After three grueling weeks on the road, the San Francisco Bulls are finally opening their home schedule on Friday and they’re expecting a boost from the local crowd.
With the Grand National Rodeo occupying the Cow Palace, the new-look Bulls kicked off the 2013-14 season with seven straight road games, starting with a 2-1-1 record before losing three straight games in Colorado last weekend. The Bulls play one more road game tonight against the Ontario Reign in Southern California before returning to The City for Friday’s home opener against the Bakersfield Condors.
“It was a long-arduous journey and we’re just glad to be back soon,” said center Jordan Morrison after Tuesday’s practice. “I think we’ll get our feet under us here at home and start making some waves.”
The most noticeable improvement is the team’s newfound consistency in the blue paint. The Bulls signed former ECHL All-Star goalie Tyler Beskorowany during the offseason and the move paid off immediately as he stopped 44 of 45 shots in the team’s season-opening win over the Alaska Aces.
But the Bulls are playing with 13 new players and the team is still coming together.
A pair of familiar faces, captain Scott Langdon and Dylan King, are anchoring the blue line again this season. The Bulls also added California native Kyle Bigos, defenseman Damon Kipp, defenseman Steven Tarasuk and rookie Josh Kidd, who played Canadian college hockey with the University of New Brunswick last season.
The power play, which is ranked 18th in the league (9.4 percent), is receiving a jolt with the addition of Collin Bowman, who was sent down from the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Worcester this week.
Bowman is a puck-moving defenseman, who produced 11 goals in 69 games with the Colorado Eagles last season.
“The defense is going to take some work,” coach Pat Curcio said. “We’re still identifying roles for certain guys. I think they’re starting to settle in, realizing what kind of game we expect them to play.”
The front line is also getting a shot in the arm with the addition of Riley Brace from Worcester. Brace will join the club now that Martin Havlat is returning to the Sharks and he’ll likely skate on a line with Dean Ouellet and newcomer Ryan McDonough.
“We’re expecting Brace to provide some serious offense,” Curcio said.
The Bulls’ top two scorers right now are a pair of ECHL veterans, Mark Lee (seven points) and Dale Mitchell (six points), but Curcio said returning players, like Ouellet, Morrison and Kris Belan, will need to contribute to get the team on track.
“Our best players haven’t really done anything yet,” he said. “If we get those guys on board, then we’ll be a threat.”