San Francisco Bulls fans might not recognize their team when the squad returns to action at the Cow Palace on March 6.
The Bulls added finesse to the roster with the arrival of forward Yanni Gourde from the AHL Worcester Sharks, but the team is losing toughness with the call-up of Kris Belan to the Manchester Monarchs.
“We’ll be really skilled and probably less physical,” coach and president Pat Curcio said.
The moves come in the wake of last week’s trades, which sent Alex Tuckerman, Martin Lee and Rylan Galiardi packing in exchange for the Utah Grizzlies second-leading scorer, Bryan Cameron, and the Idaho Steelheads’ points per game leader, Tristan King.
With Gourde, the Bulls obtained a high-flying wingman, who scored a 124 points in 68 games during his last year of junior hockey with the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres last season. The 21-year-old forward has collected 10 points in 44 games with Worcester this year.
“He might be the most skilled guy that we’ll have on the ice,” Curcio said. “The sky is the limit for this guy.”
But the Bulls are losing a key penalty killer and the centerpiece of their checking line with the departure of Belan.
The shutdown forward is also the team’s leader in penalty minutes with 130.
Immediate impact: After scoring only one goal in three games, the Bulls lit the lamp three times in a 4-3 shootout win over the Steelheads in Boise on Saturday. The two newest Bulls, Cameron and King, made their presence felt, scoring the team’s second and third goals, respectively, before adding tallies in the overtime shootout.
“They were exceptional,” Curcio said. “They played great five-on-five and our power play looked so skilled the way they moved the puck. It was pretty to watch.”
With the victory, the Bulls stretched their lead over the Bakersfield Condors for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference to six points. The Bulls can move into a seventh-place tonight with the Utah Grizzlies by beating them head-to-head in Salt Lake City tonight.
Controversy continues: Curcio’s goaltending decision is growing more complicated after Taylor Nelson’s dazzling performance in Boise on Saturday. After Thomas Heemskerk jumped ahead in the race a week ago, Nelson responded by stopping 40-of-43 shots in the Bulls upset win.
Curcio said Nelson will get the start in Utah tonight and he’ll continue to platoon his goalies until a frontrunner emerges.
“If they both continue to play this well, I have no problem rotating them,” he said.