DALY CITY — With back-to-back three-goal games, the San Francisco Bulls' weakest link has shifted from lack of offense to the penalty kill.
The Bulls are ranked dead last in the ECHL on the penalty kill this season, thwarting just 70.2 percent of their opponents' power plays.
While the stats are somewhat misleading, considering the Bulls opened the season with eight straight road games, coach Pat Curcio decided to call a special meeting with the penalty kill before the team's game with the Idaho Steelheads at the Cow Palace on Saturday after the unit surrendered four goals in two games.
“Instead of having a full-team meeting, we're having a penalty-kill meeting and a power-play meeting,” Curcio said. “We need to get back to the fundamentals.”
Curio said he doesn't see a common thread in the last four goals allowed by the penalty kill. One goal occurred during a 5-on-3 in Stockton and last night's game-tying goal came with an extra attacker on the ice, meaning the Steelheads had a 6-on-4 advantage. The Steelheads' first power-play goal of the night was redirected off a defenseman's skate.
But the Bulls' coach said his team needs to do a better job of clearing pucks, getting into shooting lanes and playing with active sticks.
“We need to make sure we do all the little things right,” he said.
Captain in the box: Captain Scott Langdon accumulated 13 penalty minutes in the Bulls' 4-3 shootout loss to the Steelheads on Friday, including a double-minor for high sticking that led to the game-tying goal in the game's final minute.
With less than two minutes to play, Langdon tried to box out Tommy Grant in front of goalie Tyler Beskorowany and the blade of his stick clipped the mouth of the former-Bulls forward, chipping a tooth and drawing blood.
After reviewing the tape, Curcio said the penalty was unnecessary.
“I don't think he needed to have his stick in that position, he could have easily done the same job with one hand on the stick and one glove on the chest,” he said. “He hurt our hockey club, but he understands it.”
Curcio said Langdon gets “more than a few get-out-of-jail-free cards” because of the effort he gives the club on a night-by-night basis.
Langdon also sat in the box for seven minutes spanning the end of the second period and the beginning of the third. He received five minutes for fighting Steelheads defenseman Carl Sneep and two minutes for removing his helmet, a new penalty in the ECHL this season.
Curio approved the fighting penalty, saying it was necessary because some of the Bulls smaller players were getting picked on by the Steelheads. The Bulls coach said he's OK with the removing the helmet penalty, too, because the Steelheads also lost a defenseman in the process.
“That's something we've been preaching: be aware of who you're fighting,” Curcio said. “If you're fighting a 10th forward or a guy who doesn't see a lot of ice time, the trade off isn't equal and that hurts our hockey club.”
The ECHL gives out penalties for taking off the helmet before fights because a lot of players suffer concussions after falling to the ice during altercations. Langdon said he and Sneep took off their helmets because they don't want to break their hands in fights.
“You can't be going the whole season punching helmets,” he said.
Anderson to make home debut: With three games in three days, the Bulls are starting backup goalie J.P. Anderson against the Steelheads on Saturday to give Beskorowany a breather.
The start will be Anderson's third of the season and his first since he stopped 40 shots against the Ontario Reign in Southern California on Nov. 6. In two outings, he's posted a 2.02 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
As Beskorowany's understudy, Anderson said he takes full advantage of his time in practice to stay warm.
“I really just try to focus and use my time well there,” he said. “I try to get some extra work in after practice, too.”
Anderson is used to a heavy workload; he minded the net in at least 50 games in each of his last three seasons playing junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League.
“It's an adjustment but it isn't an excuse,” Anderson said. “You've got to be ready to play when it's your chance.”
The 21-year-old goalie, who is property of the American Hockey League's Worcester Sharks, said he benefits from being able to pick Beskorowany's brain.
“We sit beside each other in that room and he drives me around a little bit, so we talk quite a lot,” Anderson said.