Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Full stats

Signed by New Jersey Devils(NHL) on July 25, 2000.
Signed by Florida Panthers(NHL) as an unrestricted free agent on July 11, 2003.
Signed by San Diego Gulls(ECHL) as an unrestricted free agent on October 10, 2004.
Signed by Long Beach Ice Dogs(ECHL) as an unrestricted free agent on October 3rd, 2005.
Signed by Cardiff Devils (EIHL) as an unrestricted free agent on September 1st, 2006.

Season xTeam xxxxxxxxxLeague xGP G xA PTS PIM
1995-96 Torpedo U-Ka xRus Jr x21 13 12 25 22
1996 xxxTeam Israel xxIIHF U20 5 x4 x5 x9 x8
1997 xxxTeam Israel xxIIHF U18 4 x4 x3 x7 x4
1997 xxxTeam Israel xxIIHF D xx3 x1 x2 x3 x0x
1997-98 Shelburne xxxxJrA xxxx12 x7 11 18x 8
1998 xxxTeam Israel xxIIHF D xx4 x2 x4 x6 x2
1998-99 Shelburne xxxxJrA xxxx35 20 22 42 25
1999 xxxTeam Israel xxIIHF D xx4 x2 x5 x7 x4
1999-00 Newmarket xxxxJrA xxxx47 50 32 82 52
2000 xxxTeam Israel xxIIHF D xx4 x6 x6 12 x4x
2000-01 Albany xxxxxxxAHL xxxx50 x7 x6 13 24
2001 xxxNew Jersey * xNHL xxxxx3 x1 x0 x1 x2x
2001-02 Albany xxxxxxxAHL xxxx40 x6 x7 13 22
2002 xxxNew Jersey * xNHL xxxxx2 x0 x0 x0 x2x
2002-03 Albany xxxxxxxAHL xxxx57 x6 x6 12 42
2003 xxxFlorida * xxxxNHL xxxxx1 x0 x1 x1 x
2003-04 San Antonio xxAHL xxxx17 x0 x2 x2 x6
2003-04 Laredo Bucks xCHL xxxx44 16 14 30 37
2004 xxxAHL Selects** Int xxxxx6 x3 x4 x7 x6
2004-05 San Diego xxxxECHL xxx69 19 30 49 63

2005-06 Long Beach xxxECHL xxx13 x4 x3 x7 10
2006-07 Cardiff DevilsEIHL xxx64 29 39 68 113


* - Exibition games
** - Exibition games played in Germany(DEL&2.B Leagues)

2000 - IIHF WC Pool D MVP of Tournament
2004 - President's Cup winner with Laredo Bucks of CHL
2007 - British Knockout Cup winner with Cardiff Devils of EIHL

Birbraer is on his way back to Cardiff

Jul 9 2007

by Anthony Woolford, South Wales Echo

CARDIFF Devils have today beaten off competition from ice hockey teams in Germany and Switzerland to sign power forward Max Birbraer.

The Kazakhstan-born winger has committed himself to the Devils for another season and general manager Brent Pope said: “Max was a huge part of our success last season and his commitment to return is an indication we are headed in the right direction.”

“He is an extremely talented player who has game breaking ability.

“Gerad Adams and I believe that Max and Sylvain Deschatelets will strike a good working relationship after playing in San Diego together.

“They have a mutual respect for one another and we expect them to lead from the front and get us a strong start out of the gates this season.”

Birbraer, 26, fired 68 points for the Devils last season including 29 goals.

That was his return in a first season following a serious knee injury and he has pledged to be even better in 2007-08.

“I came to Cardiff last season after a near career-ending knee injury,” said Birbraer.

“Cardiff Devils gave me the chance to play again and I loved it.

“It was always my plan to come back and I could not be happier we have reached agreement.”

Birbraer will be welcomed back at the Devils first game when the Kazakhstan national anthem will ring around their Cardiff Bay rink in September.

Player-coach Adams worked hard to bring Birbraer back and is ecstatic to have got his man. In some ways the powerful winger was more important than last season’s top scorer Mark Smith.

It was Birbraer who played a key role in their partnership – and he is confident a similar understanding will be there with Deschatelets.

The 6ft 2ins Birbraer spent three seasons playing for Albany River Rats in the American HL and was a third round choice for New Jersey Devils in the 2000 NHL entry draft.

Birbraer’s commitment leaves Cardiff with two import slots to fill and coach Adams is still in North America talking to players.

There is now just under two months left before Cardiff Devils start their Elite League season, taking on Coventry, Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Basingstoke, Newcastle, Hull and Sheffield in the chase for glory.

Cardiff won the British Cup last season, while they lost in the play-off championship final against Nottingham Panthers after a penalty shoot-out.

It is unlikely anybody will feel the devastating pain of losing on penalties again.

The rules for deciding the semi-finals and final have been changed. There will be two 10-minute periods of four on four overtime before penalties are used.

