Tonight’s matchup featured the San Francisco Bulls vs. the Stockton Thunder for a special night of hockey for bay area fans who have waited a long time for this moment. In addition, this marked the first time in 10 years that a current NHL venue has hosted an ECHL game. The date was on October 20, 2002 at the old Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. The game featured the Wheeling Nailers who are still in the ECHL and the visiting Peoria Riverman who are currently members on the AHL. The contest went all the way to a shootout where the Wheeling Nailers came out on top that resulted in a 6-5 final.
In fact, what is interesting, is that the two teams share a little bit of history with the host franchise San Jose Sharks. Last season the ECHL affiliate of the Sharks was the visiting Stockton Thunder, while this year marks a new relationship with on of the newest ECHL franchise the Bulls. The San Jose Sharks organization granted the wish of many Sharks fans the opportunity to see a hockey during the ongoing NHL Lockout. In addition tonight was an opportunity for the community business establishments the chance to make some money that they being loosing due to the absence of San Jose Sharks hockey as they have been so accustomed to. Furthermore, the United States Marines were in full force as they brought their “Toys for Tots” initiative to the tank for the Christmas holidays. Moreover, for tonight the Bulls franchise are giving the Sharks fan base the opportunity to see the up and coming prospects live and in person as well as the visiting Stockton franchise for their fan base as well.
San Francisco recently completed a two game mini road trip in which they posted a 1-1 record. The Bulls enter in tonight’s matchup having come off of a 4-1 victory in Bakersfield that featured Dean Ouellet’s 15th tally of the season. It was also a special night for San Francisco as Kris Belan knotted the franchises first shorthanded goal in team history, that took place in the third period of that contest. In addition, Bulls goaltender Thomas Heemsherk recorded his 10th win of the season.
For the visiting Stockton Thunder, they recently took on the Colorado Eagles at their home that resulted in a 1-1 split. Last Friday, the Thunder defeated the Eagles 4-1 but were edged by Colorado on Saturday 2-1.
In the opening draw, history was made as the second ECHL game at an NHL venue commenced in front of 12,881 fans. In the early stages of the opener, the Bulls put pressure on the Stockton Thunder as they peppered Riechard with five shots on the net in the games first minute, thus making him the busiest Thunder player on the ice to keep the score locked at zero. At the 16:46 mark on the first, the first fight ensued when Dylan King of the Bulls and Thunders Teegan Zhan dropped the gloves as the HP Pavilion crowd came to life with both combatants exchanging blows that ended with both in the penalty box with matching fighting majors. At the 5:53 mark of the first, San Francisco’s Jordan Morrison was sent to the box for cross checking put the visiting Thunder on the games first’s power play. While on the man advantage for the Thunder, San Francisco’s pk unit stepped preventing Stockton from drawing first blood. At the 9:21 mark of the opener, San Francisco’s Bulls #2 Mikael Tam fired the puck from the point to put the Bulls on top 1-0 and marked it his first in a Bulls uniform. Shortly after the Bulls goal, Stockton responded with a goal of their own when #25 Toni Ragala blasted the puck far side of Heemsherk to knot the game up at 1 apiece. That goal made it Rajala’s 14th of the season and made him the teams leading goal scorer.
Business picked up shortly after the Rajala goal as an altercation in front of the Stockton’s net lead to a penalty to Clendenning who he dropped the gloves with Thunder’s DeHart that made it the contests second scrap of the night as both got five for fighting at 10:19. In addition, Clendenning was also called for slashing as the additional minor was served #19 Daniel Tarasov. On the power play for the Thunder, San Francisco’s special teams came up big again as they were 2-2 shorthanded. Less than five minutes later, San Francisco’s Dean Ouellet was caught for slashing and put the visiting Thunder on the power play for the third time of the game. At 15:25 in the first, Stockton’s Toni Rajala earned his second point of the game as the Thunder took a 2-1 lead. Over two minutes later, the third fight of the night initiated in the Stockton Thunders end when Jamie Devane of the Bulls and Cameron Abney of Stockton exchanged blow for blow as Devane landed the shot that ended the session as was he declared the victor of the bout at 17:43. At the end of the first period Stockton leads 2-1 Stockton leads the shot clock 11-10
Less than two minutes into the middle frame, San Francisco’s #43 Kris Belan fired a wrister past Riechard to tie it up a two with the only assist by Rob Kwiet at 1:36. The goal by Belan marked it his fifth of the season. At 3:27 mark of the second, Thomas Heemskerk closed to the door on breakaway attempt by Stockton to keep the score at two. At 4:47 of the period Mike Little scored on wrap around to put the Thunder back on top 3-2. The first man advantage opportunity came for the Bulls as Stockton’s Riendeau was called for a slashing minor at 6:11. With their first situation up a man, the Bulls came up short as the Thunder successfully killed off their first pk of the night. After the power play ended, the fourth fight of the contest occurred at the left side of Stockton’s net minder Cody Riechard’s net as #19 Daniil Tarasov of San Francisco dropped the gloves with #26 Shawn Boutin of Stockton at 8:13 of the second. The two combatants connected that ended in a draw with each off to the sin bin for five minutes.
As the period went past the halfway point, San Francisco’s lead on the Thunder in the shot clock as Stockton closed the gap to a two shot advantage at 11:04 of middle stanza. Fifteen seconds later in a net mouth scramble, Riechard was caught for hold. Thunder’s Riendeau served the minor and put the Bulls on their second power play of the night at 11:19. Much like their first opportunity, the Bulls once again came up short as the Thunder’s penalty unit stepped up to keep their 3-2 lead intact. On a bad turnover by the Bulls, Garet Hunt pumped it home past Heemsherk to put his club up by two goals at 15:12. 48 seconds after the fourth goal by Stockton was scored as Rajala added his third tally of the night as he fired a shot from the slot past Heemsherk on the blocker side to make it a 5-2 lead. Right after the goal, Pat Curcio of the Bulls made a goaltending change and swapped Heemsherk for Nelson. The Bulls would enter the second intermission with a three shot lead on the shot clock with a 23-20 advantage.
At 1:46 into the final period, Teegan Zhan of the Thunder got caught with an interference minor right in front Riechard to put San Francisco on the power play for the third time of the night. On the power play, #44 Sacha Guimond fired a wrister from the left point to cut into the Thunders lead to make it 5-3 at 2:56 of the third. Moments following the goal by Guimond, Daniil Tarasov had the puck on his stick as he missed his backhander shot that went wide of opened Stockton’s net to nearly close the gap to a one goal Thunder lead. At 10:21 of the third, Stockton’s DeHart was called for a hooking Bulls Jordan Morrison as he drove towards the Stockton’s net. While San Francisco was on the man advantage, they literally wasted the power play opportunity. Furthermore, they made a bad decision and coughed up the puck as Stockton went into the Bulls zone on a two on one that was broken up by a desperation back check by a San Francisco player. With 7:14 remaining of the third, San Francisco went in on Stockton zone as Crescenzi came right side to pass it the puck to Alex Tuckerman as he tipped past Riechard to cut the lead to a one goal Thunder lead. With less than three minutes left of the game, #36 Abney of Stockton put the puck past Nelson’s blocker side to give his team some late insurance as it made it 6-4 Thunder at 17:02. The Bulls would not comes any closer as the Stockton Thunder received their first win of the season against the San Francisco Bulls as the final score was 6-4. At the end of the night, the Stockton Thunder also beat the San Francisco Bulls on the shot clock 33-29
Be sure to follow all of your BoT staff on twitter!!!
Blades of Teal: The Final Word On San Jose Sharks, Worcester Sharks, and San Francisco Bulls hockey