Bulls battle but can’t answer Aces

COW PALACE — Let’s face it folks, Saturday was a bad day for Bay Area sports teams.

The San Jose Sharks lost 4-3 in overtime. The two-time World Champion San Francisco Giants got clobbered in Cactus League play 13-2.

And the San Francisco Bulls were no exception, dropping their third straight game against the Alaska Aces 6-2.

Despite being swept in this three-game series, Bulls President and Head Coach Pat Curcio said he wouldn’t mind meeting up with the Aces in the playoffs:

“We’re the only team that went to Alaska this year and won two out of three. That has to (bring) confidence for us. And in our rink here, even tonight with the six goals, every game was a one goal game. It could go either way. . . If, God willing, we get into the playoffs I’m not afraid to play Alaska. Not afraid.”

Alaska would score first, and it would be ugly. Immediately following a called “no goal,” Ace Nick Mazzolini would knock the puck past Taylor Nelson, who was already on his knees stopping the previous goal attempt. Mazzolini’s 34th goal of the season would put the Aces up 1-0 at 6:37 in the first period.

The Bulls would answer quickly as Peter Sivak would end his six-game scoring drought with an up-close-and-personal  rebound shot past goaltender Mark Guggenberger, tying the game 1-1 at 7:58. Rob Kwiet and Nick Walsh would tally assists.

The physical play that dominated the Friday night match would spill over into Saturday’s game, resulting in the Bulls racking up eight penalty minutes. With five seconds left in the first period, Sean Curry would skip the puck past Nelson for the power play goal that would put the Aces ahead 2-1.

San Francisco would even things up at 4:50 in the second period when Kory Falite would skate into the blue paint and chip the puck past Guggenberger for his first goal in a Bulls jersey.

But Alaska would go to work on Nelson, responding with two power play goals and a shorthanded goal to put them on top 5-2 before the second period would end. Through two periods, the Aces would outshoot the home team 25-17.

Despite the assault on his young goaltender, Curcio was not overly critical of Nelson’s efforts against the Aces over the series:

“Taylor texted me last night ‘sorry coach.’ He knows goals he wants back. It’s just that he’s a first year guy, playing against (Gerald) Coleman who was in the National Hockey League. … and then Guggenberger who is in the same boat. You’re talking about the difference between the two hockey clubs. That’s it.”

The crowd of 3,618 would get vocal in the third period to try to psych up the Bulls offense. But it would be Alaska that would get yet another goal, bringing the score to 6-2 at 10:18. The score would carry through the end of regulation.

But the weekend isn’t over yet; the Bulls have to host the Las Vegas Wranglers on Sunday. So what’s the solution to “wiping the slate clean” after a five-game skid? Curcio responded:

“There was nothing we did wrong. I can’t be angry at the players. I can’t say ‘We did this. We did this.’ Even the sixth goal hit the linesman, and bounces on the guy’s stick. (Laughs) You know, that’s just the hockey gods, and at that point you just have to laugh. . . It’s just the way that it’s been going. But we’re going to continue to work hard, we’ve always been a hard-working team. I think we’ll be resilient tomorrow. I’m optimistic.”

The San Francisco Bulls wrap up the weekend against the Las Vegas Wranglers Sunday, March 10. The puck drops at 2:15 p.m.