SAN DIEGO — The Gulls made the Cleveland Lumberjacks look like a bunch of minor leaguers again on Saturday by embarrassing them, 6-1.
The argument can be made that the Gulls, too, are minor leaguers--they play in the IHL, after all--but that is becoming more debatable with each game. They have won a team-record 10 in a row and improved to 18-0-1 with their third victory over Cleveland (8-11-1) in four nights.
But this victory was unlike the streak's previous nine. For the first time during the run, the other guys scored first.
When Jason Smart gave the Lumberjacks an early 1-0 advantage after skating past two Gull defenders and sending a wrist shot between goalie Clint Malarchuk and the left post 8:36 into the contest, it also was the first time during the streak that the Gulls have trailed.
All of which seemed to be a positive omen for the Lumberjacks. They at least gained an elusive commodity--momentum--and were on the verge of becoming the first team to blank the Gulls during the first period this season.
That evaporated with three seconds remaining before the first intermission on something of a fluke goal. Dale DeGray's slap shot from the blue line was deflected in the crease by Bill Houlder. The deflection didn't go right or left, but rather up and over the head of goalie Rob Dopson, who went to his knees in reaction to Anderson's slap shot.
Dopson can't be blamed for the goal--it came while the Gulls skated with a five-on-three advantage, which was also the situation when Scott Arniel made it 2-1 two minutes into the second period.
"They were in the game," said Gulls Coach Rick Dudley of the Lumberjacks, "until they started to take some stupid penalties. Then they got burned."
The Gulls made good on four of their 11 power plays, and are 41 of 133 for the season. They also killed all four of their short-handed situations and have allowed only nine goals in 113 such instances this season.
Perhaps more impressive was the fact that four of the Gulls' goals came from defenders (Houlder, Gord Dineen and two from DeGray), a sign of the mobility Dudley has been touting all year.
The third period disintegrated into a brawl, and following the Gulls' sixth goal, a fight broke out that forced the referees to dole out 100 minutes in penalties. When the gloves were finally picked up, Lumberjacks Todd Nelson Ken Priestlay and Mark Major were ejected as were Gulls Robbie Nichols and Arniel. In all, 201 minutes were assessed.