DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators got a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to Augusta on Tuesday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. And they were probably lucky to get that.
The Gladiators peppered Lynx goaltender Riku Helenius with 46 shots, but couldn't bury the majority of their opportunities and paid the price. The postgame mood didn't reflect the fact that Gwinnett got one point for going past regulation. Likely because the Gladiators never trailed until Augusta triumphed in the shootout - the Lynx's first win of the season.
"We were awful," head coach Jeff Pyle said. "As a team we were awful. We didn't play a team game. We had a bunch of selfish individuals out there. We didn't move the puck well. We didn't support the puck well. We wouldn't get pucks deep, we wouldn't get pucks out (of our zone).
"In the end, it's disappointing. It's not the losing part. It's just the not smart enough to win part."
Gwinnett was 31 seconds from a regulation win when Matt Auffrey tied the game at 2. Aaron Slattengren, who scored Augusta's first goal, sent a backhanded pass into the slot for a charging Auffrey. The 22-year-old rookie ripped it into the back of the net and sent the game to overtime.
There was no scoring in the five-minute extra period and the Gladiators failed to get any pucks past Helenius in the shootout.
"I thought we actually had more chances (that Augusta in the game)," Pyle said. "We had some point-blank chances in the third where we should have put the game away and we didn't. But in the end we didn't really deserve it.
"We didn't do what we had to do to win and that's my biggest disappointment, the selfishness that I saw tonight."
Gwinnett carried a 2-1 lead into the third period courtesy of Jeff Prough's impressive effort in scoring the second period's lone goal.
The Gladiators were outplayed in the second and a couple of fortunate breaks kept the game tied 1-1. One incident in particular proved pivotal. Moments before Prough broke the deadlock, forward Andy Brandt saved a trickling puck from crossing the goal line when a shot got past goaltender Kevin Nastiuk.
Gwinnett quickly pushed back into Augusta's zone and Helenius turned away a heavy shot from the blue line with his mask. Prough corralled the rebound near the left faceoff dot and slung a turnaround shot at the net. The puck deflected off a skate in the crease and beat Helenius at 16:41 of the second.
It was Prough's first professional goal. He had an assist in nine games with the Florida Everblades last season after finishing his college career at Brown.
"Jeff played a great game," Pyle said. "He gets limited ice time, but he did what he had to do. And it was a huge second goal that gave us energy."
The teams traded power-play goals in the first period with Gwinnett getting the opener. Jordan Fox collected his first point as a Gladiator with a goal at 16:56. Helenius was well out of his net after making the initial save on Ryan Mahrle's offering from the blue line. Fox got behind Helenius and shoveled the puck over the line even as he fell forward. Fox, who had 26 goals for Flint of the IHL last year, jumped right up and punched his arm in the air to celebrate the tally.
Gwinnett (1-0-1) has a whole week off before playing Charlotte at home next Tuesday. Pyle said the team would still get today off and then go back to work on Thursday.
"It's good for us early because we'll learn from it," Pyle said. "We'll either learn or we'll get rid of guys."