Devils return to the Max

The wait is over... The Kazakhstanian National Anthem will be ringing throughout the pine rafters of the Cardiff Bay Arena again this season... Max Birbraer is set to return to South Wales!
The 26 year old Israeli International had a career season with the Devils in 2006/07 recording 29 goals and 68 total points in 64 games and is set to take his game even higher in 2007/08. Player/Coach Gerad Adams has been on a roller coaster ride since the Playoffs ended negotiating the return of the Devil’s prolific winger.

“Max always indicated that he wanted to return to Cardiff and I know that he really enjoyed the city and the Devils’ fans and friends that he met last season. He wanted to be comfortable and settled and felt in his heart that Cardiff was the right place to be” says Player/Coach Adams. “I have always kept Max in mind when building this team.”

Admittedly, Maxim Birbraer has had one of the most interesting hockey journeys of any hockey player. Being Kazakhstanian born and a member of the Israeli National Ice Hockey team is not a commonly found player profile in your match night programme. Neither is the fact that Birbraer skipped Major Junior ‘A’ and the ECHL on his way to three seasons in the American League with the Albany Riverats direct from the Newmarket Hurricanes of the Ontario Tier II Junior ‘A’ League.

The New Jersey Devils 3rd round choice in the 2000 NHL Entry draft had the option of playing on the continent in Germany and Switzerland this season before eventually deciding to return to Wales. Like many impact players the perception that European pastures are always greener appears to have been outweighed by the comforts of Cardiff life. The likable 6’2, 200 pound winger enjoyed the physical style of play in the British Elite League and displays a versatility seldom seen from top offensive players.

Devils’ GM Brent Pope knows what a unique player Birbraer is and what he brings to the Cardiff team and dressing room.

“Maxy is an extremely talented player that has game breaking ability. He is a proud performer and was a huge part of our success last season. His commitment to return is another indication that we are headed in the right direction. Both Gerad and I felt that Max and Sylvain would strike a good working relationship after playing in San Diego together. They have a mutual respect for one another and we expect them to lead from the front and get us a strong start out of the gates this season.”

The Devils have two remaining import positions to fill and Gerad Adams is currently in talks with a number of players who would combine playing for the Devils alongside University studies at the Cardiff Business School. With still two months to go before the home opener Devils Coach Gerad Adams is pleased with how the new team looks so far. “Things have gone well and I am pleased with Max returning. These last couple pieces of the puzzle will be key signings for us.”

Friday, February 23, 2007

Birbraer shoots down Bison

Feb 12 2007
Terry Phillips, South Wales Echo

The Echo Cardiff Devils earned thrilling back-to-back Elite League home wins to step up their challenge for a top three place.
Max Birbraer fired the winning goal 13 seconds into sudden-death overtime against Basingstoke Bison last night, while the Echo Devils edged out Manchester Phoenix 4-3 after powering into a four-goal lead on Saturday.
'We're building for the play-offs and pretty happy with the way things are going,' said player-coach Gerad Adams.
'We are coming together with playing systems.
'Good teams find a way to win and we did that on successive nights.'
Now the Devils have a six-day rest before they travel to Nottingham Panthers on Saturday and then take on Edinburgh Capitals at home next Sunday (6pm).
Birbaer's winning goal handed Cardiff a 5-4 win last night with Paul Sample, Mark Smith, Brad Voth and Dave Iannazzo the other scorers.
It was a night when new referee Tom Darnell became a target for fans after some controversial decisions.
They shouted angrily at Darnell, who has been promoted from linesman, when he blew to stop the game just before Blair Manning slid the puck into the net.
Darnell clearly believed goalie Phil Osaer had it in his glove and stopped the game, but still allowed the goal to stand and that made it 2-2.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Phoenix put to flight by Birbraer hat-trick

Dec 7 2006

Terry Phillips, South Wales Echo

Max Birbraer scored the first hat-trick of his career to mark Echo Cardiff Devils' first match at their new rink in Cardiff Bay.

Powerful winger Birbraer led the Echo Devils to victory, smashing aside a powerful recovery from Manchester Phoenix as they hit back from 4-2 down to draw level at 4-4 in the final period.

He linked up superbly with flat-mate Mark Smith, who finished with three assists, on the first line along with Paul Sample.

'This is the first hat-trick of my career and it feels great,' said Birbraer. 'I've had a whole bunch of twos, but never managed that third.

'Everybody in the team played their part in this win. Mark was setting me up - he was brilliant.
'The new rink is outstanding. We've waited so long for a home venue and this was such a big evening.

'To score a hat-trick on my first night in front of Cardiff fans is special. A night I will never forget.

'Now we have to push on from here. The fans who came were fantastic, the atmosphere unbelievable. Now we need more people. There were empty seats and they have to be filled.'

More than 1,400 spectators were at the match, the Devils' first at the rink after the disruption last Saturday when the ice was not ready for the scheduled match against Newcastle Vipers.

Now, though, the Echo Devils are on their way and head coach Ed Patterson said: 'Our season starts here. And our aim is clear: we can still win the Elite League title.

'We have a lot of catching up to do, but we have games in hand and Saturday's match against Nottingham Panthers is huge.

'They are the form team of the moment, but we are potentially the best team in Elite League. Now we have to prove our worth.

