Photos by Mike Hendrickson/SFBay
COW PALACE — Saturday night’s promotion might have been the family friendly Teddy Bear Toss, but there was nothing warm and fuzzy about the Bulls’ rumble with the Stockton Thunder.
These Northern California rivals entered the weekend tilt having each won a game in their previous two meetings, and neither was going down without a fight.
Through multiple ties and lead changes, the Bulls mounted a huge come-from-behind victory 6-5 in the shootout.
San Francisco had to pull themselves together after a rough second period that saw them in a three-goal deficit. But head coach Pat Curcio was nothing but complimentary of how his team worked for the win:
“From the beginning of the game tonight, we were much better than last night. … The guys just thought ‘if they score three that quick, we can score three that quick. And they did it in the third, and I have to give them credit for their relentlessness tonight. They weren’t giving up.”
Stockton forward Joey Martin registered a power play goal at 14:03 in the opening stanza to put the visitors on the board 1-0.
But the Bulls retaliated quickly. Brett Findlay carried the puck into Stockton territory and fed it to the high-scoring Tyler Gron for a wrist shot that eluded Stockton goalie Brad Phillips (26 saves). The tying goal at 15:29 was met with thunderous applause and a rain of teddy bears from the Cow Palace stands.
Following a lot of back-and-forth on the four-on-four, the Thunder found the net twice within 33 seconds, gaining a 3-1 lead with a little under 13 minutes left in the second frame.
Then, winger Andrew Clark went top shelf and extended the visitor’s lead 4-1 with 5:48 left in the period. This prompted a goaltender change from the Bulls, with Tyler Beskorowany relieving J.P. Anderson between the pipes.
Instead of letting the game get away from them, the Bulls picked up momentum and continued to put pressure on Phillips.
Stockton defensemen were standing their ground but Scott Langdon got a hold of a rebound and lined it through traffic to cut Stockton’s lead down 4-2. Dean Ouellet and Dale Mitchell tallied assists.
In the time that the Bulls took to celebrate the captain’s goal, the game’s momentum appeared to shift in favor of San Francisco. Langdon broke down the momentum change:
“I think we just went for a little snooze in the second there. Everybody was kind of sitting back and (Stockton) was taking it to us. … We weren’t trying not to score. So finally once that one went in we came into the locker room and said ‘we’re going to bag three more in this period…”
Which is exactly what the Bulls did in the last 20 minutes of regulation.
Findlay found room on Phillips’ right side and put the puck in Stockton’s net. Jordan Morrison and Steven Tarasuk tallied assists as the Bulls climbed the scoreboard, 4-3.
The assault continued as Tarasuk tallied his first goal in a Bulls sweater, sending the puck ricocheting off the pipes and into Stockton’s net. Magomed Gimbatov and Dylan King registered assists on the goal that tied the game.
The goal and assist on the evening weren’t enough for Tarasuk, who then scored the go-ahead goal on the Bulls power play attempt to put the home team ahead 5-4.
Curcio talked about Tarasuk’s efforts over the season to getting to that two goal night:
“Steve’s been through a lot here in the first 25 games. It’s nice to see him snap out of it he’s been working hard, and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for his hard work.”
When asked about his third period dramatics, Tarasuk kept it light:
“I think our coach told us that we had the next two days off if we came up with the win! (Smiles) So I think the guys really took it upon themselves to really go out there and give it that extra little effort to make sure that we at least put forth our best effort. And that’s what we did!”
Stockton kept things interesting when Mike Dalhuisen skipped the puck into San Francisco’s net with 1:43 left in regulation to tie things up.
The deadlock carried into and out of overtime, forcing a shootout. Ouellet and Findlay scored the two goals to Stockton’s one to achieve the 6-5 victory.
The San Francisco Bulls continue their six-game homestand next weekend with a three-game set against the Colorado Eagles. Puck drop for Friday night’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.