How much will the San Francisco Bulls improve this season with reliable goaltending in between the pipes?
When the puck drops on the second season of Bulls hockey in Alaska tonight, a new face will be under the mask, shoring up the weakest link in the team’s game.
“Goaltending is a big part of the game and I think we may have solved the riddle,” captain Scott Langdon said, referring to the Bulls’ acquisition of Tyler Beskorowany.
After ranking 20th among 23 teams in goals against last season, the Bulls put goaltending at the top of their wish-list heading into the offseason.
While Thomas Heemskerk and Taylor Nelson both stood on their heads at various points during 2012-13 season, a series of an unexpected events disrupted the team’s momentum in the blue paint.
After leading the ECHL in games and saves through December, Heemskerk wound up on injured reserve after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on New Year’s Eve.
Nelson put together several dazzling performances in Heemskerk’s absence, but he struggled to find consistency. Soon after Heemskerk’s return in February, he was called up to Worcester in the American Hockey League.
By the time Heemskerk returned for the playoffs, he was out of rhythm. The wishy-washy goaltending convinced coach Pat Curcio that he needed a veteran to hold down the fort this year.
“Every time you give up one bad goal it’s almost impossible to win a game,” Curcio said. “We’re going to make mistakes, so if you have a goaltender who can bail you out it’s going to make a world of difference.”
In July, the Bulls reached an agreement with Beskorowany, a former second-round pick of the Dallas Stars and a 2010-11 ECHL All-Star. Beskorowany stonewalled the Bulls twice at the Cow Palace last season as a member of the Idaho Steelheads, stopping 29 of 30 shots on January 10 and 27 of 27 on March 27.
After the season, Beskorowany became a free agent and the Bulls lured him in.
“It’s a great city to come to, so I said, what the heck, let’s do it,” Beskorowany said. “You’re right on the ocean, you get to go to the rink in shorts and flip flops.”
At 6-foot-5, Beskorowany covers much of the net, giving the Bulls the anchor they desperately needed last year.
“Knowing that we have a goaltender who can bail us out, I think you’re going to see guys playing with more confidence, being more creative, taking some chances in the offensive zone,” Curcio said.
The Bulls also received rookie J.P. Anderson from Worcester. The 21-year-old netminder produced a 3.31 goals against average in 52 games with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League last season.
The goaltending will need to be sharp for Bulls as they embark on an eight-game, 18-day road trip to open the season.