Gladiators sign winger from Lynx

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators announced the signing of point-producing two-way forward Matt Auffrey on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old right winger will be a familiar face for Gladiator fans.

Coming out of the Ontario Hockey League, Auffrey put up 61 points in 90 games during a season and a half with Augusta.

The Lynx franchise went under in the middle of season season and Auffrey signed with Florida. In a changed role as a third-line checker, he had 16 points in 33 games for the ultra-talented Everblades.

"Florida was full of go-to guys and all-star type guys," Auffrey said.

His play with the Everblades earned him a call-up to Albany of the American Hockey League where had an assist in two games.

Then the Everblades dealt him to Dayton in late February and Auffrey was once again relied on for offensive production.

Auffrey, who was born in Cincinnati and grew up in northern New York, was nearly a point-a-game player for Dayton.

But in the final weeks of the regular season word began to leak about Dayton possibly suspending operations for 2009-10. Right around that time, Gwinnett was visiting the Bombers for a pair of games.

"He came to me in Dayton while we were playing there and just said, 'I don't know, we've heard some rumors that we're going to be done at the end of the year,'" Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. "I said I'd heard those same rumors but here's my card, if something happens give me a call.

"And he did, right away. We talked. I told him I liked the way he played. He'll play hard and he'll be physical. He wants to win and he's been in some bad situations and I don't think he's played his best hockey yet."

Auffrey, a 2004 draft pick of Anaheim, has always played well against the Gladiators. As a rookie in 2007-08, he was Augusta's second-best producer with eight points in 10 games.

This year, on Oct. 21, Auffrey had an assist and a goal as Augusta won in a shootout. His tally with 31 seconds left in regulation tied the game and he also scored in the shootout.

He had another similar effort for Dayton on March 21. Auffrey scored two goals, including the one that forced overtime with less than three minutes to go.

It was after that game when Auffrey approached Pyle about playing for Gwinnett. He chuckled and said the two goals probably helped his cause.

But it wasn't a difficult decision for either side when it came time for contract discussions.

"I started my pro career in the South and I've always liked the division," Auffrey said. "The style of the hockey is a little more offensive, more of a skill game.

"It's still tough, but there's more speed and I like that style. I like it down South."

Auffrey is, in fact, spending his offseason in Augusta rather than heading home. Ironically, last summer he was just 10 minutes from the Canadian border, but two hours from a rink. In Augusta, he's got ice in the area and is skating twice a week while working as well.

"I think coming into us, motivated and realizing he's in a good situation, he's going to be fired up," Pyle said. "He's a good, solid, two-way winger."

Auffrey is just the third player on Gwinnett's roster for 2009-10, joining goalie Josh Johnson and forward Tom Zanoski.

"Gwinnett is a real classy organization," Auffrey said. "It's always been a nice place to play and I've always had success there."