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Gladiators look to build on Monday's win

DULUTH - A come-from-behind win and three days off did wonders for Jeff Pyle's mood.

The Gwinnett Gladiators head coach had many harsh words for his players - in print and in the locker room - during a four-game winless skid that ended Monday.

After getting one point over a four-game stretch, the Gladiators rallied with two goals in the final four minutes of Monday's matinee game against Columbia to force overtime. They won in a shootout and were clearly thrilled with the result.

It sent them into the All-Star break on a high note and helped them keep pace in the tightly packed ECHL's South Division.

"I looked at the tape from the other night and a lot of our problems are self-inflicted wounds," Pyle said. "The only time we got in trouble was when we didn't do simple things. As a young team, you've got to learn to play as a veteran team. You got to learn to have poise.

"Bottom line, it's a clean start, it's the second half. We finished with a win. A great win, I think. Now we're coming off the break, we're a little more rested for sure. So it's kind of a positive right now. I like where we're at."

The Gladiators (23-11-2, 50 points) begin the second half of the season with a home-and-home against Pensacola (8-27-4, 20 points). They are on the road tonight and here on Sunday afternoon at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

A week ago, Pyle was talking seriously about making trades during the All-Star break. He hasn't changed the lineup so far. Last year's ECHL MVP Brad Schell has joined the team as he continues the recovery process for a back injury he sustained during AHL training camp. Pyle is also expecting captain Mike Vigilante to return in the near future. Last week during a game, Vigilante began experiencing symptoms from a concussion he suffered last month.

In the last month, the Gladiators have also lost all-stars Jon Awe and Derek Nesbitt, both on call-ups to the AHL. Talented forward Dirk Southern was another key cog that's now missing. Southern required surgery on his knee and is done for the season.

"Nobody ever really looks at it like Vig is out, Jonnie is gone and Nezzie is gone and Dirk," Pyle said. "Those are four pretty important parts.

"You've got four holes from guys that were pretty committed to what we were doing. I've got to get those four guys that have come into those spots to buy in now."

Pyle is looking for the forwards to stop making blind passes and be better at chipping the puck in and out of the zones. He needs the defensemen to make quick, smart decisions with the puck in the Gladiators' end. They have to play to their strengths, speed and skill.

"We've been slowing the game down," Pyle said. "I've got to do a better job of making them smart. That's really the key to this whole thing - if they buy in and stop making the turnovers. It's really a decision.

"You keep playing Russian roulette, you'll blow your head off at some point."

SideBar: Hockey

What: Gladiators vs. Ice Pilots

Schedule:

· Today, 8:05 p.m. at Pensacola

· Sunday, 4:05 p.m. at Gwinnett