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Phoenix Ends Skid, Top Gulls

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Phoenix was depleted and the Gulls were defeated.

Ravaged by injuries to four key players and the flight of two others to the New Haven Nighthawks, the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, Phoenix looked like a tasty feast to the streak-starved Gulls.

Looked, yes. Played, no.

In front of 6,011 Friday night at the Sports Arena, Phoenix devoured the Gulls 6-2, in an International Hockey League game that only helped Phoenix jump further ahead in the Western Division standings.

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Phoenix (31-28-6) had lost four consecutive games before Friday, and the Gulls (27-34-7), with a victory Thursday in Phoenix, were five points behind the Roadrunners.

Maybe that was the problem.

Said defenseman Darin Banister: “We play well one night, then we think we can do that again without working for it.”

So down and out in San Diego were the Gulls, that they began the third period faced with a five-goal deficit.

The Gulls ended any thought of a shutout with a pair of goals 50 seconds apart.

Joe Stefan scored his first goal with the Gulls at 6:43, off a quick pass by Rob MacInnis, just left of the goal crease.

Larry Floyd likes to take risky slap shots from a distance. This time it paid off, when he launched a shot from 30 feet out to make it 5-2.

What the Gulls couldn’t recover from was a terrible three minutes and 33 seconds of ill-timed play--late in the first period and early in the second period.

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Before that sequence, the Gulls were scoreless and trailed by a goal, a shorthanded marker by Sylvain Couturier.

Then Phoenix got hot.

The Gulls and Scott Brower allowed a goal to Eric Ricard with 25 seconds remaining in the first. Couturier scored again, 1:00 into the second, and Dave Pasin made it 4-0, after 2:08 had elapsed.

“Head wise, we were somewhere else,” said Gull Coach Mike O’Connell. “Tonight we didn’t come to the game.”

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That’s when O’Connell had seen enough. He pulled Brower in favor of Mark Reimer, whose last start was Feb. 20. On that memorable night, Indianapolis routed the Gulls 7-3, in a game that Brower finished.

Mikael Lindholm put the Roadrunners ahead 5-0 at 7:32.

So Phoenix was banged up a bit. What difference does that make when the Roadrunners have Couturier, a player who has a vexing control over the Gulls.

Couturier now has 20 goals against the Gulls. That is precisely one more than Darren Lowe has, the Gulls’ leading goal scorer.

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To dress up the goals, Couturier has nine assists. For the Gull picture, Couturier’s stats against the Gulls:

He has six multiple-goal games, three game-winning goals, two shorthanded goals in consecutive nights, 15 goals in Phoenix, five goals in San Diego, and at least one goal in 12 of the 15 games of the rival series.

“He’s just a real good player,” said Banister. “He’s knows where to shoot the puck, he does it under pressure and he scores on the angles.”

The Gulls haven’t had back-to-back victories since Nov. 24th and 26th.

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Gull Notes

Gull wing Rod Bollman was recalled by Philadelphia Thursday and sent to Hershey Bears, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate. Soren True has scored four goals and has one assist in six games with the Gulls. True injured a rib in Thursday’s victory in Phoenix, didn’t play Friday. His status is questionable for tonight’s game in Phoenix.


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