Sunday, December 12, 2004

Birbraer piles up points as Gulls evade Aces

By: SANDY BURGIN - For the North County Times
SAN DIEGO
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."

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