'We have to play Nottingham five times, Belfast five times, Coventry five times. They are the leaders in the chase for the title and we have the chance close in on them and challenge them.'

The Echo Devils had pace, power and skill in a performance which left Manchester gasping for breath.

This was only the second time in two weeks Cardiff players have been able to skate, but now they will train on a regular basis at their new home.

Birbraer led the way, while winger Nathan Rempel came bursting back to form with a five-star personal performance.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Birbraer Named Gulls' Player Of The Month

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Gulls have announced that Max Birbraer has been named the Kristy’s MVP/Stewart Benjamin Jewelry Player of the Month for February. Birbraer will be presented the award in a pre-game ceremony before Saturday’s game against the Fresno Falcons.
Birbraer led the team in February with 13 points and tied Guillaume Fournier and Sean O’Connor for the club lead with five goals. During San Diego’s 14 games in the month, Birbraer notched a point in nine contests. He also had three multi-point games, including a three-assist night Wednesday, Feb.23 in Victoria.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 198-pound native of Kamenogorski, Kazakhstan is tied overall on the Gulls with a career-high 41 points (15g, 26a). Birbraer is third on the team with 15 goals and second with 26 assists. He’s also second on the club with three game-winning goals.
Birbraer, 23, spent the majority of last season with the Laredo Bucks of the Central Hockey League, posting a previous career high of 30 points (16g, 14a) in 44 games. He also notched five points (3g, 2a) during the Bucks’ run to the 2003-04 CHL title. During his five-year professional career, which includes four years in the American Hockey League, Birbraer has recorded 111 points (50g and 61a) in 259 games.
He was a third-round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and was signed as a free agent by the Florida Panthers in 2003. He is the first Israeli to ever be drafted by an NHL team.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Gulls get standout effort from goalie to beat Idaho

By: SANDY BURGIN - For the North County Times

SAN DIEGO ---- The Gulls, bolstered by a 47-save effort from goaltender Eddy Ferhi, snapped the Idaho Steelheads' seven-game winning streak with a 3-2 ECHL victory Sunday before 4,857 fans at the Sports Arena.

With the victory, the Gulls (28-20-6) moved to within five points of fourth-place Fresno, which lost to Alaska in a shootout.

"Yeah, you can say we got outplayed here and there," said Gulls coach Martin St. Amour. "But sometimes the goalie has to win the game for you, and he did it tonight!"

The Gulls were outshot 49-16 and had just six shots on net in the final two periods.

Fortunately for the Gulls, Sean O'Connor and Nikita Korovkin beat Idaho goalie Frank Doyle with a pair of goals a little more than a minute apart in the first period, and Max Birbraer added the eventual game-winner with just 2 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the second period.

Korovkin's goal, his seventh on the season, came on a power play 7:36 into the game with former Gull Billy Tibbetts in the penalty box for interference. Just 1:04 later, O'Connor recorded his 17th goal of the season off assists from Brian Gornick and Jonathan Shockey.

Doyle had come into the game with five straight victories, giving up an average of 1.60 goals in that span.

But Ferhi was even better, especially in the second period when the Steelheads, the defending Kelly Cup champions, outshot the Gulls 22-3.

It was during that middle period that Birbraer notched the game's key goal, scoring on a breakaway at 17:13. It was only the Gulls' second shot of the period.

"That goal was huge," said Ferhi, "especially since I didn't see it. There was something going on in our end and all of a sudden I look down and there's Max with a breakaway against a very good goalie and he makes a heck of a move.

"A two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, they say. So a three-goal lead makes a world of difference."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

"Gulls A Glutton for Salmon"

