Pat Curcio’s five-player trade with the Gwinnett Gladiators is paying off faster than he expected.
The San Francisco Bulls (15-20-1-4) won two of three games against the Stockton Thunder (21-15-4-3) over the weekend after trading team captain Justin Bowers and top-scoring defenseman Sacha Guimond, playing the gritty style of hockey that Curcio envisioned when he executed the deal.
“I’m shocked,” the Bulls’ coach and president said. “The way we played the last two games, I was hoping to get that by game No. 10.”
The Bulls obtained power forward Rylan Galiardi, rookie forward Christian Ouellet and rookie defenseman Cody Carlson in exchange for Bowers and Guimond on Jan. 14. Then, the team signed center Sebastien Trudeau, who was a top scorer in Canadian junior hockey last season, out of the Central Hockey League on Thursday.
The Bulls snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Thunder 4-2 at the Cow Palace on Saturday and they repeated the feat with a 5-2 win in Stockton on Sunday.
The new acquisitions combined to score five points (three goals, two assists) in Sunday’s win.
“The new guys deserve a lot of credit,” Curcio said. “They played exceptionally well.”
The victories moved the Bulls into a tie for seventh place in the ECHL’s Western Conference with the Utah Grizzlies.
Mystery Alaska: After Wednesday’s ECHL All-Star Game, the Bulls will fly north for a three-game series with the Alaska Aces (31-10-0-2), the No. 1 team in the Western Conference.
The Aces swept the Bulls when the teams last met during the final weekend of October. But Alaska lost five NHL players when the mother league ended its lockout and the team is 3-2-0-1 since.
“We’re a different team, they’re a different team,” Curcio said. “If we go out and play the same way, we’ll find success.”
But the Bulls will tweak their system in Alaska because the Aces play on an Olympic-size rink. Curcio said the team is going to play man-on-man in the defensive zone and set up at the top the circle on offense (rather than down on the dots) to slow down the Aces’ defensemen as they try to move the puck through the neutral zone.
“On that big ice, you really can’t play a [traditional] game because there is really just too much room to make plays,” Curcio said. “If you don’t have your man and someone is out of position, you’re going to see a scoring chance.”
Scoring spree: Peter Sivak has scored goals in six straight games. He now leads the Bulls with 37 points.