Monday, December 06, 2004

Behind persistent Birbraer, Gulls soar past Idaho

By Glae Thien
SPECIAL TO THE UNION-TRIBUNE
The Gulls' Max Birbraer broke out of an early-season slump by scoring a goal per game in three weekend outings with the Idaho Steelheads. Easily the most dramatic came in the series finale as the Gulls won 4-2 in the deciding game of the series against the defending Kelly Cup champions.

Birbraer recorded the tying goal with 2:10 left in a comeback from a two-goal deficit, then he assisted on the go-ahead score by Sean O'Connor with 33.7 seconds left.

"Much of the game, we had so many chances, but we couldn't put it in," said Birbraer, who came into the weekend with one goal on the season. "But we stuck with it. With five to six minutes left, we went at it even a little harder in a live-or-die situation."

The Gulls first converted at 2:57 into the third period, when Darren Clark recorded his first goal in six outings. Clark was back on the ice after sitting out Saturday's game. That cut the Gulls' deficit to 2-1 just 1:47 after Idaho's Lance Galbraith scored his second goal of the game.

The Gulls (8-6-2) ultimately added an empty-net goal by Chris Lynch to close out their fourth victory in five games before 3,640 at the Sports Arena.

Gulls goaltender Trevor Koenig had 18 saves in a follow-up to his 5-2 victory over the Steelheads (11-7-1) on Saturday.

"We worked hard, and we were rewarded," Birbraer said. "We wanted to see what we're made of against a really good team like Idaho."

Defenseman Eugenie Nourislamov assisted on the tying goal, giving him seven points in the past five games.

The Gulls trailed in the first period for the first time during the series after Galbraith scored at 7:12 into the game.

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