Gulls 4 - Salmon 1
by Deborah Brancheau
Toe fungus might have been easier to swallow than the pathetic loss the Gulls endured Tuesday night as they were beaten by the worst team in the ECHL. A team that hadn't even reached double-digits in the win column until then. A team that had only won 25 of its last 28 games. Whatever the case, the Gulls were in no mood to be force fed another rancid defeat as they turned the tables on the Victoria Salmon Kings handing them a 4-1 loss in front of 2,140 at the Bear Mountain Arena Wednesday night.
Though they may not have physically dominated the game, the scoreboard recorded a solid win, something the Gulls were in dire need of if they planned to leapfrog the Fresno Falcons for the coveted fourth-place standing in the Western Division and a playoff berth. Having lost four of their last five games, the Gulls had slipped further behind the Falcons who have won seven of their last 10, two of which were victories over San Diego. The win could possibly be the motivation the Gulls need to prepare for the crucial next five games.
Although the Gulls were outshot in the first period 14-11, they were able to capture the lead late in the frame with Ian Forbes' second goal of the season. Birbraer fed the puck to Forbes on the left wing. The acting captain then took advantage of an excellent screen by Sean O'Connor and rifled a shot past netminder Dan Blackburn for the 1-0 lead at 15:36.
Gulls goaltender Mathieu Chouinard was on top of his game in the first as he was credited with stopping all 14 shots including a breakaway attempt by Scott Turner. Sylvain Deschatelets even played savior with the puck by reaching in behind Chouinard to save a shot from crossing the goal line.
The stellar defensive performance held up in the second period as the Gulls faced an early Salmon Kings' power play. The offense wasn't far behind as Chris Lynch setup Nick Ganga for the shorthanded goal at 2:28. Chris Lynch pried the puck loose in the corner and dished it to Ganga, wide-open in the slot, who then slipped one between the pipes to give the Gulls a sound 2-0 lead.
San Diego continued its assault late in the second off a beautiful play initiated by Birbraer's excellent stick handling. Birbraer, in on the right wing, whipped through the Kings' defense all the way into the right wing corner before backhanding a pass to Sean O'Connor who finished off the play with his 16th goal of the season to give the Gulls a 3-0 lead at the 16:42 mark.
Victoria did have some fireworks left from Tuesday night's game and took a nibble out of the Gulls lead midway into the third period with Chris Corrinett's 14th goal of the season. Mike Josephson carried the puck out of the right wing corner where the puck rolled off his stick to Corrinett centered in front of the net. Corrinett then slipped it underneath Chouinard for the score at 9:04.
The Gulls, however, finished off the fish just 40 seconds later with Birbraer's third assist of the game. After Guillaume Fournier nudged the puck loose from Hegberg, he centered it to Birbraer. Birbraer then found a wide-open Deschatelets who one-timed the puck past Blackburn for the game-clinching 4-1 lead.
With the win, the Gulls, now 27-19-6, sit four points behind the fourth-place Fresno Falcons and six behind the third-place Bakersfield Condors. Only 20 games remain in the regular season giving new meaning to the term crunch time. While San Diego may have been able to split the two-game series with Victoria, it should never have come to that. They should have walked away from this series with four points instead of two. As a result, they have placed a tremendous amount of pressure on their shoulders to pull this season out of the trash.
Of the 20 remaining games, 14 are matchups within the Western Division and nine of those 14 are matchups with the three other teams vying for a playoff berth. Broken down, the Gulls have two more games with both the Condors and Falcons, all four of which will be played within the next week and a half, and five more games with the sixth-place Idaho Steelheads. That's not to say that the remaining six games are unimportant. Quite the contrary, the Gulls simply cannot let up. Right now there are too many teams ready to take that fourth-place playoff spot.


San Diego is 21-2-1 when scoring four-plus goals in a game, but just 6-17-5 when scoring three or less
The Gulls are 6-8-2 in their last 16 games and have been outscored 44-36 in their last 15 games
They are 10-14-3 on the road and 17-5-3 at home
Grady Moore was placed on the injured list after sustaining a concussion Saturday against Bakersfield
He joins Mike Garrow (concussion), Evgueni Nourislamov (broken thumb) and Wes Rypien (knee sprain)
Andrew Canzanello remains with the American Hockey League's Cincinnati Mighty Ducks

Monday, February 21, 2005

Gulls find offense, romp before 10,874

By Glae Thien
February 20, 2005
Gulls 7 Condors 3
Gulls coach Martin St. Amour sat in his office befuddled over his club's recent lack of offense ahead of last night's game against the Bakersfield Condors.

"We're working hard, but we're not scoring goals," St. Amour said. "I don't have an answer for it. If I did, I'd tell you."

As it turned out, the Gulls quickly found a solution, striking for three unanswered goals in the first period. They proceeded to match their season high in scoring in a 7-3 victory, which ended a three-game winless streak before 10,874 at the Sports Arena.

Max Birbraer and Guillaume Fournier had a goal and an assist in the opening period to help lead the Gulls, who bounced back from a 1-0 setback at Fresno the previous night.

When Birbraer opened the scoring at 6:57 into the game, he ended a span of 103:03 without a goal for the Gulls. Just 1:48 later, on the game's next shot, Fournier added a power-play score.

"On the bus ride back (from Fresno), we were so upset," Birbraer said. "We were so anxious to play again. As soon as the puck dropped, we had a lot of energy and we just maintained it."

In each case, the shooter ended up isolated against Condors goalie Yutaka Fukufuji. In the first period alone, the Gulls matched their scoring for the previous three games combined.

The Gulls (26-18-6) moved within four points of idle Fresno (28-17-4) for fourth place and the final playoff spot in the ECHL's West Division.

Gulls goaltender Mathieu Chouinard made 32 saves in his only start of the week, while Fukufuji had 26.

To enter the night, Fukufuji hadn't suffered a regulation loss in his previous 12 starts (9-0-3). Against the Gulls, he was 3-0-1 on the season with only seven goals allowed overall.

The Condors (29-14-8) ended their Gulls' early run at 2:30 into the second period, when Mike Hofstrand converted on a power play..

Darren Clark increased the Gulls to 4-1 at 8:07 into the second period, when he scored his first goal in 15 games, dating to Jan. 14. On the season, he has eight goals.

Bakersfield closed within 4-3 at 7:08 into the third period. But the Gulls answered just 40 seconds later with a goal by Chris Lynch.

Sylvain Deschatelets also fueled the Gulls' offense with four assists.

