The night of December 22, 2000 led to suspensions. Gone for three games from the Gold Kings was Rhett "The Threat" Trombley and newcomer Stacy Bublitz, with one shift and one fight under his belt, was already sent packing out of town. As a result, the Gold Kings had to skate the next night with 13 players in the lineup.
With a diminished lineup, fatigue, shaky officiating and a San Diego Gulls team that was angry, humiliated and thirsty to get one win in their three-game series, the Gold Kings could have been excused for losing the contest.
But the prospects of sweeping the Gulls, who rode into town on the 20th riding a five -game win streak, kept the Gold Kings from falling back on excuses.
The Kings started out strong in the first period. Brian Lefleur opened the scoring with a beauty that beat Gull goalie Trevor Koenig.
However as the game went on, the shots began pouring in on Colorado goalie Frederic Beaubien.
The first period was light in the Colorado end. Frederic only had to stop six shots. On the other hand, Koenig saw half the shots he would face in the game in the first period.
Then, during the first intermission, the hockey gods must have decided to make things more difficult on the already depleted Gold King hockey team by tilting the ice and making them skate uphill for the rest of the game.
Gull Mark Woolf scored on a power play after Jason Knox got the stick up on a Gull player. But, as it was all night for the under-manned teams, taking penalties was more a reprieve than a something to feel sorry about. The minute off for his penalty would keep some of Knox's fuel in the tank for later in the game.
Despite being outshot 13-10 in the period, the Gold Kings would end the second period on an good note when Greg Eisler beat Koenig on a power play chance with just 27 seconds remaining.
In the third period, clearing the puck was more akin to pushing a 500 pound weight 50 feet than sweeping a six-ounce cylinder easily out of the defensive zone as the Gulls controlled the play.
The rested Beaubien was forced to make incredible save after incredible save, his contortionist efforts would have made most double-jointed specialists envious. Nevertheless, he finally got beat with just over ten minutes remaining in the third by Gravelle on a power play opportunity for the Gulls.
Just four minutes later, Gravelle would exchange his hero's crest for a set of horns by taking a slashing penalty.
On the resulting power play, Jason Knox, cashing in on his earlier minute's rest, blasted a shot from the left point that beat Koenig for the go-ahead goal with 5:06 remaining.
The long journey was almost over for the Gold Kings, but there was one more obstacle standing between them and their first sweep of the San Diego Gulls.
The hockey gods tilting the ice, the short bench and now the referee was standing between the Gold Kings and the sweep. Ref Darryl Davis made an atrocious call on Steve Vandal at 18:06 of the third by nailing him for a phantom boarding penalty. To make things worse, penalty-killing defenseman Jean-Sebastian Trudelle was thrown out when he bumped into a Gull player on his way to the bench. All night, the Gulls had been taking dives that would had made Greg Louganis proud and this instance was no exception. The Gull hit the ice convincingly. Give him a "10" for style but a "0" for class.
The Gulls pulled their goalie with just over a minute remaining for a 6-4 advantage, but couldn't cash in. A fan pitched in to the Gold Kings effort by heaving a broom onto the ice, but the sweep was already complete. The gesture was probably appreciated, but the Gold Kings would only need 13 that night to win the game.