NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - For the first time in more than a year, the Gwinnett Gladiators won a shootout, rallying from a three-goal deficit to defeat South Carolina 6-5 on Friday at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Dave Caruso, making his second start in as many nights, made a franchise-record 47 saves in 65 minutes and then stopped four of five shootout attempts to secure the victory. The Gladiators were outshot by a staggering 52-27 margin but still managed to collect their second consecutive win.
Gwinnett, which plays again tonight at home against Columbia, had never allowed more than 45 shots in a game prior to Friday.
The Gladiators (9-4-3, 21 points) trailed 4-1 before scoring four straight goals in the second period. Andy Contois, Scott Mifsud, Colton Fretter and Mike Vigilante all beat Stingrays' goalie Davis Parley to give Gwinnett a 5-4 lead headed into the third period.
South Carolina tied it 5:11 into the third and that forced overtime and, finally, a shootout.
Mifsud and Bruce Mulherin each beat Parley in the shootout and Caruso made those goals stand up. The Gladiators didn't win a single shootout last season and had lost its only other one this year to Augusta on Nov. 6.
South Carolina took a 1-0 lead on a goal Matt Stefanishion just 1:22 into the game. Sprung on a breakaway, Stefanishion slid behind the Gladiators defense and beat Caruso.
A power-play goal gave the Stingrays' a 2-0 lead before Joel Stepp cut the margin back down to one.
The Gladiators got on the board with a short-handed goal at 9:49 of the first period when Stepp beat Parley over the glove with a quick snapshot as he squirted through the South Carolina defense into the slot.
The Stingrays (8-7-2, 18 points) got that goal back less than two minutes later and then took a 4-1 lead 3:23 into the second period.
Gwinnett's comeback started 50 seconds later.
Contois was credited with a goal at 4:13 as he ripped a slap shot off the back dasher where the rebound caromed off a Stingray and into the South Carolina net.
Mifsud's fourth goal of the season got the Gladiators within one.
He collected a rebound in the slot and rolled the puck past Parley. Vigilante and Stepp assisted on the goal as they worked the puck around deep in South Carolina zone.
Fretter added his team-leading 13th goal of the season as he ripped a slap shot past Parley from 25 feet out. Mifsud and Vigilante each collected their second assist of the game on the power-play goal at 14:08 of the second period.
Vigilante made it a three-point night with his go-ahead power-play goal at 16:07. Vigilante flipped the puck over the shoulder of Parley along the goal line for his eighth tally of the season.
Gwinnett finished 2-for-7 on the man advantage and held South Carolina to one power-play goal in 10 opportunities.