DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators won a shootout for the first time in nearly a year and beat South Carolina 5-4 for the second straight game Thursday in Duluth.
Adam Berti had a goal and two assists to help stake the Gladiators to an early lead. The Stingrays grabbed the momentum at the end of the second period and completed a third-period rally to force overtime.
Jeff Mason and Adam Hobson scored for Gwinnett in the shootout and goaltender Joe Fallon made all four stops he needed to collect his 10th win of the year.
The Gladiators had lost all five of their previous shootouts this season and hadn't won one since January 2008.
"I did not know that," said Hobson, who also had a goal and three assists in the game.
Hobson sealed the victory with a snappy shot past Bobby Goepfert, who came in with a wicked impressive 1.64 goals-against average. Goepfert had only allowed more than three goals in a game once this season and that was in a 5-4 overtime loss.
"I've got a couple tricks in my bag and I try to pick one before I go out there so I don't second-guess myself," Hobson said. "I stuck with it in the end and the goalie bit on it."
Fallon came in with one shootout loss, but that was during his time with Fresno. His 31 saves in 65 minutes and four in the shootout pushed Gwinnett's record to 14-15-4.
"He's a goalie with a lot of composure," said Hobson, a teammate of Fallon's in Fresno. "We've got a lot of confidence back there with him. When you have confidence in the back end, you can keep you mind focused on scoring and trying to get things going with the puck."
Starting strong, Berti led Gwinnett to a 3-0 lead and the Gladiators ceded just a bit of that ground back to the Stingrays before the end of the first period.
Andy Brandt had an easy tap-in to get the Gladiators going 2:33 into the game.
South Carolina goalie Goepfert had his arm up, signaling for icing as a puck came into his zone. Berti was steaming after the puck on the left wing and when no icing call was made, Berti poked the puck under Goepfert at the post. Brandt pushed it into the open net for his third goal of the season.
"The first period we played great," Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle said. "We gave up the one goal, but still we played really well."
Berti set up Hobson for the second goal at 6:07. Berti sent a centering feed from behind the Carolina net to his former Fresno linemate Hobson. In the high slot, Hobson snapped his shot past Goepfert's glove. Hobson celebrated his first goal in Gwinnett with an arm punched into the air.
"I've been playing with (Berti) here and also in Fresno and we've got some chemistry going," Hobson said. "He set me up tonight."
Berti, who spent the best part of the last two seasons in the AHL, scored himself on the power play to make it 3-0 at 9:19.
Hobson, on the right wall, dished to Berti in the corner.
Berti slung the puck to the net and Brandon Kaleniecki on the far post. But it hit the inside of Goepfert's leg pad before it ever got to Kaleniecki and trickled over the goal line.
The same play worked again in the second period to give Gwinnett a 4-1 lead.
Dan Sullivan cut down the right wing and as he neared the end boards fired a centering pass meant for Berti on the opposite side. The puck deflected off a South Carolina defender's skate and into the net at 12:23.
"We came out very strong," Hobson said. "Then coming into the second period we got a little slower and they got a little momentum built up. It was a battle from there They worked their way back into the game, but in the end, we got the two points and that's what matters."
The Stingrays trimmed the gap to two goals again just as Gwinnett's fifth power-play chance of the second expired. With 10.2 seconds left in the period Michael Dubuc was at Fallon's side to score his team-leading 19th goal of the season.
"I was really OK with a lot of (the game)," Pyle said. "It was just that we didn't commit defensively enough. "We gave up that goal with 10 seconds left in the second, which hurts you. Then we took some stupid penalties in the third."
Fallon had the shutout bid ruined by Maxime Lacroix, South Carolina's second best scorer, in the first period. Dubuc's tally in the final ticks of the second gave the Stingrays life and Dubuc assisted on the power-play goal just 4:04 into the third that made it a 4-3 game.
"We took stupid penalties in our zone, unnecessary ones away from the puck," Pyle said. "That's got to stop otherwise we're going to struggle. We play too hard to just to give games away like that."
Defenseman Brad Farynuk, left unguarded in the crease, put South Carolina in easy striking distance with his seventh goal of the year.
The Stingrays continued to swarm around the Gladiators' zone and completed the rally with their third straight goal. Lacroix scored his second of the night at 13:12 to tie it at 4.
"Just the little turnovers and not getting puck deep (cost us)," Pyle said. "You end up putting yourself in a position you shouldn't be in. But we found a way to get the two points, which is huge."