DULUTH - Brad Schell forced overtime by scoring on his first cousin, Johnstown goalie Morgan Cey, and Matt York potted the game-winner in a sudden-death shootout as Gwinnett defeated the Chiefs 4-3 on Friday.
Down 3-2 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Schell ripped a wrister past Cey. Schell, who leads the league in points by a wide margin, collected his 15th goal of the season on the power play and the Gladiators prevailed deep in the shootout in front of 4,867 at the Arena at Gwinnett
"We'd been giving it up to (Jon Awe on the power play) and Morgan had been seeing it," Schell said. "What he sees, he'll save because he's a good goalie.
"But I just saw an opening to go to the net and their guy went down. I used him for a screen and I personally don't think he saw the goal go in."
It was a big goal and Schell might have had bragging rights this summer - except Cey denied him in the shootout. It took York to break up a 1-all deadlock there.
York used a similar move to Colton Fretter, the only other Gwinnett player to score in the shootout. Both deked Cey on the forehand and then roofed a backhander.
York's move, on the 16th shootout attempt of the night, had the Gladiators (18-11-4) pouring onto the ice to celebrate a hard-fought two points.
The noise coming from Gwinnett's locker room following the win was as loud as it has been in weeks.
"The shot by Scheller was a great shot," Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. "He just picked that corner.
"(Goalie Dan Turple) too, that's a huge game for him. He did a great job in the game, a great job in the shootout. Hopefully that'll be good for his confidence."
Turple turned aside all but one Johnstown shooter after seeing very limited action in the third period while the Gladiators pounded away at Cey.
"Those are tough periods because their goalie is doing everything he has to do and you're not very busy," the 21-year-old Atlanta Thrashers' prospect said. "You've got to find a way to stay focused. They got that one that trickled back (behind me), but I made sure that no more went through."
Gwinnett outshot Johnstown 30-7 in the third period and finished with a season-high 63 shots. That's just four shy of the franchise record set in 2004-05.
"Everybody played great tonight," Turple said. "We were off to a little bit of a slow start in the first period. But we definitely rebounded in the second and dominated the third."
Johnstown took a 1-0 lead on an ugly bouncing shot late in the first period and regained its margin, 2-1, with a very pretty deflection late in the second period.
In between was a typically impressive power-play goal by Gwinnett.
Trailing 1-0 after a sluggish first period, the Gladiators evened the score 5:57 into the second.
Schell, from the corner, fed Awe hovering just inside the blue line. The All-Star defenseman unloaded a slap shot that rocketed past Cey.
Schell said the only advice he gave Cey before the game was to watch his head on the power play. Even armed with that nugget of key information, Cey was beaten by Awe as so many goalies have been this season.
But Cey's teammates got the lead back about 10 minutes later. Radek Smolenak, standing with his back to the net on the far post, deflected a hard shot from the half wall past Turple at 15:13.
Turple was playing well, including defusing a couple odd-man rushes, but there was little he could do about that goal and the Chiefs took a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Johnstown was 9-1-0 when leading after 40 minutes, but gave up a tying goal 3:43 into the third period. Chad Painchaud, who was denied on a couple excellent scoring chances earlier in the game, buried a shot from between the circles. Painchaud took a centering feed from Andy Contois, and with a Chief hanging on his back, potted his ninth goal of the season to tie the game 2-2.
Skating with verve and intensity, the Gladiators were back in business and outshooting Johnstown 12-1 with 37 seconds left on another power play. But an unnecessary holding penalty by Jim Jackson negated the rest of that advantage and the Chiefs took a 3-2 lead during 4-on-4 play.
Andre Deveaux scored his second goal of the game at 8:12 when a diving Turple couldn't pounce on the puck before it crossed the goal line.
"It's not only giving up goals, but it's the way we give them up the worst way," Pyle said. "They rip your heart out. But these guys do keep coming back."
Then came Schell's last-minute heroics and an outstanding performance from all in the shootout.