Bulls wrangle Vegas for year-ending win

COW PALACE — There’s really nothing like a little holiday hiatus to refresh a team and help get a win.

Not to mention a rambunctious post-Christmas crowd of 8,231 hockey fans that showed up Friday night to cheer on the San Francisco Bulls as they dominated the visiting Las Vegas Wranglers 4-1.

President and Head Coach Pat Curcio attributed some of the team’s success to a mini-camp he ran to refresh the team after the break:

“We just want to remind the guys of a lot of the little things that sometimes you forget. I thought overall it was a pretty good 60 minutes. I’m happy with the first game back. … It’s evident now we can show the players how successful we are when we play this way.”

This was the Wranglers’ first visit to the Cow Palace. The only previous meeting was in Vegas, where the Bulls lost 6-5 in overtime.

San Francisco would make their first goal back from the holiday break count, with an early up-close-and personal shot by Dean Ouellet. Joe Sova and newly-reinstated Hans Benson would tally assists.

Then, at 14:29, Rob Kwiet would get the puck past Las Vegas goaltender Mark Owuya, with assistance from Peter Sivak, to give the Bulls the 2-0 advantage. The lead would take the Bulls into the first intermission, with San Francisco outshooting Vegas 11-5.

The second period would be a strong match of the defenses. It would also see Benson and Vegas winger Adam Huxley drop their gloves and brawl against the glass adjacent to the Red Hook beer garden. Curcio said of Benson’s return:

“Hard to replace that. I think we missed him, should’ve had him in the lineup earlier. he brings leadership, brings a calming atmosphere to the players on the bench. And when he provides a little offense, and then of course the physical play, you can’t replace that.”

The Wranglers would waste the opportunity for their first goal of the game due to a high-stick call. San Francisco’s offense would then explode, with a goal by Alex Tuckerman at 12:53, and then Peter Sivak at 14:05.

The teams would retreat to their respective locker rooms at the end of the period with the home team leading 4-0 and outshooting the opposition 21-15.

Las Vegas would score its first and only goal at 4:55 in the third courtesy of center Judd Blackwater.

That would be the only time Thomas Heemskerk would let the puck past him, and San Francisco would maintain the 4-1 lead for the remainder of regulation.

The Bulls remain at home to host the Colorado Eagles in a pair of games starting Wednesday, January 2. The puck drops at 7:15 p.m.