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…