Gulls center Curtis Brown was sidelined for the second game in a row with a bruised knee, which also puts his availability in question for the team's next game on Tuesday at Victoria.

The Gulls improved to 3-2-2 in the season series with the Condors.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Gulls fall again on road in Ohio

TOLEDO, Ohio – The Gulls dropped their second straight ECHL game to the Toledo Storm last night in front of 2,728 at the Toledo Sports Arena.
The final score was 4-2.
Nick Parillo led the way for Toledo with two goals and an assist. His second goal at 5:16 in the third period proved to be the crushing blow as it came short-handed and ended up as the winning score.
Mike Garrow and Sean O'Connor scored the Gulls' two goals in the game. Garrow's goal came in the second period and O'Connor connected in the third period on a power play.
Max Birbraer had two assists for San Diego.
The Gulls (22-15-4) have now lost three of four on their seven-game road trip and have lost four of their past five overall. They are in fourth place in the West Division, tied with Fresno.
The Gulls continue their road trip tomorrow against the Wheeling Nailers. San Diego will play the Johnstown Chiefs on Saturday before concluding the trek Sunday in Wheeling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Globetrotting prospect gets chance with Gulls

By Glae Thien
Gulls winger Max Birbraer lived in three diverse countries and endured some tumultuous cultural conditions before launching his pro hockey career as the first Israeli player selected in the NHL entry draft.

Birbraer learned the game in his native Kazakhstan in an atmosphere unfriendly to Jews in the post-Soviet Union era. His family later moved to Israel, but in an unusual personal circumstance he was jailed in his adopted homeland. Eventually, he developed as a player in Canadian junior hockey while far removed from his family.

Through it all, Birbraer gained a world of experience in the world itself, and his playing skills progressed to the point that the New Jersey Devils selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft.

Birbraer prefers these days simply to focus on the world of hockey while leading the Gulls with 25 points approaching the midpoint of his first season with the club.

"Right now, I worry about hockey and enjoying my life," said Birbraer, 24, who began last season in training camp with the NHL's Florida Panthers. "Right now, it feels like I'm in some kind of paradise compared to what I experienced before. It makes you appreciate life and enjoy it."

Birbraer sees this season as pivotal in positioning himself to reclimb the hockey ladder following three-plus seasons in the American Hockey League, one step below the NHL. In the ECHL, he finds himself in a developmental league that has more talent than ever because of the NHL lockout.

However tough times have been, Birbraer takes to the ice in an unruffled manner.

"He's very easygoing," said NHL center Curtis Brown, playing with the Gulls during the lockout. "He doesn't get too riled up about anything. That's good because then you don't get too high or too low."

For much of his youth, Birbraer knew nothing about his religious background. His parents felt it best not to advertise their families' Jewish heritage because of anti-Semitism in Kazakhstan.

Hockey became a youthful refuge without such prejudice. Birbraer took up the game at the encouragement of his grandfather Anatoly, who still lives in Kazakhstan.

"It was my grandfather's idea to take me to a hockey rink, and I'm grateful to him for that," Birbraer said. "He made a great choice for me. I enjoy what I do. Also, he lives for that, me playing hockey. I don't get to talk to him that often, but every time he calls, he asks for some (game) tapes."

When Birbraer was 15, his parents decided to move the family to Tel Aviv in hopes of better opportunities for him and his sister.

Although Israel isn't known for hockey, Birbraer took along his skates, his gloves and a stick just in case. Then, in a quick and fortunate turn of events, he found a place to practice, and an onlooking coach invited him to play for the Israeli national junior team.

In a reminder of a rude world, Birbraer and his Israeli teammates were subjected to anti-Semitic taunts and even spitting while coming on and off the ice against the home team during the 1997 World Junior Championships in Yugoslavia. Fortunately, he says it was an isolated incident.

At the same tourney, Birbraer caught the attention of Paul Rosen, a Canadian coaching in Israel. Rosen later offered to take Birbraer to Canada to play and be his legal guardian.

Birbraer accepted the invitation with the support of his parents, Alex and Svetlana.

"Not a lot of parents will send a 16-year-old kid across the world with no guarantees," Birbraer said. "They knew I had to take a chance, and they made the right choice."

The bond between Birbraer and Rosen became one of kinship. In recognition, they each received matching tattoos saying "brothers forever" in Hebrew.

For two seasons, Birbraer played Tier II junior hockey in Shelburne, Ontario. After that, his visa came due for renewal, and a return to Israel was required.

The occasion was also meant to be a family reunion. Before he could see his relatives at the Tel Aviv airport, however, Birbraer was taken to jail in connection with the required military service for 18-year-old Israeli citizens.

Birbraer remained jailed while he balked at serving the minimum three-year commitment because it would derail his hockey aspirations taking root in Canada.

"Then I realized after a month that I would rather be in the army than in jail," Birbraer said. "I went into the army for three months, and finally they discharged me because I was really depressed and couldn't function normally. Then I took the first plane back to Canada."

In turn, Birbraer said he brought even more enthusiasm to the upcoming hockey season, his last in the junior ranks. With Tier II Newmarket, he recorded 50 goals and 32 assists in 47 games.

