to bring the deficit to 4-2.

Then at 7:39 in the period, Jordan Clendenning, with assistance from captain Justin Bowers, took advantage of a power play to close the score to 4-3.

Grizzlies goalie Rollheiser wouldn’t allow the Bulls to score again, and Utah forward Kory Falite would make a final, sinking goal to give the Grizzlies their 5-3 victory.

The end was a letdown, especially considering how close the Bulls were to finally winning back-to-back games. But Coach Curcio summed up the game, if not the whole first part of the season, post-game with:

“We need to be patient and understanding. We’re a brand-new franchise, we started from scratch, and not only did we start from scratch we came into a facility that needed a lot of love. We’re working out a lot of kinks. And I hope the crowd enjoyed it today even though we didn’t win.”

And hey! That’s what a weekend series is for, right? The Grizzlies are staying in town for a Sunday matinee at the Cow Palace. The puck drops at 2:15 p.m.

Attention football fans, you have no excuse not to get your hockey fix at tomorrow’s game; the Raiders are away in New Orleans and the Niners don’t play until Monday night. Go support the Bulls, and “act like you got a pair.”