Gladiators rally and roll past Checkers with three short-handed goals

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators rallied from an early two-goal deficit and put Charlotte away with an amazing three short-handed goals.

The Gladiators got over .500 for the first time since Dec. 16 with a 6-3 victory against the Checkers on Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Pat Bateman scored twice, the second goal giving the Gladiators some much-needed breathing room in the third period, and Gwinnett handed Charlotte its first regulation loss in 10 games.

Andy Brandt also had two goals and an assist, including an empty-netter while short-handed to drive home the final dagger.

"We did what we had to do tonight," Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. "It wasn't as pretty as we wanted it to be, but in the end it doesn't matter, you find a way. It was a situation where we needed to take control and we did."

Gwinnett (24-23-6) gained ground on Charlotte in the ECHL South, cutting the third-place Checkers' margin to seven points. The win, their fourth straight over Charlotte, also put a little distance between the Gladiators and fifth-place Mississippi.

And it was done short-handed once again.

Gwinnett is unbeaten in its last three games, all played with no more than 15 skaters and with Dan Turple in net.

The Gladiators went much of Friday's game with 14 when Dan Sullivan was injured early in the first. He did come back wearing a full shield in the third, but Gwinnett rolled without three full forward lines for the bulk of the 60 minutes. Dirk Southern and Jordan Fox logged a ton of ice time as the only two centers.

"I give a lot of credit to our two centermen," Bateman said. "They probably played 35 minutes and they were our two best players out there."

Turple closed it down after giving up the first two goals of the game and made 27 saves. The Thrashers' prospect is 2-0-1 since being assigned to the Gladiators a week ago.

Charlotte (28-21-5) was even shorter with just 13 skaters and watched its stretch of 6-0-1-2 come to an end.

"All in all, a big win," Pyle said. "We found a way to do it. I thought we were sloppy in the first and then took control in the second. We got sloppy at the end of the second and I was extremely unhappy with that. Then in the third, I thought we played real well. We were smart and patient and did what we had to do."

Charlotte staked out a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game.

Turple touched the puck outside the forbidden trapezoid 93 seconds into the game and Checkers' leading goal scorer Mike Bayrack converted on the power-play chance at 2:56.

Peter-James Corsi assisted on that goal and three minutes later was the recipient of a cross-crease centering feed from Kenny Smith. Corsi roofed his shot for a 2-0 lead at 5:49.

"We were sloppy and we didn't come out hard," Bateman said. "But (rallying) is nothing we haven't done before. I don't know how many 2-0 goals we've given up and come back to win. We didn't panic."

Charlotte had a chance for a back-breaking goal with an extended 5-on-3 power play almost 13 minutes into the first period.

"They hit a post there at 2-0 and if it goes 3-0, it's probably game, set and match," Pyle said.

But instead the Gladiators got a huge short-handed goal to make it 2-1.

Captain Jeff Mason's hard work at the blue line sprung Southern. Mason hit the gas and made it a 2-on-0 rush. Southern dished to Mason in the slot and a diving Maxime Daigneault pushed that try wide. But Southern gathered the loose puck off the endboards and flipped it into a wide-open net.

"That was the TSN turning point right there," Bateman quipped. "He shouldn't have passed it, but he redeemed himself there with the goal."

Not only did Gwinnett score while down two men, but it killed off the rest of both penalties to go into the second period behind just one goal.

The Gladiators didn't waste the momentum and things went downhill in a hurry for Charlotte in the second period.

Gwinnett got goals nine seconds apart - one second shy of a franchise record - from Bateman and Jean-Claude Sawyer.

Bateman pulled the trigger on a steeply angled shot from the post to tie the game at 3:14 and Sawyer gave Gwinnett its first lead at 3:23.

If that weren't enough, the Gladiators scored another short-handed goal to take a 4-2 lead at 7:57.

Southern was the set-up man on this one, digging the puck out at the point and charging through the neutral zone. He had Andy Brandt on his wing for the 2-on-1 rush and snapped the pass across the high slot. Brandt buried it into the back of the net.

"Those short-handed goals are back-breakers," Bateman said. "Power play, penalty kill, our special teams won the game."

Gwinnett had a chance on that same penalty to go up three goals and potentially shut the door on Charlotte. Tom Zanoski sliced in alone on Daigneault, but his shot was deflected high and the Checkers got back within 4-3 on Corsi's second goal of the game at 13:47.

Still, the Gladiators went into the third with a lead - a stat that boded very well. With Bateman and Brandt's second goals, Gwinnett improved to 16-0-1 when ahead after 40 minutes.

"Even 5-on-5 we were getting (odd-man) chances that we didn't take advantage of, but still," Pyle said. "I know (Charlotte's) a little beat up, too, and had 'D' playing forward, but we had to take advantage of this game. And we did."