COW PALACE — If “redemption” was the name of the game on Sunday, then the San Francisco Bulls were in the same vein as the Count of Monte Cristo, Andy Dufresne, and Outlaw Josey Wales.
After dropping three straight home games to Alaska that didn’t reflect their hard work, the Bulls finally got to put a hashmark in the win column with a highly-earned 4-1 victory over the Las Vegas Wranglers.
The crowd of 2,838 was on their feet and screaming — mostly because the stands were packed with kids under the age of 10 — as the Bulls sealed the Sunday matinée victory.
The win came less than 24 hours after President and Head Coach Pat Curcio claimed that he was “optimistic” the young team would bounce back from a 6-2 loss on Saturday:
“I’ve seen enough that I know, that if you’re doing the right things enough, over and over again, that you’re going to get rewarded eventually. Out of the five games that we lost, those three one-goal games I thought we out-chanced them. … Tonight they played really well. And they didn’t play any better than they did on Friday night and lost 2-1. “
Wrangler Andrew Sarauer would take advantage of a bad hop and bounce the puck past an outstretched Taylor Nelson to put Vegas ahead 1-0 at 6:56 in the first period.
If the unlucky goal proved anything, it was Nelson’s mental toughness. He reflected post-game:
“These past few games, I feel like I’ve let the guys down a little bit, I haven’t played to the best of my ability. … But as far as tonight went, there was a brief moment where that puck went in, and I saw the replay and I said ‘here we go again.’ Just managed to put it behind me as quick as possible, and realized that there was lots of game left. Keep pushing through.”
On the one-man advantage later in the first, with San Francisco putting pressure on goaltender Mitch O’Keefe, Christian Ouellet would bee-line the puck to the back of the net for the Bulls first power play goal in nine attempts. Yanni Gourde and Peter Sivak would tally assists on the game-tying goal at 14:27 in the first.
The second period of play would prove to be one of the most confident and aggressive periods that the Bulls have played on this home stand. Which made it even more enjoyable when, with 2:12 left, Gourde would feed the puck to Sivak to give the Bulls a 2-1 lead.
With his emerging chemistry with Sivak becoming so evident, it begged that Gourde be asked what their secret was. The young forward responded:
“We keep things simple. We go to the net, just five-foot passes. This kind of stuff always works.”
Then, at 19:51, Tristan King would charge the net and flick the puck past O’Keefe’s left shoulder to give the Bulls the 3-1 advantage. Bryan Cameron and Dean Ouellet would earn assists.
Curcio also discussed how happy he was with the chemistry on the new lines:
“I thought the lines looked good tonight. I thought Gourdy and Sivak looked good together. I liked the way Deano played with Tristan King and Bryan Cameron. And I like the way Morrison played with Falite and Christian Ouellet. Each line contributed, which is great to have. And if we can continue to have that here in the next nine games on the stretch, hopefully we’ll get a few more wins.”
Shots on goal would reflect San Francisco’s dominance on the ice, reading 23-11 in favor of the home team heading into the second intermission.
San Francisco would continue to dominate in the third period. Gourde would tally another goal at 12:24, giving the home team a 4-1 advantage; Christian Ouellet would earn the assist.
To make the end result even sweeter, the win extends San Francisco’s lead over the Bakersfield Condors by eight points as the fight to avoid elimination from the ECHL playoffs continues.
So, any final thoughts on the game from the winning team’s coach?
“That’s the way the game works, and winning teams find ways to win. And winning becomes a habit. So I’m hoping this boosts some confidence.”
The San Francisco Bulls hit the road to face the Stockton Thunder on Wednesday. They return to the Cow Palace next Saturday, March 16 for a two-game series against the Utah Grizzlies. The puck drops at 7:15 p.m.