Fresno Falcons at San Diego Gulls
March 19, 2004


The Falcons continue a stretch of four games in five against the Pacific Division-leading Gulls with the first of a home-and-home set tonight at the San Diego Sports Arena. San Diego swept Fresno in a pair of games last weekend at the Sports Arena by scores of 4-1 and 5-4. The Falcons are one of only two teams in the division to have defeated the Gulls on their home ice by virtue of a 5-3 victory on Feb. 21, which snapped San Diego’s league season-high 14-game home winning streak. The clubs face-off again tomorrow at Save Mart Center.

After their two losses last weekend to the Gulls, the Falcons returned home on Wednesday and defeated the Long Beach Ice Dogs, 4-3, winning a season-high third straight game at Save Mart Center in the process. Scott Borders scored twice and Mike Sandbeck added a power play goal to stake Fresno to a 3-0 lead just 10:17 into the hockey game. The Ice Dogs chipped away, though, to climb within 3-2 in the third before Mike Mathers recorded the game-winner with under five minutes to play in regulation. For Mathers, who is Fresno’s all-time leader in both goals scored and games played, it was his 150th goal as a Falcon. Following this weekend’s home-and-home with San Diego, the Falcons leave town next week for their final four road games of the season with a pair at Idaho and single games each at Las Vegas and Long Beach.

Fresno is ranked 22nd on the power play (15.5%) and 24th on the penalty kill (80.7%), while San Diego is ranked 2nd (21.6%) and 5th (86.5%), respectively. The Gulls and the Central Division-leading Louisiana Icegators share the distinction of owning the league’s best combined special teams.

…specialty jersey karma? We’ll opt for the latter. Fresno wore green, St. Patrick’s Day sweaters on Wednesday during their win over Long Beach, which were then auctioned off after the game to raise $21,350 for the United Way. The victory helped the Falcons finish the season without a regulation loss at 3-0-1 when wearing specialty jerseys. They opened their home campaign with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Bakersfield Condors while wearing sweaters to commemorate the inaugural game at Save Mart Center before beating the Alaska Aces, 4-3, in red, Valentine’s Day jerseys on Feb. 13. The Gulls fell victim to Fresno’s specialty jersey magic on Jan. 16 by a score of 4-2, when the Falcons donned sweaters celebrating the team’s affiliation with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.

Former Falcons goaltender Nolan Schaefer, who appeared in 12 games for the club before receiving a permanent call-up to the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League in January, was summoned by the San Jose Sharks earlier this week for the second time this season. The 5th round choice of San Jose in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft first donned a Sharks sweater during a Jan. 5 game at Vancouver but did not see any playing time. Schaefer backed-up Evgeni Nabokov on Tuesday during a 3-3 tie at Dallas and again last night in a 5-3 Sharks win at Los Angeles. With the Barons, he is 10-7-2 with a 2.41 goals against average and .924 save percentage, while securing his first AHL shutout with a 20-save, overtime effort on March 10.

The Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs assigned rookie goaltender Terry Denike to the Falcons on Tuesday. Denike, a fifth round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, played his college hockey at Lake Superior State. As a rookie this season, he has played a handful of games with both the ECHL’s Reading Royals and Central Hockey League’s Wichita Thunder. Dominic Periard and Wes Rypien are on 30-day injured reserve, and Kory Mullin is on the 7-day injured list. Jason Weaver’s season has ended because of a shoulder injury that will require surgery.