‘Terrible’ power play sinks Bulls against Aces

COW PALACE — Evidently I missed the memo that said that it was Friday Night Fights at the Cow Palace. How else would you explain two altercations breaking out in the first five minutes of play?

That’s right, glove-droppin’ goodness dominated the first few minutes of the San Francisco Bulls Friday night fete against the division-leading, penalty-killing Alaska Aces.

The first skirmish just 1:30 into the game pitted two known brawlers, Dustin Molle of Alaska (125 PIM) squaring off against on new Bulls acquisition Ian Schultz (163 PIM).

The second fight pitted Bulls defenseman Mikael Tam — with 30 PIM this season, not known as a fighter — against Alaska tough guy Chris Clackson (173 PIM). A brutal uppercut from Clackson made sure the tilt did not end well for Tam.

The fisticuffs didn’t go in the Bulls favor, and neither did the game, as they dropped their second straight game to the Aces 3-2, despite outshooting their first-place opponent 32-29.

President and Head Coach Pat Curcio said post-game:

“It’s tough, because I thought we played a pretty good hockey game. But  two goals isn’t going to be enough. We need to find a way to score more goals.”

Following the frenzy of flying fists, the Aces would get on the board first. Alexandre Imbeault would line the puck past Taylor Nelson to give Alaska the 1-0 lead at 11:24 in the first period. Nelson got the call in goal after Thomas Heemskerk got his big callup to San Jose earlier on Friday.

The Bulls would keep the deficit brief, as Yanni Gourde would skate right into the blue paint and skip the puck past Alaska backup goalie Gerald Coleman. Christian Ouellet and newly-acquired Nick Walsh would pick up assists on the game-tying goal at 16:34.

The Aces would kill three penalties to open up the second period of play. It was a demonstration — not only of Alaska’s league-leading dominance on the penalty kill — but of San Francisco’s continued troubles on the power play.

Curcio said of the team’s power play woes post-game:

“Our power play was terrible. We need to find something to make the power play work. One goal on the power play could’ve been the difference.”

The Aces would make good on their second power play at 9:50, as Nick Mazzolini would knock the puck past Nelson. It would be Mazzolini’s 33rd goal of the season to put Alaska on top 2-1.

Bryan Cameron would get an unassisted goal to tie the game 2-2 at 2:51 in the third, bringing the crowd of 3,578 to their feet.

But at 8:42, Alaska’s Alex Hudson would knock in a rebound from behind Nelson’s back, putting the Aces ahead 3-2, this time for good.

For all the penalties called on Alaska in the second period, they got away with beating up San Francisco in the third. The Aces would knock several Bulls to their knees, sending them limping to the bench. Curcio said of the hits:

“They’re just banged up I think. We’ll heal for tomorrow.”

The Bulls and Aces will square off for a third and final time Saturday. The puck drops at 7:15 p.m.