The Gwinnett Gladiators were back in action Friday night hosting the Orlando Solar Bears at The Arena at Gwinnett Center for a South Division matchup following the ECHL All-Star Game break. Orlando (19-20-2-2) is last in the division while Gwinnett (26-17-1-1) is second in the South, but the Solar Bears came away with their first win over the Gladiators this season by a 4-3 count.
Mathew Sisca had a point on all four Orlando goals scoring two goals along with a pair of assists to lead the Solar Bears. The center got the scoring started at 13:23 of the first period when Glads goaltender Louis Domingue (L, 20 saves on 24 chances) got caught out of the cage after a Gwinnett turnover behind the net for the unassisted marker on the power play to give the Bears a 1-0 advantage. Sisca had a chance at an earlier score when he had a penalty shot at the 5:38 mark but Domingue made the stop. Joey Haddad evened the score with 42 seconds remaining in the opening stanza when he deflected the puck off a Casey Pierro-Zabotel pass past Orlando netminder John Curry (W, 35 saves on 38 shots). Glads captain Andy Brandt picked up the second helper. The first intermission came with the clubs tied 1-1.
Orlando exploded for three goals in the second period to take a commanding 4-1 lead. Chirs Lawerence scored the first goal of the middle period on a shot to the top right corner at 8:02 with help from Sisca. Ryan Cruthers scored the Bears third goal of the night, second of the period, at 12:39 as Sisca picked up his second assist of the night. Sisca then got his second lamplighter at the 18:48 mark to close out the scoring for the period, and after 40 minutes of hockey the Glads found themselves in a 4-1 hole.
Gwinnett staged a comeback in the third period that saw the home team outshoot the Bears 19 to 4 while closing the deficit to a single goal, but that would be as close as the Gladiators would come. Justin Powers scored twice for his 9th and 10th markers of the season while Alex Belzile, Pierro-Zabotel and Sacha Guimond (2) all earned assists in the final period.
Domingue is now 12-6-0-1 for the season with a 2.97 GAA and a 0.893 SAV% after taking the loss for Gwinnett, Curry improves to 17-10-2-0 with a 2.72 GAA and a 0.913 SAV% with the win.
Gwinnett was 2-for-4 on the power play and had 22 penalty minutes on 7 infractions in the game. Orlando went 1-for-4 on the PP with 10 penalty minutes on 5 infractions.
Despite losing, the Gladiators outshot the Solar Bears 38-24.
First Star: ORL – 14 Mathew Sisca (2 Goals, 2 Assists, +3 rating)
Second Star: ORL – 16 Ryan Cruthers (1 Goal, +2 rating)
Third Star: GWT – 4 Sacha Guimond (2 Assists, +1 rating)
Gwinnett hosts Idaho at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.
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.