KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Len Hachborn and Dmitri Kvartalnov have scored more than 80 points apiece this season, but the third member of the International Hockey League's highest-scoring line turned in the performance that lifted the Gulls to a dramatic 5-4 victory over Kansas City.
Robbie Nichols took the puck in his end, raced to center ice and then surprised Blades defenders Wednesday night by splitting the defense, then slipping the puck past West All-Star goalie Wade Flaherty with 30 seconds left in the contest for the winner in front of 4,179 at Kemper Arena.
Coach Don Waddell gave all the credit to Nichols, who scored his 22nd goal and 50th point.
"We win it because Nichols scored on an unbelievable goal," Waddell said. "I don't think the defense ever expected him to turn on the burst of speed he did. Then once he split them, he made a hell of a move on the goaltender."
Those kinds of efforts are expected of Hachborn and Kvartalnov, who gave San Diego a 3-1 lead with a goal apiece in the second period. Denny Lambert and Andri Kvartalnov also scored, but Kansas City rebounded from a two-goal deficit to tie.
The victory made Rick Knickle (20-7-3) the first league's first 20-game winner. Flaherty is 19-11-1. Knickle had 25 saves, Flaherty 22.
"(Knickle's) been our MVP to date," Waddell said. "Everybody always talks about our goal scorers, but he's been the guy who's been there all year. And he has come up with the big wins (he's 13-3 in road games)."
The second-place Gulls (69 points) are still 17 points behind Kansas City after splitting their two-game series. San Diego is 3-1 on this five-game trip, which concludes Friday against the Fort Wayne Komets.