Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Gwinnett Gladiators' rookie forward Aaron Bendickson (13) skates with the puck during a game against Toledo earlier this season.
DULUTH — After the Gwinnett Gladiators’ losing skid hit a franchise-record 11th game, head coach Jeff Pyle acknowledged the need for more depth.
A roster ravaged by injuries and call-ups has struggled to manufacture offense and it seems every defensive breakdown is ending up in the back of the Gladiators’ net.
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Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth
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“Obviously we’re not scoring right now,” Pyle said. “That hurts. But not having the depth right now, with (Tim Filangieri) out, defensively we’re not playing great.
“We need a couple more forwards, which we may get from Chicago this week. If we get that, then you have an opportunity to sit guys. But right now I don’t have that option.”
Pyle is still looking for a few forwards.
For now, aid comes in the form of a goaltender.
Edward Pasquale, a fourth-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, was assigned to the Gladiators and arrived Monday — just in time for Gwinnett’s stretch of three games in four days at home. The Gladiators play Wheeling today, Wednesday and Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Pasquale has a 5-6-0 record with a 3.16 goals-against average and .892 save percentage in 11 games with the Wolves during his first professional season.
Last year, the 20-year-old was 27-17-5 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 51 games with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL). Overall, the Toronto native posted a 3.11 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 142 career OHL contests with Saginaw and the Belleville Bulls over four seasons (2006-10).
Gwinnett’s goalies, Billy Sauer and another Thrashers’ prospect Chris Carrozzi, haven’t been the problem in Pyle’s view. Undoubtably, Carrozzi would like to have two of the goals from Sunday’s 6-2 loss to South Carolina back, but overall the netminders have done their part to keep the Gladiators in games.
“Those kids have battled for us all year,” Pyle said.
Gwinnett had an outstanding first period against the Stingrays, a team that had a rough start to the season but has come on strong lately and leads the Gladiators by two points in the division standings.
Danick Paquette scored 58 seconds into the game and Gwinnett held that 1-0 lead through intermission.
But a 2-on-1 breakaway six minutes into the second tied the game and South Carolina took the lead for good barely more than 90 seconds later when Rob Ricci was left unguarded on the backdoor.
Even that wouldn’t have been insurmountable. What crushed the Gladiators were power-play and short-handed goals scored 31⁄2 minutes apart in the second period.
The first was a shot Carrozzi should have stopped that beat him five-hole at 14:26 and the second was a back-breaking short-hander off a 2-on-1 rush at 17:52.
“The third goal, just kind of killed us,” Pyle said. “We were doing a good job of keeping it to the outside and shot comes in to give them a 3-1 lead and you feel it on the bench.
“Then we’re on the power play, we have the puck on our stick and we make a bad pass into somebody’s skates and they get an odd-man rush. Not getting the save, not making the play we needed and you could just see the life come out of us after the fourth one.”
The team did answer quickly, Aaron Bendickson scoring on the power play less than a minute later at 18:41 and Gwinnett started the third down just 4-2.
South Carolina slammed the door with a goal 20 seconds into the final period though.
“That can’t happen,” Pyle said. “We’ve got to do a better job of blocking out.
“But every mistake gets magnified. The guys are still working hard, they’re still getting pucks deep, we still get chances.”
The Gladiators go back to work tonight hoping to snap the streak that started Dec. 2 and includes just one point for an overtime loss in that span.