Gladiators cruise past Stingrays

DULUTH - The wins keep coming for the Gwinnett Gladiators, as they beat the South Carolina Stingrays 4-1 before 4,380 people at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Friday.

The Gladiators outshot the Stingrays 44-24 and goaltender Dan Turple made 23 saves, many of them point-blank.

"He made some huge saves that kept us with a lead in the second," Gladiators coach Jeff Pyle said.

The win kept Gwinnett even with Texas in the South Division standings and improved the Gladiators' franchise-best start to 9-1-1.

"Tonight was probably the hardest game I've played in a while just because there were so few shots early on," Turple said. "The few shots I had a couple times were scoring chances, so it was really tough early and I'd say the third period was my easiest just because with more shots I was able to stay focused and stay in it."

The one goal against was by Travis Morin who gathered in a loose puck behind the net and found a hole between Turple and the post. The Gladiators yielded 12 shots in the third period, the same number as in the first two periods combined. That didn't come as a surprise to Turple.

"That's typically our game - we start off strong and then kind of fade at the end and I see more shots. I knew the shots would come," he said.

The Gladiators didn't take advantage of a 5-on-3 power play in the first period, but the league's fourth-best power play scored three of the team's four goals.

Bryson Busniuk got the scoring going midway through the second period, coming off the wall to send a quick slap shot through traffic.

A few minutes later it was classic Jon Awe as the defenseman unloaded a slap shot that bulged the back of the net. Derek Nesbitt put the puck in Awe's wheelhouse for a well-earned assist. It was only Awe's second goal of the season - after 24 last season, including an ECHL record-breaking 18 on the power play by a defenseman.

The other scorers for Gwinnett were Andy Brandt, scoring with about a minute left in the third period off a rebound in front, and tough guy Myles Stoesz scoring an empty-net goal, his first of the season and first as a pro. Lou Dickenson finished with three assists.

"It's hard," Pyle said of the tempo. "You dominate a team - they had 12 shots after two periods and I think mentally it's tough for these guys to go 'Yeah, they're dangerous.' But if (the Stingrays) scored on the power play, it's 2-2. We came back with a goal from Brando and an empty netter for Stoezer - I'm happy for him."

The win was followed by a noisy celebration in the locker room. Pyle joked that they were celebrating because they will get two days off (a rarity). The team's next game is Tuesday, at home against the Elmira Jackals.

Notes: Stuart MacRae remains on the IR with an infected finger. That's the second infected digit of the year on the squad, but Pyle insists this is one of the cleanest locker rooms he's ever been in. ... Chad Painchaud made his AHL debut last night for the Chicago Wolves. The winger played the 2006-07 season for the Gladiators, as well as two games earlier this month.