Then came his selection by New Jersey, then the reigning Stanley Cup champion, as the 67th pick overall in the 2000 draft. Though he initially didn't realize it, Birbraer was informed by media that he was the first Israeli player ever chosen.

"I'm definitely proud to be that," Birbraer said. "But in the hockey world, when it comes down to playing a game, that's not significant. For the Israeli people who follow it, it gives them something to cheer about. That's great. Why not? But I was more happy to be drafted by the NHL in general."

Birbraer played for three seasons with the Albany River Rats of the AHL, the Devils' top affiliate. Following the second season, his family moved to Toronto and away from increasing terrorism danger in Israel, much to his relief.

When the Devils allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent, Birbraer got his chance in the Panthers training camp. He subsequently played with their AHL affiliate in San Antonio and then Laredo of the Central Hockey League last season.

Over the previous two seasons, Birbraer dealt with a hernia injury and later a monthlong bout with pneumonia.

"He's very talented," said Brown, who plays on the same line with Birbraer and Sean O'Connor. "He has all the tools that a hockey player would want to have. He skates real well and he can shoot. He's physical, so he can play any type of game that presents itself. Not many guys can say that."

Gulls coach Martin St. Amour received a positive recommendation from renowned New Jersey General Manager Lou Lamoriello before signing Birbraer this season. The most common critique of Birbraer has been that he needs to be more consistent.

"So I was willing to give him a chance," St. Amour said. "So far I'm not disappointed. Lou said he would score 25 goals (per season) definitely at this level. If Max wants another chance at the NHL, he has to start playing here."

Birbraer has eight goals and 17 assists in 31 games for the Gulls.

"I'm playing here with great players. There is not much more to ask for, especially in a lockout year," Birbraer said. "Everybody has something to improve. I have a lot of things to work on. Martin has been great, giving me advice. He has put me in situations for confidence."

Should he advance to the NHL, Birbraer would gladly add his name to the list of the few Jews who have played at the top level of the pro game. Most notably perhaps is defenseman Mathieu Schneider, who won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens and played for the Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings.

"To be mentioned in the same line with such guys is a privilege," Birbraer said.

And so, too, has been the chance for Max Birbraer to proceed in that quest.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Birbraer's goal hoists Gulls to win

By The Union Tribune
VICTORIA, British Columbia
It was a back-and-forth game all night long, but Max Birbraer's goal midway through the third period last night was the deciding factor as the Gulls beat the Victoria Salmon Kings for the second straight night, 5-4, before 2,283 at Bear Mountain Arena.

Birbraer, with 9:57 to go, pried loose the puck from Victoria goalie Jason Stone and poked it home for his team-leading eighth goal of the season.

With the victory, the Gulls (13-7-2) extended their winning streak to a season-high four games. It also moved them into third place in the West Division, now trailing the first-place Bakersfield Condors by only four points.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Another Sunday, Another Series Win for Gulls, Who Beat Aces, 4-3


Sean O’ Connor was a day late but never better, hitting the game-winning goal with a little over a minute left in the third period to avoid consecutive collapses and clinch the three-game series win for the San Diego Gulls with a thrilling 4-3 triumph over the Alaska Aces on Sunday.
For the second straight night, the Gulls (10-7-2) let an early advantage slip away, but this time O’ Connor gave the fans a happy ending when he redirected a shot from Mike Garrow in front of the net with 1:13 left to seal the series win for San Diego, their second in as many weekends.
Despite the near comeback, the Aces (12-10-1) still had no answer for Max Birbraer, who involved himself in every San Diego goal, notching a pair of goals and assists. Birbraer has run amuck against Alaska in 2004, ringing up the Aces for ten of his 19 points.
A misplay by Gulls netminder Trevor Koenig provided the Aces with the opening goal only 27 seconds in. After Alaska cleared the puck into the boards near the left-wing circle, Koenig rushed out of the crease to knock the puck away, but Chris Heisten blocked his attempt and fed the puck to Jordan Cameron, who slid it into the empty net for his third goal of the season. Koenig made 19 stops in the contest.
San Diego capitalized on another goaltending error, made this time by Alaska netminder Peter Aubry, to level things up at 14:17 in the first. Aubry was in perfect position to stop Colin Shields’ backhander at the right post, but let the puck squib through his pads and across the crease, where it found its way onto Sylvain Deschatelets’ stick and into the net for the center’s fourth goal of the year.
Birbraer ripped the momentum away from the Aces with his sixth goal of the season, a slap-shot from the left-wing circle that put the Gulls ahead at 17:35. NHL veteran Curtis Brown earned the assist, taking the puck up the boards and kicking it back to the circle, where Birbraer, all alone, fired one into the top shelf. The goal capped off a strong opening frame for the Gulls, who took nine of the last ten shots in the period.
Birbraer nailed his second goal of the game at 6:51 in the second period to extend San Diego’s lead at 3-1. Andrew Canzanello, just inside the blue line, whipped a pass across the slot to Birbraer, who sent it past Aubry.
But the Aces kept right on the Gulls’ heels as Oliver Fillion notched a power-play goal from the right-wing circle at 12:23 in the second. With Deschatelets stewing in the box after a cross-checking call, Fillion took a pass from Mike Clarke and flicked a shot just above Koenig’s shoulder.
The Gulls tried valiantly to hold their lead in the beginning of the third, but eventually gave up the tying goal, a shot from just inside the blue line by Chris Minard, his 13th goal of the year, at 7:18.
Notes: The Gulls are now 6-2-0 on their season-long nine-game homestand… They are 9-2-1 overall on home ice and 1-5-1 on the road… San Diego has outscored its opponents 50-22 in its 10 wins, but has been outscored 31-13 in its nine losses (which includes an overtime and shootout loss)… Birbraer has thirteen points (6g, 7a) in his last six games while O’Connor has 11 points (7g, 4a) in his last five games. Birbraer now leads the Blue and Orange with 19 points (7g, 12a)…

