The Gwinnett Gladiators played the first of three consecutive home games Friday night to kick off the club’s sixth annual Pink in the Rink Weekend. The Glads hosted the Wheeling Nailers and fought back from a 4-3 deficit by scoring three times in the third period to take a hard fought 6-5 victory. The win moves Gwinnett back into the lead in the ECHL South Division.
Gwinnett opened the scoring 49 seconds into the game when Ryan Donald put a wrister past Nailers goalie Scott Darling (W, 35 saves) with help from Marietta native Doug Jones and Casey Pierro-Zabotel. Wheeling evened the score 1-1 when Cam Fergus found the back of the net at the 2:26 mark. Ben Farrer and Peter Merth picked up the assists on the marker. Paul Crowder then put Wheeling up 2-1 at the 12:23 mark by lighting the lamp on the power play, his 16th goal of the season. Zack Torquato picked up an assist and Merth earned his second assist of the game on the play. The home team then tied the score at 2-2 when Alex Belzile scored 16:56 into the opening period, his 9th goal of the 2012-13 campaign. Pierro-Zabotel earned his second point of the night by assisting on the lamplighter. Chris Barton put the Nailers back on top by beating Glads goalkeeper Louis Domingue (L, 19 saves) for Wheeling’s second PP goal of the period. The first assist went to Crowder with Torquato getting the second helper. The first intermission came with Wheeling holding a 3-2 advantage despite having been outshot by Gwinnett 18-8 in the period.
The second stanza saw Barton score his second PP goal of the game at the 9:44 mark giving the visitors a 4-2 advantage. Merth and Torquato each picked up another assist on the play. Pierro-Zabotel scored his third point of the night (1 G, 2 A) 13:01 into the middle period when he deflected a shot from the point past Darling to pull the Gladiators to within a goal, 4-3. Donald had the helper. After 40 minutes of hockey the Gladiators trailed the Nailers 4-3 even though they held a 10 shot advantage (27-17).
Christiaan Minella pushed Wheeling back up two goals 2:34 into the final period with help from Jordy Trottier and Fergus. The Gladiators then erupted for three unanswered goals in less than four minutes that began when Joey Haddad went top shelf to beat Darling for his 10th goal of the season. Donald and Belzile earned the assists, and the Glads were one goal down (5-4) 2:54 into the third period. Justin Bowers tied the game 5-5 when he took a deflection at the near post and put it past Darling for the PP goal. Pierro-Zabotel picked up his fourth point of the game by earning his third assist of the night while Haddad earned his first assist of the game.
Cody Brookwell completed the three-goal explosion less than two minutes later (6:52) after he and Haddad had two-on-one rush. Brookwell took a Haddad feed and put it between the legs of Darling for his fourth goal of the season. Haddad earned his third point of the game and the period (1 G, 2 A), while Domingue picked up his third assist this season.
Domingue improves to 16-8-1-1 with the Gwinnett victory while seeing his GAA climb to 2.94. Darling falls to 9-9-1-1 in the Wheeling loss.
Gwinnett continues to struggle on the power play. The Glads were 1-for-8 in the win and are now 19th of 23 clubs in the league in that category. Wheeling was 3-for-4 on the PP.
Gwinnett outshot Wheeling 41-24 in the comeback win.
First Star: GWT – 25 Cody Brookwell (1 G, GWG)
Second Star: GWT – 18 Casey Pierro-Zabotel (1 G, 3 A, +3 rating)
Third Star: GWT – 27 Joey Haddad (1 G, 2 A)
The Gladiators will host the Florida Everblades Saturday night in the second Pink in the Rink game of the weekend.
The Gladiators are the ECHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League and play home games at the 11,355-seat Arena at Gwinnett Center, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth. The ECHL is the Premier "AA" League.