Ray Whitney was named the game's most valuable player after he and two Gull teammates sparked the West to a 7-6 victory over the East in the International Hockey League All-Star game in front of 8,029 at the Omni in Atlanta Sunday.
Whitney, the Gulls' 19-year-old rookie center, had two goals and three assists to highlight the first IHL All-Star game in eight years. Gull Alan Hepple, a veteran defenseman, scored the game-winning goal 7:02 into the third period, and Gull winger Robbie Nichols had one goal and four assists. The three Gulls accounted for four goals and seven assists in the contest.
Two other Gulls did not play in the game, which also included Gull Coach Don Waddell, who served as assistant to Kansas City's Kevin Constantine on the West. Center Len Hachborn rested and did not make the trip and wing Dmitri Kvartalnov, the IHL goals leader with 40, attended but did not suit up.
Nichols' goal in the first period tied the game, 1-1. Whitney scored twice within a three-minute span late in the second period to give the West leads of 5-4 and 6-4. After the East tied it, Hepple took a pass from Phoenix's Sean Whyte and beat East goalie Rob Dopson of Muskegon for the game-winner. MVP Whitney's jersey will be sent to the Hockey Hall Of Fame in Toronto.
The Gulls, second in the IHL West at 29-17-5, will host the Salt Lake Golden Eagles at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at the San Diego Sports Arena. Expected to join them at that time is defenseman Derek Mayer, who had nine goals and 33 points with them last year. Mayer had spent the early part of the season with the AHL Adirondack Red Wings.
San Diego State, facing strong winds, high altitudes, a large partisan crowd and host New Mexico, upset the 23rd-ranked Lobos, 5-4. The Aztecs (2-0) saw No. 1 Joe McDonough and No. 4 Chris Numbers overcome first-set losses and second-set service breaks to win. Then SDSU swept three doubles matches, beating two tandems ranked 23rd or better.
Jeff Belloli and Chris Numbers (now 9-1 with two tournament victories) lifted the Aztecs by beating No. 21 Gene Carswell of Mt. Carmel High and Roy Canada, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4). The Lobos fell to 3-2. SDSU Coach Hugh Bream said he expects the Aztecs to crack the ITCA Top-25 this week.
The University of San Diego (3-1) and San Jose State (0-1) didn't bother to play doubles after the Toreros swept the singles round, 6-0, at the Spartan Courts. Jose Luis Noriega defeated Brandon Coupe, 6-2, 6-2, at No. 1 singles, while Fredrik Axsater, Kevin Bradley, Phil Hofman, Rob Seward and Mark Huarre also won.