Photo: Amanda Hertel
Gwinnett Gladiators goalie Jeff Jakaitis turns to bat a puck out of the air during a shootout against South Carolina on Sunday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Despite Jakaitis turning aside this attempt by Sean Dolan and making 33 saves in the game, the Gladiators lost 3-2 in the shootout.
DULUTH -- The Gwinnett Gladiators rallied to force overtime for a league-high 10th time, but fell in a shootout to South Carolina on Sunday in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The shootout went six rounds before the Stingrays earned a 3-2 win and claimed a scant one-point lead in the South Division standings.
The Gladiators were down 2-1 with a little over three minutes left in the third when Colin Vock scored the tying goal.
They managed a point with the shootout loss a day after falling 3-1 to these Stingrays.
"I have mixed emotions," head coach John Wroblewski said. "I liked the fact that we stayed in the game all the way, but again, we didn't click on our second efforts.
"I would say that it was a pretty average performance except for (goalie Jeff) Jakaitis."
Jakaitis made 33 saves and lost in a shootout for the first time this season. He had Gwinnett's only two shootout wins coming into the game.
"We had a bunch of scoring chances again tonight and I think if we bear down a little bit more on those, there is a different outcome," Vock said. "Instead of one point, we're getting two points. I don't anybody in our (dressing) room is happy just getting one point."
For the second night in a row against South Carolina, the Gladiators scored first. This time just 17 seconds into the game.
Gwinnett controlled the opening draw, quickly moved into the Stingrays' zone and found Joey Haddad just above the left face-off circle. Haddad, back in the lineup after serving a four-game suspension, flicked a wrister through traffic that beat goalie Daren Machesney over the shoulder.
South Carolina answered on a broken play at 14:58.
Behind their own net and preparing to break the puck out, the Gladiators had their initial pass hit the referee's skate and slide into the slot. Jakaitis made the initial save, but the rebound kicked over to an unguarded Nick Tabisz on the far post. "I think there was only one guy on the ice who knew the puck had gone into the slot and that was Jakaitis," Wroblewski said. "South Carolina, they started that by stalling our breakout and establishing the forecheck.
"That's an area we had to get better on and I didn't think we executed on our second efforts or one vs. one battles on special teams at all."
South Carolina carved out a 2-1 lead when Trent Campbell hammered an absolute bomb of a one-timer past Jakaitis at 11:34 of the third period.
The Stingrays' goal came just after Gwinnett's fourth power play expired.
"(The power play) is obviously a pivotal part of the game so we emphasize it a great deal with video and meetings," Wroblewski said. "I liked a lot of things on it and I thought when we ran into trouble, we didn't come out together. It wasn't a cohesive unit and lot of times. That's when we ran into trouble.
"I didn't think we executed on our battles -- on either special teams. I think South Carolina controlled most of the one-on-one or two-on-two plays down low."
The Gladiators got two more chances with a man advantage as time grew short in the game.
They failed to convert there, but just three seconds after the last power-play ran out, Vock tied the game. Shane Sims' shot from up top was tipped past Machesney with 3:21 left in regulation.
"(Andy Brandt) made a nice play at the start to dump it cross-corner," Vock said. "(Justin) Milo got the puck and made a strong play to Sims. He got the shot through and it hit my stick. Coach always tells us to go to the net, so it was right place at the right time."