Gulls Discover True Scoring Threat In Win Over Peoria
Changes in latitudes. Changes in attitudes.
When Soren True came to San Diego from the defunct Albany Choppers last week, he was faced with temperatures on the rise and a team in decline.
The Gulls had lost nine consecutive games at home, were facing the top teams in the International Hockey League, and had a rough weekend scheduled: three games in three nights, including one in Salt Lake City.
Team meetings and one-on-one talks were somewhat effective, but not enough to translate into victories.
Frustration was the buzz word and the Gulls couldn’t seem to get a break.
Now, in his four games with the Gulls, True’s adopted team is 2-2. He has scored at least a goal in both victories.
Sunday night in front of 4,094 at the Sports Arena, the native of Denmark scored two goals in the Gulls’ 6-5 victory over the Peoria Rivermen (44-13-3), the reigning lords of the IHL.
It was the first time the Gulls (26-32-7) have won a game in which they’ve allowed five or more goals, and it was their second consecutive home victory.
“This was a real big two points,” Coach Mike O’Connell said. “The guys are feeling pretty good about playing at home.”
This home is new to True, but Peoria’s potent scoring threat isn’t.
“They have real good scorers,” he said. “We really wanted to go after those guys.”
Which they did after playing a lackluster first period. Neither team scored in the period and the Gulls could muster just nine shots on goals, only one of which forced Peoria goalie Alain Raymond to move, albeit slightly.
“Both teams were a little tired in the first,” O’Connell said.
The Gulls and Rivermen were energized in the second, and scored three goals apiece.
In the third, True scored a go-ahead goal that Peoria matched, then bettered with a goal by David Bruce, who leads the IHL in goals with 56.
With the Riverman ahead, the Gulls’ Ron Duguay scored to make it 5-5.
Then, at the 16:00 mark of the third, Darcy Norton scored the game winner, seemingly out of nowhere. As Raymond turned to defend a shot that bounced off the board, Norton snuck behind him, scooped the puck up and put it in.
“I just beat him to the puck and caught him unaware,” Norton said.
True was aware that San Diego’s warm climate might be a problem for him.
“It was very hot at first,” True said. “But now I’m getting used to it.”
Spoken like a tourist. Not that the Gulls want him going anywhere. True, property of the New York Rangers, was on Gull General Manager Don Waddell’s shopping list when rumors of the Choppers’ folding circulated.
Besides the heat, True observed that the Gulls struggled not only to win, but to produce even-strength goals.
“We didn’t score enough even-strength goals,” True said. “That’s what I noticed. You can score on the power play, but you still have to get even-strength goals.”
The Gulls lead the IHL in power-play goals, but are eighth out of 10 teams in even-strength goals.
Sunday, they got a little of both.
The Gulls first three goals--by True, Steve Martinson and Steve Dykstra--were the Gulls 85th through 87th power-play goals. True’s second goal, Duguay’s and Norton’s came at even strength.
The Gull public relations staff puts a lot of merit in the plus/minus figure (goals scored by your team during one’s shift vs. goals allowed by your team during one’s shift), a number each player gets to reflects his overall performance. So much merit that they purposely and consistently cover it up on their statistic sheets--except for Sunday. Compare then, plus/minus figures of the Rivermen and Gulls: of 23 players listed, none of the Rivermen have a minus figure, two are even and 10 are 25-plus or above. Of 30 listed Gulls, only one has a plus figure, one is even and six have -25 or worse figures.