The Gwinnett Gladiators netted three goals in the final period to beat the South Carolina Stingrays by a 5-3 count in ECHL action at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Thursday night action. The win, which came in front of 6083 enthusiastic fans, was a big one for Gwinnett. The club just completed a tough road stretch that ended with three consecutive losses. The Gladiators dropped four-of-five straight road games while falling to second place in the South Division.
Gwinnett (20-10-1-0) started the scoring when forward Doug Jones beat South Carolina (13-16-1-3) goalie Jeff Jakaitis (L, 19 saves on 23 shots) at 15:06 of the first period for his 11th goal of the season. Jason Clark and Andy Brandt got the helpers on the play. The Stingrays were held to only four shots in the opening stanza, all of which were blocked by Gwinnett rookie goalie Louis Domingue (W, 15 saves on 18 shots), while the home club totaled 12 shots in the first 20 minutes. The first intermission came with Gwinnett holding a 1-0 advantage.
Brandt picked up his second point of the night as well as doubling the Glads lead to 2-0 with a lamplighter at 6:14 of the second period. The team Captain now has 10 points (5G, 5A) on the season. South Carolina pulled to within a goal when forward Tyler McNeely scored on the power play at 9:18 off a pass from Hunter Bishop. Robby Dee got the second assist. Bishop then tied the game with 1:58 to go in the period with McNeely and Dee helping.
Neither club had taken an advantage halfway through the final period as the score remained 2-2. Gwinnett then scored twice in 23 seconds to take their second two-goal lead of the game.
The first of the two goals was unassisted and came off the stick of the games First Star Evan Bloodoff, another Gwinnett rookie standout, at 12:06. Russ Sinkewich followed with his first goal of the season at 12:29. McNeely answered for the Rays 53 seconds later when he scored his second goal of the game to cut the Carolina deficit to a single goal, 4-3. McNeely added three-points to his club leading total in the game and now has 30-points (9G, 21 A) for South Carolina.
The Rays were unable to even the score and Scott Arnold locked up the win for Gwinnett with an empty net goal with two-seconds to play. It was Arnold’s second goal in three games since joining Gwinnett. The Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League assigned the forward to the Glads December 19th. The Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL signed the Montreal, Quebec native to an entry-level contract back in March.
Despite seeing his goals-against-average rise to 2.79, Domingue improves to 9-2-0-0 in 11 starts with the win for Gwinnett. He also has a shutout. South Carolina, and former Gladiator netminder Jakaitis remains winless in 4 starts (0-2-1-1) after taking the loss.
Gwinnett was 0-for-1 on the power play, while South Carolina was 1-for-3 with the advantage. The clubs totaled only 8 penalty minutes (GWT 6 PIM, SC 2 PIM) on the four infractions.
First Star: GWT – 10 Evan Bloodoff (1G, 3A/ 4 TP)
Second Star: SC – 11 Tyler McNeely (2 G, 1A/3 TP)
Third Star: GWT – 41 Andy Brandt (1G, 1A/2 TP)
ECHL Fast Facts
-The Gladiators have now given up 31 power play goals on 120 chances and are among the league leaders in Penalty Kill, having successfully killed off 84.1 percent of opponent’s power play chances. Gwinnett has surrendered multiple power play goals only twice this season.
-The loss extends the current South Carolina losing streak to 6 games.
-Gwinnett trails the Greenville Road Warriors (20-12-1-1/ 42 points) by a point in the South Division of the Eastern Conference with the clubs set to do battle Saturday night in Greenville.
Gwinnett and South Carolina will play again Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Come out to see if the Glads can push the Rays losing streak to seven.
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.
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