Already depleted Gladiators loses top-scorer Forney

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

DULUTH — On the heels of a 7-1 beating at the hands of Greenville, the Gwinnett Gladiators are losing their top scorer.

Michael Forney was assigned to AHL Chicago on Wednesday.

Gwinnett is now without nine players due to call-up.

“Usually they go and then come back,” head coach Jeff Pyle said. “But they’re not coming back (this year).”

Under contract to the Atlanta Thrashers, Forney has played five games for Chicago so far this season.

The 22-year-old is second in the ECHL with 38 assists and his 52 points rank seventh overall. Forney was Gwinnett’s All-Star representative this year and spent the majority of his rookie season with the Gladiators in 2009-10.

Pyle said it’s a weekend call-up at this point.

“But until he’s back ...,” Pyle said, letting the sentence hang.

Gwinnett (22-25-2-5) had a chance Tuesday to get back into one of the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff spots, but failed to hold off powerful Greenville after getting a 1-0 lead. It has lost three straight games and is 3-7-0 in the last 10.

“I told the boys we have to play better defensively,” Pyle said. “We had some freakish things going on (against Greenville). It was probably a 4-2 game. It’s not like they totally dominated us. They were definitely the better team, but I still think we’re undisciplined.

“With all these guys gone, we’ve got to be 3-2-ing games. We’ve got to commit to being smarter.”

The Gladiators do remain in striking distance, just one point behind eighth-place Toledo, but have played at least two more games than any of the teams they could catch.

“Not having the guys is one thing, but we have to suck it up and find a way to be more competitive until we do get guys back,” Pyle said. “When we don’t have the horses, we have to be more patient.

“Guys have got to accept roles right now.”

In addition to call-ups, the Gladiators have lost several players to injury over the course of the season. The last of those to return is forward Matt Francis, who just started skating again this week. But getting him back would be a big boost as Gwinnett prepares for the final month of the season.

“If we can tread water for a little while, keep it close, we’ve got all those home games at the end,” Pyle said.