LAWRENCEVILLE -- There was no holiday hangover for the Gwinnett Gladiators, who came out Monday after a four-day layoff, beating division rival South Carolina Stingrays 4-0 in front of 4,580 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The Gladiators out-shot the South Carolina Stingrays 13-3 in the first period, bolstered by two overlapping power plays.
"I was very impressed, very happy with how our guys approached the game," Gladiators head coach John Wroblewski said. "I couldn't have been happier with the start. Start to finish, it was probably one of our more thorough games of the season."
The Stingrays may have suffered from being rushed in their pre-game preparation, arriving from Charleston just 20 minutes before warm-ups due to an accident on I-85.
Wroblewski said the late arrival "absolutely" affected the Stingrays in the first period, but that they got their legs underneath them in the second.
Despite this, the Gladiators soared on the scoreboard. Just 1:42 into the second, captain Andy Brandt came out of the corner with the puck and sent it through traffic over the shoulder of goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Just a minute and a half later, Chris Clackson took a feed from Justin Milo from behind the net, which he put in from the low slot.
"They had a couple breakdowns that we took advantage of," Wroblewski explained.
South Carolina answered these two quick goals with a challenge to fight. Ryley Grantham threw down the gloves with Stingray Dustin Stevenson, but this failed to change the momentum as the Gladiators scored another goal in the period -- a Milo tip to the far post on a Nikita Kashirsky centering pass from behind the net.
Late in the period, Bryan Brutlag enjoyed a fortuitous bounce off of a South Carolina stick on a centering pass to seal the game at 4-0.
Gladiators goaltender Jeff Jakaitis had to save only 21 shots, but some of them were acrobatic. It was enough for his third shutout of the year, the first at home. The team was without leading scorer Joey Haddad, who was called up to Bridgeport of the AHL on Sunday.
So what did the head coach tell his players to do to keep so sharp over their holiday?
"Nothing," Wroblewski said. "Didn't even address it. These men are professional athletes. It's four days. These guys know what they need to keep themselves in shape. I don't think anyone skated. We came in last night and had a light twirl to get our feet and our hands underneath us. Sometimes that break can be good for you.
"I really liked how we were playing coming into the break, so it wasn't maybe the most advantageous time, but it turned out pretty nice tonight."
The Gladiators play the Stingrays for the sixth time in seven games Wednesday night. They will continue with the same game plan, which includes addressing some of the big bodies that the Stingrays have on defense.