STOCKTON – Pat Curcio shook up his lineup this week, but the player he really needed on the ice against the Stockton Thunder was out with a suspension.
Defenseman Scott Langdon could only watch as the Thunder spoiled the San Francisco Bulls debuts of Rylan Galiardi, Cody Carlson, Christian Ouellet and Sebastien Trudeau with a 5-2 smackdown at the Stockton Arena Friday night.
“It definitely hurt us,” Dean Ouellet said. “[Langdon] is solid, he hits, he does everything on the ice. He’s just a huge part of our defense. The good thing is we’re getting him back tomorrow.”
Langdon received a two-game suspension last week after delivering an open-ice hit that bloodied Idaho Steelheads forward Mathieu Tousignant and his absence was noticeable against the Thunder. Langdon is a +13 on the season and three of Stockton’s goals were the result of sloppy play in the Bulls defensive zone.
“Whenever you lose a key player like that it’s tough. We’re happy to have him back tomorrow night,” forward Jordan Morrison said.
The Bulls (13-20-1-4) trailed 2-0 after the game’s first 2:34 and they couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole. The lead jumped 3-1 by the end of the first period and extended to 4-1 just 1:06 into the second.
“It wasn’t the start we wanted,” Dean Ouellet said. “We just couldn’t get out of it after that.”
Curcio yanked goalie Taylor Nelson after the Thunder’s fourth goal and backup Bryan Hince stopped 19 of 20 shots.
Stockton’s leading scorer, Yannick Riendeau, scored the first two goals of the game, but he couldn’t complete the hattrick in the game’s final 57:26.
Despite the loss, the Bulls should be pleased with the performance of its newly formed top line of Galiardi, Dean Ouellet and Peter Sivak. The line connected for two goals and they pressed deep in the Thunder’s zone throughout the night. Peter Sivak scored his 16th goal midway through the first period and Ouellet scored his team-leading 18th in the second. Galiardi picked up a pair of assists on the tallies.
Ouellet said Galiardi impressed him with his strength on the puck.
“He’s a hard worker, he plays physical, he’s two-way player,” he said. “It was really easy to play with a guy like that.”
Galiardi said it’s surprising how quickly he gelled with his new line-mates.
“I was fortunate to play with some really good players,” he said. “Those guys are really talented, creative, hard working guys. I tried to get them the puck, get to the net and hopefully they take care of the rest.”
Sivak said the line should only improve as the guys become more familiar with one another.
“With time, we’ll be better, better and better,” he said.
Both San Francisco goals came via the power play. The Bulls entered the night with ECHL’s top-road power play converting 22.6 percent of their opportunities and they went 2-for-4 on the night.
“We have some great guys on the power play. We all communicated really well,” defenseman Cody Carlson said.
Carlson said the Bulls are going to need to tighten the screws to pick up a win in the rematch at the Cow Palace Saturday.
“Little things are the big things in hockey,” he said.
The Bulls are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference standings, six points ahead of the Bakersfield Condors and four points behind the Utah Grizzlies.
Galiardi said he’s optimistic about the team’s prospects moving forward.
“You can see that with the right bounces and if things start going the right way – we have the players,” he said.