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Birbraer piles up points as Gulls evade Aces

By: SANDY BURGIN - For the North County Times
Max Birbraer, who had a career-high three assists a day earlier, scored a pair of goals and added two assists, including one on the game-winning goal Sunday, as the Gulls outlasted the Alaska Aces 4-3 before 3,408 fans at the Sports Arena.
The Gulls, who blew a 4-1 lead Saturday in losing to Alaska 5-4, lost a 3-1 lead Sunday when the Aces tied the game 3-3 at 7:18 of the third period on a goal by Chris Minard.
After failing to take advantage of five Alaska penalties in the final period and coming up empty on a 5-on-3 power play, Sean O'Connor, Birbraer and defenseman Mike Garrow came to the rescue.
O'Connor, perfectly positioned in front of Alaska goalie Peter Aubry, redirected Garrow's shot past goalie Peter Aubry with 1:13 left in regulation to snap the 3-3 deadlock.
Goalie Trevor Koenig held the lead over the final minute as the Gulls, who won two of three games from Alaska this weekend, improved to 10-7-2. The Aces are 12-10-1.
Birbraer, who assisted on the game-winner as well as Sylvain Deschatelets' tying goal in the first period, scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season earlier in the game. He has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in his last six games.
O'Connor's goal was his seventh of the season and fourth in two nights. He also picked up an assist on Birbraer's second goal and has 11 points in his last five games.
"Garrow put it right on my stick," O'Connor said. "It was the easiest goal I've had all season. I really didn't have to move."
Said Birbraer: "Playing with Curtis Brown gives both Sean and myself more room. Sometimes two or three guys are on Curtis, and that opens things up for us."
Despite the victory, Gulls coach Martin St. Amour was not pleased with his club's play.
"It was another awful game again," St. Amour said. "We had a 3-1 lead and we backed down again, same as (Saturday). I don't know why. I told the players to talk to each other because I don't have the answer."

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Alaska Pulls An Ace In Third Period, Win 5-4

The San Diego Gulls carried a three-goal lead into the third period Saturday night, but the Alaska Aces scored four times in the final frame to stun the Blue and Orange 5-4, before 5,510 at the Sports Arena.
Chris Minard and Kimbi Daniels scored early in the third to start Alaska’s comeback. Charles Linglet and B.J. Young, who scored twice in the game, tallied 16 seconds apart later in the stanza and that was all she wrote.
The Aces’ come-from-behind win spoils career nights by San Diego’s Sean O’Connor and Max Birbraer. O’Connor netted his first career hat trick and added an assist, while Birbraer chipped in with a career-high three assists.
San Diego (9-7-2) remains sixth in the West Division, three points behind the fifth-place Las Vegas Wranglers. Alaska (12-9-1) stays in third place, two points behind the second seed Idaho Steelheads.
After having their way offensively with the Aces Thursday, the Gulls wasted no time getting on the scoreboard Saturday, drawing first blood 1:17 into the first period. O’Connor recorded the tally – his first of the night – off setup feeds from linemates Birbraer and Curtis Brown. After grabbing a pass at center ice, O’Connor barreled into the Aces zone and beat Alaska netminder Lance Mayes with a rising backhander.
Alaska tied it midway through the first on a power-play goal from Young. The Aces had the cycle going inside the San Diego zone and the puck eventually went to Joe Talbot, standing just outside the right circle. Talbot then whipped a pass across the crease to a wide-open Young, who punched it past Trevor Koenig for his first goal of the night.
O’Connor regained San Diego’s lead with his second goal of the night at 17:37 of the first. This time the Gulls were skating with the man advantage and moving it around the Alaska zone. Andrew Canzanello, stationed at the right point, took a feed from Birbraer and then slid a centering pass that O’Connor redirected home.
The Gulls opened a 4-1 lead with two goals 1:24 apart in the second period. O’Connor notched the first marker at 9:44, completing the hat trick. The San Diego winger picked up another feed from Birbraer, who earned his third assist of the game, and scooted into the Alaska zone. Mayes stopped his initial shot, but O’Connor was right there to slide in his own rebound for his third goal of the night – sixth of the season.
Moments after Birbraer dished the puck to O’Connor, he took a spear from Aces defenseman Ryan Bast, who was given a five-minute penalty and game misconduct. On the ensuing major power play, Talbot was whistled off for cross-checking. That gave the Gulls a full two-minute, two-man advantage.
The Blue and Orange wouldn’t need the full two minutes however, as Nikita Korovkin buried his fourth of year at 11:08, giving San Diego a three-goal cushion. After grabbing a pass from Canzanello, Korovkin walked into the slot and buried a wrister behind a beleaguered Mayes. O’Connor also garnered an assist on the play for his fourth point of the night.
The Aces scored back-to-back goals early in the third period, cutting the once San Diego commanding lead to one. Minard started the comeback with Alaska’s second power-play goal 25 seconds into the frame, beating Koenig on a redirection from Cal Benazic’s point shot. Then Daniels notched his fourth of the season at 7:04, converting a rebound from Jordan Cameron’s original bid.
Linglet tied the game, 4-4, at 14:24 with his sixth goal. Young then scored the game-winning tally 16 seconds later, banging in his second goal of the game – third of the season. There was a wild scramble in front of the net and after a few whacks, Young jammed it past Koenig.
Notes: The Gulls won their 500th game in franchise history Thursday against Alaska. That includes both regular season and playoff totals… San Diego is now 8-2-1 at home this season and 1-5-1 on the road… The Gulls have outscored their opponents 46-19 in their nine wins, but have been outscored 31-13 in their nine losses (which includes an overtime and shootout loss)… Birbraer has nine points (4g, 5a) in his last five games… O’Connor has nine points (6g, 3a) in his last four games… San Diego was 9-7-2 through 18 games last season… NHLer Scott Gomez didn’t make the trip to San Diego. He and many other NHL stars are in Europe participating in a charity hockey tournament… Mathieu Chouinard, who was called up to the American Hockey League’s Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, recorded a 1-0 shutout Saturday… Goaltender Eddy Ferhi was assigned to the Gulls by Cincinnati… Sean Murphy remains on the injured list with a fractured knuckle…

