Bulls blanked as frustration over lack of scoring mounts 

DALY CITY -- Mark Lee swung his stick behind his head as if he was about to chop the ice in half with an ax after the San Francisco Bulls failed to score a goal during a third-period power play Friday.

Instead of smashing the ice, Lee skated to the Bulls' bench with his stick over his head, embodying the frustration of a team that's scored only two goals in its last three games, despite registering 113 shots.

"I couldn't actually believe what just happened," Lee said, referring to the Bulls' inability to score on the power play. "I missed, probably, five chances right in the middle of slot."

The Steelheads (8-4-2) went on to stop the rest of the Bulls' scoring chances, posting a 6-0 shutout to earn their third win in eight days at the Cow Palace.

"If you don't score, eventually, you run out of confidence," coach Pat Curcio said. "I don't know what else to tell these guys, when you get 41 shots and probably over 20 scoring chances and you don't score a goal -- it's pretty frustrating."

The Steelheads jumped ahead 1-0 just 18 seconds into the game when Mitch Wahl dug the puck out of the corner and threw it in front of the net for Anthony Nigro to tap past goalie Tyler Beskorowany.

"I guess we were doomed from the minute the game started," Curcio said.

But the Bulls (4-9-2) battled back, registering 19 shots on goal in the opening period.They threw pucks on net and crashed the blue paint; they just couldn't get a bounce to light the the lamp.

The Bulls continued to pepper goalie Pat Nagle, who was starting in place of Josh Robinson, with shots in the second period, recording a total of 30 by the end of the period.

But the Steelheads put the home team in a vice grip by stretching the lead to 2-0 at 5:22 of the second period when Justin Mercier trickled the puck past Beskorowany.

They put the game on ice in the third, a few minutes after Lee's public display of frustration, netting a short-handed goal at the period's 6:26 mark.

With Mercier streaking in on the right, defenseman Kyle Bigos slipped, allowing the Steelheads forward to record his fourth goal against the Bulls this season.

"That was the killer," Curcio said.

The Steelheads went on to score three more goals before the end of the third sending the Bulls into the locker room wondering what had just happened.

"I really can't put my finger on anything," Curcio said.

With a blue-collar work ethic, the Bulls continue to create scoring chances, but they're struggling to finish. They're averaging 1.5 goals per game and they've yet to score four goals in a single contest.

At this point, the team is sorely missing forwards Dale Mitchell (back) and Ryan McDonough (concussion), who were both expected to be top scorers this season.

McDonough and Mitchell are both due to come off the injured reserve next week, but the timing of their returns to the ice is uncertain.

Mitchell skated with the team this week and it didn't go well.

"He left the ice in about five minutes," Curcio said. "He's supposed to come off the IR next week and I guarantee there's no chance he's playing in Utah next weekend.

Curcio said McDonough is "progressing."

Despite Mitchell and McDonough's absence, Lee, the team's leading scorer, took the blame on his shoulders.

"When you don't score a goal in 120 minutes, that's on guys like myself," Lee said. "I was brought here to score goals and haven't really been producing as much as the fans would like. Personally, I'm not doing it and you've got to look in the mirror."

With the Utah Grizzlies rolling into the Cow Palace on Sunday, Lee said the Bulls need to put the loss behind them.

"I told the boys there at the end, you have 20 minutes to let this sink in and it has to sink in -- it's not acceptable, you can't lose 6-0 and be happy walking out of this rink," Lee said. "But you've got to come to the rink tomorrow ready to work harder than you did today."

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Paul Gackle

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