DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators' 4-1 victory over Charlotte in Saturday's regular-season finale assured the teams would be seeing each other again very soon.
Gwinnett's win, aided by a resurgent power play, kept the Checkers from moving out of sixth place in the ECHL South Division standings. The Gladiators had already secured the No. 3 seed and will meet Charlotte in the first round of the playoffs.
Game 1 is Tuesday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, which drew a boisterous crowd of 8,222 on Saturday.
The Gladiators go into the best-of-five series on a good note, having played a solid 60 minutes against the Checkers.
"When we got the 3-1 lead, I thought we were a little sloppy," Pyle said. "But once we got the lead and started playing smarter, I thought we played really well.
"I just wanted to finish on a positive. And now at least we know who we're playing. I'm just glad to get started."
Bryson Busniuk and Andy Brandt teamed up to score the Gladiators first two goals - the first just 1:10 into the game - and help Gwinnett stake out a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Busniuk drew first blood, rifling a one-timer past Charlotte goalie Mike Ayers 70 seconds into the regular-season finale. Brandt got the assist by swiping the puck in the Checkers' zone.
Charlotte tied the game 1-1 on a goal from Adam Nightingale at 5:32. It was the only puck to get past goaltender Dan Turple, who made 34 saves for his 15th win of the season.
"Turps made some huge saves when he needed to," Pyle said. "He played a great game I thought, controlled his rebounds, looked confident handling the puck, which we need. It's like an extra 'D' back there.
"It was good for him to finish on a confident note. Knowing now that we've got a day to get things together and one good day of practice (Monday) and then it's time to go."
With Turple holding the fort, Brandt and Busniuk hooked up again to restore Gwinnett's lead just 37 seconds later.
Busniuk sliced into the Checkers' zone and ripped a shot at the net. The puck bounced back to a hard-charging Brandt on the backdoor. Brandt lifted his 18th goal of the season into the top corner at 6:05.
A power-play goal from Jeff Campbell extended the Gladiators' lead to 3-1. Campbell was in the right place at the right time when Jamie Milam's boomer from the blue line hit a Charlotte body in the slot. The juicy rebound came right to Campbell who slammed it home at 12:31.
"We were OK (on the power play), we got sloppy at times, but that's all right," Pyle said. "We missed a couple open netters. But all you want to do is finish on a positive."
Gwinnett carried most of its third power-play chance into the second period - and took advantage of the opportunity.
Milam snapped a diagonal pass from the point to Brad Schell in the corner. Schell slid a lateral shot along the goal line and it was deflected past Ayers 37 seconds into the second period. Chad Painchaud, reassigned from AHL Chicago two days ago, was standing on the doorstep creating a screen and picked up an assist on the goal that gave Gwinnett a 4-1 lead.