The Gwinnett Gladiators made a trip up 85 for an ECHL divisional game Saturday night against the South Division leading Greenville Road Warriors and came away with a share of the division lead they had lost the night before. The 4-3 shootout victory snaps Gwinnett’s four-game winless streak, as well as ending Greenville’s five-game winning streak. The clubs now share the division lead, both with 54 points for the season.
Gwinnett (26-15-1-1) jumped ahead early when Alex Belzile beat Greenville (25-14-2-2) goalie Scott Stajcer (L, 36 saves on 39 shots in regulation) only 27 seconds into the opening period giving the Glads a quick 1-0 advantage. The recently acquired Sacha Guimond earned his first assist as a Gladiator, the sixth marker of the year for Belzile. Gwinnett outshot Greenville 12-9 and held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of hockey in the Bi-Lo Center.
Guimond was acquired by the Gladiators in a trade along with Justin Bowers from the San Francisco Bulls on Monday, January 14th in exchange for Cody Carlson, Christian Ouellet and Rylan Galiardi. Before being assigned to Gwinnett from the Worchester Sharks of the American Hockey League, where he was scoreless in two games, the Quebec native tallied 25 points (7 G, 18 A) in 33 games with San Francisco.
Zach Cohen netted his first goal with Greenville (sixth of the season) at 9:30 of the middle period to tie the game 1-1, with Mike Macou earning the helper. All-Star Casey Pierro-Zabotel put Gwinnett back in front with under two minutes (1:24) remaining in the period when his pass in front of the net deflected off the skate of a Greenville defender and into the net. It was his 11th goal of the season and was assisted by Corey Fienhage and Guimond. Pierro-Zabotel now ranks 9th in the league in scoring with 43 points.
Only 37 seconds later Greenville tied the game again, this time thanks to Bretton Cameron. The forward beat Glads goalie Louis Domingue (W, 40 saves on 43 shots in regulation) and lit the lamp for his 11th goal of the 2012-13 campaign. The two helpers went to T.J. Reynolds and Sean Berkstresser. The middle stanza ended with the clubs locked in a 2-2 contest.
Gwinnett took the lead 2:43 into the third period on a Doug Jones snap shot from the far circle that beat Stajcer glove high for his 17th goal of the season. Belzile and Guimond earned the assists on the power play marker. Jones is tied for the scoring lead among ECHL rookies with 34 points.
Both clubs had scoring opportunities over the next 10 minutes, but the score remained unchanged until Brendan Connolly found the back of the net for his 18th goal of the season at 13:34 of the final stanza to tie the game at three. The power play goal was assisted by Brandon Wong and Jyri Niemi. After 60 minutes of play the teams remained even and headed for overtime.
Gwinnett and Greenville battled in overtime, but neither could score and the clubs went to the shootout.
Bowers scored in the first round, and then Wong tied the SO in the third round. Belzile put the Gladiators ahead in round four, sliding the puck under a prone Stajcer to give Gwinnett the advantage, and Domingue rejected Danny Hobbs effort to complete the 4-3 win.
Domingue improves to 12-4-0-1 with the Gwinnett victory and now has a GAA below 3 (2.90), while Stajcer is now 5-2-1-1 with a 3.28 GAA after taking the loss.
Gwinnett was 1-for-6 on the power play while totaling 12 penalty minutes on 6 infractions; Greenville was 1-for-5 on the PP and had 7 infractions for a total of 14 minutes.
First Star: GWT – 22 Alex Belzile (1 Goal, 1 Assist and the GWG in the SO)
Second Star: GWT – 37 Louis Domingue (40 saves in regulation, blocked 4-of-5 in SO)
Third Star: GRN – 35 Scott Stacjer (36 saves in regulation, blocked 2-of-4 shots in SO)
The same two teams will battle for first place in the South Division Monday in a special Martin Luther King Day 12:30 p.m. start at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
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.