Hockey finally returned to the Shark Tank this week, but the San Francisco Bulls couldn’t pull out a win for the home crowd.
The Stockton Thunder defeated the Bulls 6-4 in front of 12,881 hockey-starved fans in the first ECHL game played at HP Pavilion. The Bulls are currently holding sixth place in the Western Conference standings.
Despite the loss, coach Pat Curcio said the game provided an incredible experience for his team.
“You guys wouldn’t believe the excitement just from the dressing room to the amenities to the fans and the rink,” he said. “This is the largest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, coached in front of. It’s amazing; it’s real special and we’ll remember it for a long time.”
The game will be particularly memorable for Bulls defenseman Mikael Tam, who was sent down from the AHL Worcester Sharks earlier in the day. Tam flew all the way across the country to rejoin the team and he scored his first professional goal on a wrist shot in the first period.
“It was a long day, but a great experience to get my first professional goal here,” Tam said. “I have the puck with the Sharks logo.”
Injury bug: Tam’s return to the lineup timed out perfectly for the Bulls’ blue line. The team lost defenseman Scott Langdon for an indefinite period of time after he took a shot to the back of the head against the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday.
“It hit right behind my right ear,” Langdon said. “I saw stars, hit the ice. I knew where I was, but I couldn’t go back and play.”
Langdon suffered a concussion and he’s currently undergoing tests. The team doesn’t have a timetable for his return.
The loss is a setback because Langdon is currently leading the team in the plus/minus department with a +8 in 29 games.
Marek Viedensky also missed Monday’s game. He was in the hospital with a lung infection. Viedensky has recorded 15 points in his 15 games with the club. The date of his return is also uncertain.
Unsung hero: Kris Belan scored the first short-handed goal in franchise history in Bakersfield on Saturday. Curcio said he was glad that his top grinder was rewarded with the historic goal.
“I jumped as high on the bench as he did on the ice,” he said.
Belan has only five goals and 13 points on the season, but he leads Bulls forwards with +7.
“He just plays the right way. When he’s on the ice — there’s desperation,” Curcio said.
The end is near: With the Mayan calendar calling for doomsday Friday, the Bulls are hosting the Ontario Reign in a “It’s the End of the World as We Know it” game. Fans are encouraged to wear their best “end of the world” outfits.