SF Bulls hockey still trying to work out the kinks

S.F. Examiner File PhotoWork in progress: Goalie Thomas Heemskerk and the Bulls ran into a hot Alaska Aces team over the weekend and were swept on the road.

The expansion San Francisco Bulls slid into last place in the ECHL’s Pacific Division last weekend after dropping three straight games to the Alaska Aces.

After opening the season with six points in five games, the Bulls (2-4-0-2) were outmatched on their trip up to Anchorage, losing by scores of 4-1, 5-2 and 3-2.

Coach Pat Curcio said the road bumps reflect a young team with 13 rookies who are still getting acquainted with one another on the ice.      

“It’s an opportunity to learn,” Curcio said. “The guys spent some time together, got know each other as a team — that’s what the road’s all about.”

The Aces’ lineup, by contrast, featured three players with at least 140 games of NHL experience. The most lethal attacker was New York Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky, who lit the lamp all weekend scoring five goals in three games, including a hat trick on Saturday.

“I guess there’s a reason why he’s paid $4 million-plus a year,” Curcio said.

60 minutes: Curcio said the Bulls’ primary focus heading into this weekend’s road contests (Friday and Saturday) with the Colorado Eagles is putting together three solid periods of hockey.

The Bulls held a 1-0 lead through two periods on Friday before surrendering four unanswered goals in the third period of a 4-1 loss. They trailed the Aces 1-0 after two frames on Saturday, but were outgunned 4-2 in the third period. The team reversed the trend on Sunday playing a tight-checked third period after being outshot 24-9 in the first 40 minutes.

“We’ve got to put 60 minutes together,” Curcio said. “It’s just learning to play for a full game. It takes some time.”

Powered by Bowers: Another key for the Bulls this weekend is getting top scorer Justin Bowers back on the stat sheet. The 27-year-old center led the ECHL in points (4 goals, 6 assists) through six games, but he was shutout in Alaska last weekend.

“We need him scoring,” Curcio said. “Him not scoring last weekend was probably the difference between us getting points and not getting points.”

Bowers was the leading scorer for the Greenville Road Warriors last season. His 78 points (19 goals, 59 assists) in 69 games was the third-highest total in the ECHL.

This is Bowers’ fourth season in the league and his point totals have increased in each of his first three years (45, 52, 78).

Curcio said the key to Bowers’ success is his exceptional on-ice awareness.

“He’s a skilled player, he doesn’t panic with the puck,” Curcio said. “He’s got poise and he makes the right decisions at the right times.”     

The Bulls return home to the Cow Palace on Nov. 9 when they take on the Stockton Thunder.

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