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Penalties eventually catch up to Bulls in loss to Idaho

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DALY CITY -- The penalty kill did its job, but the San Francisco Bulls just put it out on the ice too many times to pick up a win.

The Bulls killed six straight power plays on Saturday, but the penalties eventually caught up to them in a 3-1 loss to the Idaho Steelheads at the Cow Palace.

"What hurt us in the end was we were out of gas," coach Pat Curcio said.

"At the end of the day, when you kill seven or eight penalties and guys are sitting on the bench, it takes a lot out of you."

After surrendering four power-play goals in two games, Curcio held a pregame meeting with the penalty kill prior to Saturday's game.

The Bulls entered the game ranked last in the ECHL when shorthanded, killing only 70.2 percent of opponents' power plays. As a result, Curcio and his staff created the 10 commandments of killing penalties to drive home the importance of fundamentals.

"The 10 commandments are all the details," Curcio said. "200-foot clears, stay straight, skates up ice, be big in the shot lanes, we're here to kill the penalty, not make big hits -- all the little things."

The message was heard as the Bulls killed six straight penalties in the first and second periods. They jumped ahead 1-0 at 4:27 of the first when Chris Crane deflected a Damon Kipp shot from the right point in the high slot.

The power-play goal was Crane's third tally of the season; he also deflected home a point shot from Kyle Bigos in the Bulls' win over the Stockton Thunder on Monday.

But the team's momentum was halted in the second period when seven combined penalties disrupted the flow of the game.

After killing three penalties in the second, the Bulls gave up the tying goal at 10:39 when Steelheads forward Justin Mercier took advantage of a sluggish line change as he exited the penalty box. He jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and put it past Bulls goalie J.P. Anderson on a breakaway.

The Steelheads pulled ahead 1:15 later, scoring on a power-play goal on their seventh opportunity with the man advantage.

"In any pro league, if you take six or seven [penalties], you're going to give up some goals -- no question," Curcio said. "Otherwise, our PK was much better tonight."

The Bulls pressed in the third period and outshot the Steelheads 31-24 in the contest. But Idaho added a third goal at 16:05 and the Bulls couldn't close the gap.

Curcio said the Bulls' best scorers, Dean Ouellet and Mark Lee, were gassed from having to put in so much time on the penalty kill.

"We're still missing Dale Mitchell, who's arguably our best forward, and Ryan McDonough, who's supposed to be a top guy, too," he said.

Kyle Bodie, who was acquired from the Cincinnati Cyclones on Wednesday to give the team more scoring punch, made his debut with the club after driving across the country. Curcio said he was impressed with the rookie out of Union College.

"He's a smart player," he said. "The kid drove 40 hours, so for what I expected out of him tonight, he showed poise and intelligence."

Bigos took a puck to the mouth in the first period and he left the game before returning in the second.

"It's not pretty -- he looks like the Joker right now," Curcio said. "I don't know if he lost teeth, but I think he got a few wigglers."

Anderson stopped 21 of 24 shots in his third start with the Bulls and Curcio praised the rookie for his play.

"Seems like poor J.P. every time he plays we can't find the net for him," he said. "In my eyes, it's hard to be angry at the team, you hate to lose, but I thought we played a good hockey game."