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Gulls Crush Alaska 5-2; Franchise's 500th Win

The slogan remains “home sweet home” for the San Diego Gulls after a 5-2 route of the Alaska Aces Thursday night at the Sports Arena. The victory was the Gulls’ third straight and moves them up a spot in the West Division standings. It was also the franchises’ 500th career win, which includes the playoffs.
San Diego (9-6-2) is now tied for fifth in the West Division with the Long Beach Ice Dogs, eight points back of the first-place Bakersfield Condors. Alaska (11-9-1) remains tied for second in the division with the Idaho Steelheads, now only three points ahead of the Gulls.
Mark Pederson and Guillaume Fournier led the offensive attack for the Gulls, each recording a goal and an assist. NHL veteran Curtis Brown made his mark with his first goal in a San Diego uniform. Meanwhile, Trevor Koenig was steady in net, turning aside 22 of 24 shots.
The Blue and Orange opened a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Brian Gornick and Brown. Gornick got things started with his fourth goal of the season at 2:10. After picking up a loose puck at center ice, he weaved past the Alaska defense and eventually beat goaltender Peter Aubry on the forehand.
Brown’s inaugural tally came at 7:16 after his linemate Sean O’Connor stole the puck in the right-wing corner. O’Connor then fed the slot to a wide-open Brown, who easily tapped it past Aubry.
The Aces came into the game with the league’s worst power play, but capitalized with the man advantage 3:38 into the second, cutting the San Diego lead in half. B.J. Young, playing in his first game of the season, took a pass from Charles Linglet and skated in two-on-one against Koenig. Young, however, wouldn’t need his teammate, as he buried a wrist shot past the Gulls netminder.
Pederson and Fournier answered with back-to-back goals minutes later, giving the Gulls a 4-1 lead. Pederson struck at 7:12, wrapping around the Aces net and slinging a shot past Aubry’s out-stretched glove for his fourth marker of the season. Fournier then knocked in his team-leading seventh goal at 9:07, converting on a rebound from Pederson’s original shot.
Max Birbraer capped the second-period scoring and gave San Diego a commanding four-goal cushion with a power-play marker at 16:15. Nikita Korovkin held in Alaska’s clearing attempt and punched the puck to Chris Lynch, standing along the left wing boards. Lynch then whipped a pass to Birbraer, who one-timed home his fifth goal.
Notes: The Gulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season and 1-5-1 on the road… In its nine wins, San Diego has outscored its opponents 46-18… The Gulls have been outscored 26-9 in their eight losses (which includes an overtime and shootout loss)… Birbraer has a goal in four straight games and has six points (4g, 2a) in that span… O’Connor has five points (3g, 2a) in his last three games… San Diego has killed 25 of its last 28 penalties… The Gulls were 9-6-2 through 17 games last season… NHLer Scott Gomez didn’t make the trip to San Diego. He and many other NHL stars are in Europe participating in a charity hockey tournament… Sean Murphy remains on the injured list with a fractured knuckle…