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Civil Gladiators shut out Florida

ESTERO, Fla. - There were no goalie fights. No line brawls. No penalty boxes packed with eight players. Just a whole lot of defense.

A night after the teams combined for six player ejections and 274 penalty minutes, the Florida Everblades and Gwinnett Gladiators kept things civil Saturday. The clubs teamed up for just 10 infractions for 20 penalty minutes as Gwinnett won 2-0 in front of an announced crowd of 7,284 at Germain Arena.

Gwinnett forward Mike Hamilton scored the game-winner on a 2-on-1 break at 14:28 of the third period. The victory gave the Gladiators four of a possible six points in the three-game series and pushed Florida further down in the ECHL South Division.

The fourth-place Blades (37-25-8) trail co-second place South Carolina and Gwinnett by 11 points with just three games left in the regular season. It appears Florida will open the first round of the playoffs against either Columbia or Charlotte, who are in a battle for fifth place.

Florida, which is 1-5-1 in its last seven games, desperately needed a win Saturday but Gwinnett goalie Craig Kowalski refused to allow it. The former Blades goalie turned away 18 shots en route to improving to 5-0 against his old team.

Florida had a golden opportunity to score in the waning moments as Gwinnett was hit with a four-minute high sticking infraction at 6:56 of the third period. The Gladiators killed the penalty and shortly after scored on that odd-man rush.

Although there were considerable fewer penalties Saturday, the teams nearly had a wide scale fracas at the conclusion of the game. As he was leaving the ice, Florida forward Derek Damon pushed a Gwinnett player. Both teams converged to help their teammates before referees stopped the scrum.

Florida coach Gerry Fleming and Gwinnett coach Jeff Pyle physically pulled players and told them to go to the locker room. Then Blades backup goalie Kevin Nastiuk, who nearly fought Kowalski in Friday's third period, motioned to the netminder as if he wanted to fight.

Nastiuk was stopped and both teams finally went to the locker room.

Those were leftover emotions from Friday's Fight Night. The team set three all-time team records Friday: most penalty minutes in a game (113), most penalty minutes by an opponent (161) and most combined penalty minutes (274).

Gwinnett, which had a franchise-record 161 penalty minutes Friday, played with just 14 skaters Saturday. Gladiators forward Myles Stoesz and defenseman Lou Dickenson sat out the game because of possible league suspensions from the previous night's festivities.

Stoesz had an ECHL record 63 penalty minutes. The previous record was 62 set by Ron Majic of Hampton Roads in 1995 and Greg Capson of Greensboro in 1993.

Blades resident tough guy Ryan Van Buskirk also sat out Saturday's game. He had 19 penalty minutes Friday.