Bulls blast Thunder to open rivalry weekend

COW PALACE — Holiday-themed jerseys and pre-game pyrotechnics were only a small part of the festivities at the barn Friday night as the Bulls kicked off a rivalry weekend with the Stockton Thunder.

When these teams faced off at the Cow Palace two weekends ago, it ended with a raucous come-from-behind victory for the home team.

Friday’s meetup had that same kind of magic, as the Bulls came back from a one-goal deficit in the third to lay the smack down on Stockton, 5-2.

Head coach Pat Curcio agreed the team looked much better than they did before the holiday break:

“Our message the last couple days since we got back from Christmas was, our five-on-five play had to be better. And those opportunities on the power play, we had to capitalize. I thought the guys did well tonight…”

Tyler Beskorowany, who had 37 saves on the evening, elaborated on how nice it was to get the come-from-behind win to start off the three game set against the always-competitive Stockton team:

“It’s definitely good to have (the win Friday night) for our mindset. … We’re a third period team. We can’t give up.”

Beskorowany himself made the most out of the victory, with some big saves that kept the Bulls in the game even when Stockton threatened to take a large lead. But, as Curcio has said all season, the young goalie needs to be the Bulls top player:

“I’ve said all along, if Beskorowany isn’t our MVP then we aren’t going to be a championship team. And he was definitely our MVP tonight.”

The Bulls ended the power play woes that have plagued them the last few series on their second attempt of the night.

Dean Ouellet fed the puck to Adrian Foster from behind Stockton’s net, and Foster tipped it past goaltender Parker Milner (28 saves) giving San Francisco a 1-0 lead with 5:04 left in the opening frame. Steven Tarasuk also registered an assist on the first goal of the evening.

Beskorowany was dominant through the first half of the second period as the Thunder upped the pressure and peppered him with shots.

Stockton defenseman Shawn Boutin eventually got the jump on San Francisco’s goalie, beating him glove side at 6:03 to tie it up 1-1.

The Thunder capitalized on the power play in the third period as Ryan Constant got the puck from behind San Francisco’s net and fired it past Beskorowany to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

But San Francisco wasn’t going quietly, as they picked up steam and kept the puck in Stockton territory. Curcio talked about the team’s resiliency:

“I was happy with how the guys responded, especially after going down 2-1 to come back and do what they did. I thought there was a lot of character in that dressing room tonight.”

Back on the power play with 8:40 left in regulation, Tyler Gron wristed the puck past Milner on the man advantage. Gron also notched an assist as the Bulls tied the game at 2-2.

33 seconds later, Brett Findlay fed the puck to Jordan Morrison at the right face-off circle to beat Milner again and give the Bulls a 3-2 advantage.

There was a jumble of skaters up in the crease on Stockton’s end on the Bulls next power play attempt, but Luke Judson found the back of the Thunder’s net to give the home team a slightly more-cushioned 4-2 lead. Foster and Kalvin Sagert tallied assists.

The Thunder pulled Milner for an extra skater, which allowed the Bulls to put the final nail in the coffin and lock in the 5-2 victory. Ouellet and Findlay earned assists on the final goal.

Keys to getting more wins this weekend? Findlay thinks the team needs to get on the scoreboard earlier:

“We’ve been coming from behind lately, and we can’t do that to ourselves. It’s hard to get wins in this league, and I think we need to have a better first period going forward here, and that will give us a good chance to win. … I just think we need to do what we did tonight for a full 60 minutes.”

The Bulls will get a chance at a solid 60 minutes tomorrow and Sunday as they are hosted by the Thunder in Stockton.

The Bulls return to the Cow Palace following the New Year to face off with the Thunder again on Saturday, January 4. Puck drop for that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Notes

Tyler Gron and Kalvin Sagert extended their point streaks to five games. …Adrian Foster extended his point streak to four games. …Luke Judson has a two-game goal streak, his first two professional goals. … Stockton out-shot San Francisco 37-33. The Bulls out-shot Stockton 15-8 in the third period.


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