Gladiators ink three players
Gwinnett signs two forwards, one defenseman

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators announced the signings of two forwards and a defenseman on Thursday, adding to an ever developing roster for the 2008-09 season.

Forward Marty Mjelleli, 25, was signed as a rookie coming out of St. Cloud State University where he played the last four years.

Defenseman Preston Briggs, 27, might be remembered by Gwinnett fans after playing all of last season for the now-defunct Pensacola Ice Pilots.

The Gladiators also inked Jordan Fox, a 24-year-old forward that spent the majority of last year with Flint of the IHL but also got into eight American Hockey League games for Albany.

The three new signings bring Gwinnett's roster total to nine players and head coach Jeff Pyle is satisfied with the progress.

"I just wanted young guys that want to work and that have character," Pyle said. "All these kids I talked to are just solid two-way players."

Fox appeared in 66 games last season with the Flint Generals of the International Hockey League. He finished the 2007-08 season with 26 goals and 34 assists for 60 points with the Generals. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound forward also collected 91 penalty minutes.

A native of Kirkwood, Mo., Fox also earned a call up to the Albany River Rats in January. He scored two goals there, including a game-winner, and had an assist during his first AHL stint.

After spending two seasons at Merrimack College, Fox spent his rookie year during the 2006-07 season with Flint where he ranked first among Generals' rookies in scoring with 13 goals and 23 assists for 36 points in 74 games.

Pyle got a look at him last year when Pyle helped coach the Atlanta Thrashers' team at the NHL Traverse City Prospect Evaluation Tournament. Fox was part of the Thrashers roster and Pyle was impressed with his play in both zones.

"I gave him my card last year," Pyle said. "His name came up (this summer) and I called him and talked about our situation."

Pyle said Fox had some other offers, but decided on the Gladiators, who have made the playoffs all five of their seasons in Gwinnett and moved many players up to the next level during that span.

"I think the kid will do well," Pyle said. "He'll do a little bit of everything."

In 69 career collegiate games, Mjelleli had seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Minnesota native also collected 28 penalty minutes in his collegiate career.

"Marty is one of those kids where the coach just tells you, 'You're going to love this guy,'" Pyle said. "I'm big on those kind of kids.

"He can play any role. He didn't score a lot, but pro is different. And talking to him was fun."

Briggs joins the Gladiators this season after appearing in 68 games last season with the Ice Pilots. He notched seven points, all assists, with the Ice Pilots while recording 78 penalty minutes.

The Colorado Springs, Colo., native split time during his rookie season in 2006-07 with the Rocky Mountain Rage and the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League.

The 6-4, 200-pound defenseman recorded an assist in eight games with the Dayton Bombers during the 2005-06 season after completing his senior year at Mercyhurst College.

"Preston is just a big kid that I liked," Pyle said. "He's a big, solid, two-way defenseman that moves the puck well. He's more physical and, again, a good kid."

Character and versatility made all three players quality signings for Pyle, especially in the ECHL where rosters suffer the usual indignities of injury but also the pilfering from upper levels.

Having players capable of doing any job on the ice is paramount and Pyle has a solid tradition of bringing in interchangeable pieces.

"I'm trying to make sure we have depth in all positions," he said, "and so far I like what I've got."