DULUTH - Three days after trading away defenseman Ryan Mahrle and forward Jeff Prough, Gwinnett Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle made another roster move.
Pyle acquired goaltender Josh Johnson from South Carolina in exchange for future considerations Thursday. In a subsequent transaction, rookie netminder Charlie Effinger was traded to Trenton for financial considerations.
South Carolina has an abundance of goalies right now and Pyle saw a chance to upgrade. Pyle said he liked Effinger, but thought Johnson would be a stronger pairing with Kevin Nastiuk, who is under contract with the Boston Bruins.
"I love Charlie, he's a good 2, but he's not going to be a 1," Pyle said. "(South Carolina coach Jared Bednar) doesn't really want to give (Johnson) up because he knows they're going to lose a guy (to AHL recall at some point), but you just don't have room for him."
Johnson has a 2-2-0 record and a 3.20 goal-against average for South Carolina this season. Last year, the Minnesota native was 23-13-1 with a 2.80 GAA and .908 save percentage for a Stingray team that eliminated Gwinnett from the playoffs.
The 24-year-old was 3-2-1 in the playoffs as South Carolina advanced to the conference finals. Both regulation losses were to the Gladiators in their five-game second-round series. Johnson's goals-against average ranked him sixth among postseason netminders last spring.
Effinger played in only two games for the Gladiators this season - a 7-2 loss to Mississippi on Halloween and last Saturday's 4-0 loss to Florida. Both games were on the road.
Effinger, 22, was signed by Gwinnett coming out of Miami University where he posted solid numbers over four seasons.
Pyle said he considered keeping three goalies on the roster, but just couldn't make the numbers work with the salary cap.
It's been a season of turnover for the Gladiators, something that hasn't happened a great deal in their five previous season. The constant roster changes have made it difficult for the team to establish chemistry and, thus, contributed to a slow start.
"The last week to two weeks has been constant change," Pyle said. "So in the end, I'm not worried about (the start). We've got to get better and we will get better. We've just got to be more committed."
Gwinnett is 2-4-2 and sits at the bottom of the ECHL's South Division (although the Gladiators have played at least two fewer games than the rest of the teams).
"With a bounce here or a little finish, you're looking at 4-2 the other way," Pyle said.
"If we were getting dominated and outplayed and outworked, then I'd be worried.
"But this early in the season and with a handful of home games coming up, we can turn it around pretty quick."
The Gladiators host Charlotte tonight at the Arena at Gwinnett Center and South Carolina on Saturday. Gwinnett has lost its last three straight games, but all were to a strong Florida team, including a pair in Estero, Fla., last weekend.
Alternate captain Andy Brandt said there's no panic, but there is concern about the results so far.
"The group of guys we have in there, we all want to win," Brandt said. "We're all passionate. We want to go out and work hard every day. It's the same thing that coach says, our work ethic is there, our intentions are good. We're one of the hardest working teams I've been on. It's a good group of guys in there and it comes down to the leadership having to step up a little, hold guys accountable and guys themselves have to hold each other accountable.
"It's now to the point in the season where we can't say it's early anymore. Because if you use the excuse "it's early' too long, then it's too late."