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Division-leading Florida thumps Gladiators

DULUTH - Gwinnett Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said there is a 100 percent likelihood he will be making roster changes before today's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

And after a 7-2 loss to the division-leading Florida Everblades on Tuesday, that's not a big surprise.

Pyle added a proviso, but made no bones about the fact that he wasn't happy with his team.

"One hundred percent," Pyle said of the chances he'd make a deal today. "Unless I can't make anything happen. But it's not going to be from lack of effort."

"There will be some new faces. I'm praying to God."

Playing a slumping Florida team and riding a four-game winning streak, the Gladiators allowed a premium chance slip away on Tuesday.

The Gladiators got behind early and stayed there against Florida, which was 0-1-2 on their four-game road trip coming into Gwinnett. Florida retained the top spot in the ECHL South with a pounding of the Gladiators in front of 3,427 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

The Gladiators (33-18-6, 72 points) had an opportunity to tie Florida (36-17-4, 76 points) for first place, but came out flat and sloppy, and paid the price.

"We don't play hard enough," Pyle said. "It's a group effort. The mistakes are by all. You can't just pick one guy out because it's everybody.

"I just expect more. Our 'D' complicate the game. I told these guys from Day 1, we can't win playing like that. To me, it's one game. I don't care if we're in first or not. If we're not good enough, we're not. You want to be first, but I'm not fooling myself. You've got to earn it and we haven't. We don't deserve it right now."

Two defensive lapses left the Gladiators in a 2-0 hole after the first period.

An off-target pass behind the Gwinnett zone clipped the end boards and kicked out to Florida's Brad Zancanaro in the left faceoff circle. Goalie Dan Turple was square to the low shot, but it got past him on the far side 1:38 into the game.

"The quick goal, we talked about that," Florida head coach Gerry Fleming said. "Turple's had our number pretty much most of the season here so we thought it was important for our confidence to try and get that quick goal."

Dustin Johner stretched the Everblades lead to 2-0 when he was sprung coming out of the penalty box and broke in alone on Turple. Johner deked Turple and lifted his 23rd goal of the season high with the backhand at 12:11.

"Teams don't have to work for their goals against us," Pyle said.

The Gladiators cut the deficit in half at 5:34 of the second period. Brad Schell picked up his 100th point of the season, dropping a pass to Jamie Milam who was on the left wing. Milam sniped his 18th goal of the year with a shot into the opposite side top corner.

Schell became the first player to reach the century mark since Buddy Smith in 2002-03, but Florida's leading point-getter, Vince Bellissimo answered with his 53rd point of the season. Bellissimo restored the Everblades' two-goal lead with 1:32 remaining in the second period, scoring on a snappy shot past the reaching glove of Turple.

Ernie Hartlieb, Bellissimo and Reggie Berg scored in the third period to salt away the win for Florida.

Everblade goaltender Craig Kowalski was beaten once in the third period, but that didn't stop him from collecting his 23rd win of the season. Joel Stepp scored a power-play goal at 11:14 of the third and Kowalski finished with 28 saves on 30 shots. Kowalski, playing his 13th straight game, also picked up an assist on Bellissimo's second goal of the game.

Zancanaro scored his second of the night with one second left in regulation to twist the knife a little more.

"The seventh goal was a perfect example (of the problems)," Pyle said. "We turn it over and guys just aren't watching their guys.

"I just don't think guys care enough defensively, for whatever reason."