The Gwinnett Gladiators and Greenville Road Warriors met in an ECHL South Division battle between the top two teams in the division Saturday at the Bi-Lo Center. Entering the game the Road Warriors (20-13-2-1) held a two point lead over the second place Gladiators (21-11-1-0), but after dominating Greenville in the 6-2 victory the clubs are tied for the division lead, each with 43 points.
The first twenty minutes of hockey was a clinic on goaltending that resulted in a scoreless opening period, despite the clubs combining for 25 shots on goal (GWT-12, GRN-13). Greenville started the scoring at 12:55 of the second period when Brandon Wong beat Gwinnett netminder Louis Domingue (W, 32 saves on 34 shots). Lee Baldwin and Francis Verreault got the assists. Gwinnett responded by netting three goals in less than two and a half minutes to take a 3-1 advantage before the period was over.
The blitz started when Alex Belzile evened the score at 15:33 of the middle period by bouncing the puck off Greenville goalie Scott Stajcer (L, 29 saves on 35 shots) from behind the net on a power play for his second goal of the season. The rookie was helped on the marker by Scott Arnold and Doug Jones. Less than two minutes later Cody Carlson got the puck by a screened Stajcer to put the Gladiators up 2-1. It was Carlson’s first professional goal and was assisted by Andy Brandt and Belzile. Only 35 seconds later Evan Bloodoff, after taking the feed from Casey Pierro-Zabotel , found the back of the net for his 11th goal of the season to extend the Gwinnett lead to 3-1. The second period came to an end with the Glads holding the two-goal advantage.
The third period unfolded much the same as the previous period had, with Greenville scoring first in the period then Gwinnett roaring back for three unanswered scores. Steven Delisle scored 4:29 into the final stanza to cut the Gwinnett lead to 3-2, but 1:14 later Rylan Galiardi broke his seven-game pointless streak and gave Gwinnett some breathing room, 4-2. Bloodoff and Pierro-Zabotel earned the helpers.
Christian Ouellet was good on a wrist shot at 12:18 of the period to extend the Gwinnett lead to 5-2. Carlson and Corey Fienhage assisted. Rookie Doug Jones wrapped up the scoring at 19:15, deflecting a centering pass from Pierro-Zabotel and Belzile in to complete the 6-2 rout.
The Gladiators were 2-for-3 on the power play, while the Road Warriors went 0-for-3.
First Star: GWT – 10 Evan Bloodoff (1G/ 1A)
Second Star: GWT – 18 Casey Pierro-Zabotel (3A)
Third Star: GWT – 22 Alex Belzile (1G, 2A)
Coyotes prospect Louis Domingue is 10-2-0-0 on the season and has won 10 of his last 11 starts. The 20-year old rookie has a .900 save percentage and has one shutout this season.
Gladiators among League Leaders:
Mike Lee and Louis Domingue are first and fourth among rookie goalies in goals-against-average. Despite allowing seven goals in his last two starts Lee leads all rookies with a 2.12 GAA and is second overall, while Domingue is fourth for rookies and 13th overall.
Doug Jones and Evan Bloodoff are seventh and ninth respectively among the league’s rookie scoring leaders. Jones has 24 points (12G, 12A) while Bloodoff has 23 (11G, 12A).
Casey Pierro-Zabotel now has 28 assists and is fourth in the ECHL in that category.
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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