The puck is dropping on the second season of San Francisco Bulls hockey and coach Pat Curcio is looking to whittle his roster down to roughly 22 players.
Curcio said seven players will be competing for his team’s three remaining spots when the Bulls open their three-game preseason against the Bakersfield Condors at the Cow Palace on Thursday.
“In hockey, you can only see so much in practice,” Curcio said. “I think these three games will be huge for a lot of guys.”
The Bulls currently have 25 players on their roster: eight from last year’s squad, six who have been assigned by the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, along with, Anthony Taylor, who earned a spot through open tryouts.
Curcio isn’t revealing who’s in competition for jobs this week, but it’s clear that the Bulls have more talent on the ice for training camp this year.
“Compared to last year, it’s night and day,” Curcio said. “We definitely have better players and we have more prospects. If we can get the effort we had from the guys last year with the talent we have, you’re going to see some better results.”
The Bulls will play their second preseason game against the Stockton Thunder at the Cow Palace on Saturday before traveling to Bakersfield for a final exhibition match on Sunday.
The team needs to submit his opening day roster to the ECHL on Oct. 16
Homecoming: Local puck fans received good news last week when team MVP Dean Ouellet and league veteran Jordan Morrison returned to the Bulls.
Both players were playing professionally in Kazakhstan, but they each had a change of heart just in time to join the squad for the preseason.
Curcio said he spoke to Ouellet via Skype and told him he has a chance to play at the next level if he sticks it out in North America.
“I think that stuck in his ear and he thought, maybe I need to give this one more try,” Curcio said.
The Bulls’ coach said Morrison is the team’s best two-way center, capable of shutting down opponents’ top scorers on a checking line with Kris Belan.
“A lot of guys don’t want to play that role,” he said. “That’s a huge asset. You can’t have your skill guys trying to shutdown other teams’ top lines.”
Mayor’s welcome: The Bulls met with Mayor Ed Lee on the steps of City Hall on Monday and presented him with a personalized team sweater.
“We’re working so hard to get the city of San Francisco behind us,” Curcio said. “Now we have their support — it was a wonderful day.”