The Gwinnett Gladiators defeated the Evansville IceMen in ECHL New Year’s Eve action at the Ford Center in front of 7,339 fans, 3-1. Gwinnett (22-11-1-0) recaptures the top spot in the South Division of the Eastern Conference with the win, and now hold a two-point lead over the Greenville Road Warriors (20-13-2-1), 45-43. The loss is the third consecutive for fifth place Evansville (11-20-0-3), and drops the club 15-points behind North Division leading Cincinnati (19-10-2-0).
Gwinnett got on the board quickly due to Tyler Murovich finding the back of the net only 22 seconds into the game when he beat Evansville goalie Paul Dainton (L, 0-4-0-1/ 3.58 GAA) , with help from forwards Christian Ouellet and Scott Arnold, to give Gwinnett a very early 1-0 lead- a lead they would not relinquish. Gwinnett rookie goaltender Mike Lee (W, 10-9-1-0/2.06 GAA) was perfect between the pipes in the first 20 minutes (16 saves) and the clubs headed to the locker room with the Gladiators holding a 1-0 advantage, despite being outshot 16-9 by the IceMen.
Murovich began the second period as he had the first-by scoring quickly. This time it took the recently turned 23-year old (12-04) 39 seconds to get the marker, which came off a wrist shot over Dainton’s outstretched glove, putting the Glads up 2-0. Cody Carlson got the assist on Murovich’s 10th goal of the season. The Gwinnett defense did a better job cutting down scoring chances in the middle stanza and held Evansville to 9 shots, all of which Lee blocked. The two-time Reebok Goalie of the Week totaled 25 saves in the first two periods. The second intermission came with Gwinnett leading the home team 2-0.
Evansville showed a lot of heart as they tried to mount a comeback in the third period but, due to Lee’s continued outstanding play, the score remained unchanged until Arnold added a goal to his earlier assist on the Gwinnett power play. Andy Brandt and Carlson earned the helpers. Lee was 5:15 away from his third shutout of the season when Matt Schepke scored to get the IceMen on the board. Lee stopped 17-of-18 shots in the period to secure the 3-1 win for the Gladiators.
The Gladiators were 1-for-6 on the power play, while the IceMen were 0-for-4. There was a total of 13 infractions (GWT-6, EVN- 7) resulting in 26 penalty minutes (GWT- 12 min., EVN- 14 min.) in the contest.
First Star: GWT - 30 Mike Lee (42 saves on 43 chances)
Second Star: GWT - 11 Tyler Murovich (2 Goals)
Third Star: EVN - 22 Matt Gens (1 assist, 6 shots, +1)
The Gladiators will stay in Indiana to open 2013 by taking on the Fort Wayne Komets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
Division leading Gwinnett will play the South Carolina Stingrays on Friday, January 4th at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in their next home game.
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.