The Bulls are getting ready to kick off their first ever playoff run in team history as they face off against the top seed in the western conference with the Alaska Aces. The Bulls finished in eight place in the west with a record of 25-38-9 for 59 points in their first ever season. The Alaska Aces were the best team in the entire league with a record 49-15-8, which was a league high of 106 points.
The Bulls finished the season with a record of 2-7 against Alaska. Three of the seven losses came in the first month of the season as the Bulls were off to a horrible start to the year. The Bulls then managed to take two of the next three in Alaska during the end of January with the lone loss being a two to one game. Alaska swept the three game series in San Francisco at the beginning of March, but two of those losses were by a single goal again. The Bulls figured out a way to play Alaska tough and it could go along way in providing them confidence as they attempt to pull off the major upset of the Kelly Cup favorites.
So as the Bulls prepare for the first playoff series in team history, let us breakdown this match up even further to see if the Bulls have a shot to upset Alaska. We are going to look at the match between each team’s offensive, defensive, and special teams units and see which team holds the advantage with each unit.
San Francisco Bulls:
The Bulls offense was a maddeningly unit to watch at times as they generated chances and shots, but could not seem to find the back of the net. The Bulls offense had the fourth highest shot total in the entire league with 2,167 shots over the course of the season, which was an average of 30.1 shots per game. The flip side of that stat is they were the second worst scoring team in the league as they managed to score 191 goals during the year, which came out to 2.65 goals per game. The Bulls’ shooting percentage was absolutely dreadful at an anemic 8.8 percent over the course of the season.
A lot of this is due to the lack depth scoring on the Bulls. Eight players recorded 10 or more goals during the season, but only three of those players did it as members of the Bulls with the Bulls adding a lot of players late in the season. Peter Sivak was the Bulls’ leading scorer as he led the team with 33 goals and 56 points. Sivak’s 33 goals was good enough to finish fourth in the western conference. Rookie Dean Ouellet had a stellar initial season as he finished third in rookie goal scoring with 24 and second in rookie total scoring with 52 points. Late in the season they added scoring threats Bryan Cameron and Tristan King from Utah and Idaho, respectively. The Bulls will be with Peter Sivak during the first two games of the series as he is still with Worcester as they wrap up their season, but he should return in time for game three in San Francisco.
The Aces had an above average offense during the course of the year. They finished seventh in the league in scoring with 228 goals on the year for 3.17 goals per game. They are a team that is able to control the tempo of the game with their ability to maintain puck possession. They also one of the top scorers in the league. Forward Nick Mazzolini was tied for the western conference lead in goals with 36 and was second in the conference in points with 71. Mazzolini is the key cog in this Alaska offense as he can create offense by scoring goals and by setting up his teammates as he added 35 assists on the season. It is not just him either with the Aces boasting nine skaters with 10 or more goals, with seven of the players doing it as members of Alaska. Mazzolini is an exceptionally dangerous player that the Bulls will have to account for every shift he takes.
The edge is going to the Aces. They average 3.1 goals per game, while the Bulls only average 2.65 goals. The Aces also have the best player on the during the series in Mazzolini and he could be a true difference maker in the series. The Bulls offense will also be hurting as they will not have top scorer Peter Sivak for at least the first two games of the series. The one chance that the Bulls have would the late season additions in making an impact on the offensive end of the ice.
San Francisco Bulls:
The Bulls defense left a lot to be desired as they struggled on the back end for most of the year. The Bulls finished with the fourth most allowed goals on the season with 252, which comes out to 3.5 goals allowed per game. The Bulls defense surrenders a lot of shots to opposing offenses, which in turn leads to a number of scoring chances. The Bulls have also suffered from shaky play in net. Thomas Heemskerk was the Bulls top goalie during the year with a record of 14-17-3. Heemskerk made 1,035 on the 1,142 shots he faced for a .906 save percentage with a 3.1 goals against average in 38 appearances. Taylor Nelson have an even rougher season with an 11-20-5 record on the season. Nelson had 1,024 saves on 1,150 shots faced for a save percentage of .890 and a 3.53 goals against average. Both goalies have seen stretches of success during the year, but consistency has major problem of the group and is a major reason for the lack of success on the back end.
The Aces had the best defense in the western conference and the second best defense in the league as they allowed one more goal than the team with the fewest goals allowed. They averaged only 2.39 goals allowed per game. A lot of credit should be given to both of their goalies. Mark Guggenberger had the most appearances with 39 as he went 25-8-5 on they with three shut outs. He made 966 saves on 1,052 shots for a .918 save percentage and 2.23 goals against average. His back up Gerald Coleman was no slouch either as he made 32 appearances with a record of 23-6-3 and two shut outs. Coleman recorded 770 saves on 839 shots for a .918 save percentage and a 2.17 goals against average. Both of the goalies finished in the top three of the league in goals against average. The mixture of defensive zone play and strong goal tending shows why this team allowed the second fewest goals in the league.
Again the edge goes to Alaska defensive unit as they are the top defensive unit in the conference. They have the more solid defensive core. The Aces also hold a distinct advantage in the goalie match up as both goalies have performed better than either Bulls’ goalie. The defenses are magnified in the post season and the Aces hold a major edge over the Bulls in that department.