SAN DIEGO — The Gulls jumped to a three-goal lead in first period Thursday and looked as if they were going to sweep the most important series of the season.
But they should know nothing is easy against the Peoria Rivermen. Peoria, which has beaten the Gulls five times in seven games, scored five consecutive goals to win, 6-4, in front of 4,274 at the San Diego Sports Arena.
The Rivermen, with the victory, moved back into a second-place tie with the Gulls. It marked the second time the Gulls (80 points), battling for home-ice advantage in the playoffs with Peoria in the International Hockey League's West Division, have lost to the Rivermen this season after leading, 3-0.
"After 3-0, we probably thought it was going to be an easy game," said Gull Coach Don Waddell. "They came out in the second period and really took it to us, and we stood around and watched them."
It started when Steve Tuttle scored his 34th goal only 15 seconds into the period, during which the Gulls were outshot, 13-4. Tuttle's goal gave the Gulls a 3-2 lead.
Brian McKee tied it at the 10:11 mark when his slap shot from the slot hit the glass behind the goal, hit the stick of Gull defender Kord Cernich and went in. That was just one of many bad bounces and bad angles for the Gulls.
Earlier in the period, with the Gulls killing a major penalty, Len Hachborn hit a post with a shot. Down 4-3 in the third period, Hachborn missed a golden opportunity to tie the game with 4:40 left when the puck rolled off his stick on a 2-on-1 break.
At the other end, Gull goalie Bruce Hoffort (11-9-3) made a brilliant deflection of Richard Pion's point-blank shot 55 seconds later. Then Hoffort kicked in Yves Heroux's rebound shot after it hit the cross bar and landed behind him. That gave the Rivermen a 5-3 lead. They added an empty-net goal by Ron Hoover with 12 seconds left after the Gulls' Robbie Nichols scored with 36 seconds remaining.
The quick score by Tuttle, however, proved to be the turning point of the game. Although Peoria still trailed by a goal, Tuttle's goal seemed to diminish the efforts of Denny Lambert, Hachborn and Dmitri Kvartalnov, who each scored in a 10:25 span in the first period. Kvartalnov's was his IHL-leading 50th.
"We weren't ready for the period, obviously," said Waddell, "and that turned it around for them."
With 17 games left for the Gulls, 10 at home, Waddell wasn't disturbed that his club blew a chance to move four points ahead of the Rivermen.
"We've got some games that we should win coming up," he said. "We've got four of them in Phoenix (last in the West). We've got their number."
Don Waddell, Gulls coach and general manager, said efforts to find a local radio station to broadcast the remainder of the team's games have not produced encouraging results. Waddell said he contacted XTRA, KKLQ and KSDO. Waddell said he will meet with XTRA and KKLQ today. "Nobody's said no yet," Waddell said. "Nobody's said yes, either." It has been more than two weeks since XEK discontinued live broadcasts because of an FCC violation.