From San Francisco, with gloves: Three former Bulls on Idaho Steelheads

Luke Judson, Damon Kipp, Rob Linsmayer played this season for the now-defunct Bulls franchise.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comFebruary 8, 2014 

— On Jan. 26, forward Luke Judson had a job playing professional hockey for the San Francisco Bulls.

One day later, the Bulls became the third franchise in the history of the ECHL to cease operations midseason. Judson and his teammates became free agents.

“It was pretty short notice for all of us,” said Judson, a rookie. “We were all in scramble mode.”

Meanwhile, Steelheads coach Brad Ralph was doing his due diligence, seeing if any of the former Bulls could help his team.

“We reached out to quite a few,” he said. “There were some good players on that team, and in the end I feel like we were fortunate to get Judson.”

Judson made his Steelheads debut Wednesday night, and he made an immediate impact by scoring the game-winning goal in a 3-1 win over the Utah Grizzlies.

“So far, so good,” said Judson, who scored an empty-net goal to close out Idaho’s 4-1 win over Colorado on Friday night at CenturyLink Arena.

Judson doesn’t expect to score a goal every game, but he does feel like he’s going to be given every opportunity to flourish with Idaho.

“I think it was about 20 games in San Francisco before I scored my first goal, but Brad gave me plenty of opportunities in my first game,” Judson said. “I had a lot of fun in San Francisco, but at the same time, I was always wanting more opportunities. … I knew I could play physical and I knew I could kill penalties, but I also knew there was more to my game.”

If Judson continues to contribute, he will be the third former Bull to pull on a Steelheads sweater this season and see his productivity increase.

The other two:

Damon Kipp

The defenseman was acquired in a trade for forward Tyler Gron in late November.

“We obviously gave a up a pretty good player,” Ralph said. “But I think Kipp has been consistent from day one, and I think he’s improved since coming here.”

In 16 games with the Bulls, Kipp had no goals, four assists and a minus-4 rating. In 25 games with Idaho, he has one goal, seven assists and a plus-10 rating.

“I knew right away that Boise was a way better hockey market. So it was nice to get to a place where fans know about hockey, fans care about hockey,” said Kipp, a second-year pro who had two assists Friday night. “I definitely feel more comfortable here. … There’s more of a team atmosphere in the dressing room and on the ice.”

Rob Linsmayer

The rookie forward was acquired in early December for cash. Like Kipp, Linsmayer had more than a hunch that the trade could be a positive for his career.

“The guys in the locker room knew (San Francisco) was in trouble,” Linsmayer said. “It was pretty obvious when the Zamboni guy wasn’t showing up.”

Linsmayer had two goals, no assists and a minus-8 rating in 11 games with the Bulls. He has four goals, seven assists and a plus-3 rating in 18 games with Idaho. He has eight points in his past eight games.

“He’s slowly earned more ice time,” Ralph said. “And that line, (Gaelan) Patterson’s line, has been our best line the past couple of weeks. … Patterson and Linsmayer have been playing hard every shift, and when you do that good things happen.”

GAME NOTES: Colorado outshot Idaho 49-17, but Idaho goalie Pat Nagle (14-10-3) was the difference-maker. He turned away 48-of-49 shots to stymie the offensive-minded Eagles. … Brett Robinson, Tommy Grant and Charlie Dodero scored Idaho’s first three goals. Grant’s goal was his 16th of the season, moving him into a tie for the team lead with Anthony Nigro. … Dodero’s goal was his first as a professional.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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