DULUTH - Playing in his first professional postseason game, rookie Milan Gajic looked like a seasoned veteran.
Gajic scored one goal in the first period and added another in the second in helping the Gladiators to a 5-3 win over South Carolina in the first game of the South Division semifinals.
Gajic (pronounced Guy-ch) came to Gwinnett on Dec. 26 after being assigned by Providence of the American Hockey League. Even though he arrived a day after Christmas, the late present was worth the wait.
In 41 games, he poured in 25 goals and continued his scoring binge Saturday night against the Stingrays, something he excelled in during the regular season.
In six regular-season games against the Stingrays, the University of Michigan grad scored five goals, the second-highest total on the team.
He also dished out four assists, giving him the team's third-highest point total (9) against South Carolina.
"In the playoffs, you don't care if you score ten goals or none as long as you win," Gajic said, who also had 33 assists with Gwinnett in the regular season. "I just seem to get the puck at the right times against them (South Carolina). Every player has those teams that they play well against and against them I guess I do pretty well."
His first goal came with the help of Adam Courchaine who dished a nice assist at the 11:11 mark in the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Gajic again hit the net in the second period, this time on an assist from Joel Stepp 15:14 into the second period. The goal, slapped in the top-left corner, came on a power play and broke a 2-2 tie.
"The first one, I took pass for Courch and took a guy one-on-one and beat him on the outside," Gajic said. "I just kind of threw it toward the back and couldn't really do anything else with it and it snuck in between his arm and leg. The second one, the puck was sitting there right for me and all I had to do was shoot."
Scoring goals in the playoffs was an issue that plagued Gwinnett last season, especially in the second round when the Gladiators were ousted four games to one by Charlotte.
However, head coach Jeff Pyle thinks that a player like Gajic could be a difference maker this postseason.
"Some guys get several chances and don't score at all," Pyle said. "(Gajic) has great speed and is a great finisher and we need to get him the puck. He's one of those guys that takes two or three chances and he scores. I knew he was good, but when we got him here and saw him the first couple of games, I was like 'Yeah, he's good.'"