Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Gwinnett Gladiators’ Andy Brandt (41) checks South Carolina Stingrays’ Nate Kiser (5) into the boards during their game on Monday afternoon at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH — The Gwinnett Gladiators are getting pretty good at third-period comebacks.
It’s a big turnaround for a team that was 0-14-0-4 when trailing after 40 minutes just a couple of weeks ago.
The Gladiators rallied in the final period for the fourth straight game and, despite falling 6-5 in a shootout to South Carolina, were upbeat after three third-period goals earned them a point Monday. They are unbeaten in regulation in seven straight games and treated the holiday crowd of 5,540 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center to a wild finish.
What happened: South Carolina (22-16-1-1, 46 points) jumped out to a 2-0 lead by taking advantage of Gwinnett (19-17-2-5, 45 points) mistakes, but the Gladiators managed a massive third-period comeback to force overtime. Down 5-2 with 12 minutes left in regulation, Gwinnett scored three goals and earned a point in a shootout loss.
AHL shuffle: Goaltender Edward Pasquale was recalled to AHL Chicago after Saturday’s game and forward Tim Miller was returned to Gwinnett. Miller, who has 14 goals in his last 19 games with the Gladiators, played two game with the Wolves and picked up an assist. Because of the call-up, his first this season, Miller played four games in as many days with travel to Chicago included in the stretch.
Next up: The Gladiators, after playing the heaviest first-half schedule in the league, gets this week off. League-leading Greenville comes to the Arena at Gwinnett Center on Sunday for a 4:05 p.m. game.
“We’re starting to challenge each other a little more and they’re starting to accept those challenges,” head coach Jeff Pyle said. “There’s a lot of positive things — unbeaten in seven and even with all the lineup changes, guys are battling. I’ve got no gripe.
“We battled two teams tonight — South Carolina and the referees a little bit. So I like the character of the team. I like the way we battle through it.”
Down 5-2 with 12 minutes left in the third, linemates Michael Forney and Pat Galivan breathed new life into the Gladiators with goals at 9:21 and 14:08.
South Carolina left the door open by putting a buzzing Gwinnett on the power play for the last three minutes of the game. The Gladiators walked right through.
Pulling goalie Chris Carrozzi for a two-man advantage with barely a minute on the clock, Tom Zanoski buried the game-tying goal. Zanoski got a feed from Drew Paris in his wheelhouse and hammered it into the back of the net with 55 seconds remaining.
“In the third, no matter what the situation is, we have the confidence right now that we can come back from anything,” Galivan said. “We know we can put the puck in the net.
“We just stuck to the game plan, threw pucks on net and kept our feet moving.”
South Carolina grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first, taking advantage of a defensive breakdown at 8:40 and then a power play at 13:01.
The Gladiators got one back on their own power play, Dan Kissel sliding a quick feed from the post to Andy Brandt in the slot. Brandt whipped the puck past Todd Ford and celebrated with a big fist pump while down on one knee at 16:13.
But the Stingrays restored their two-goal lead on a 5-on-3 power play at 4:08 of the second period.
Gwinnett managed to kill off the rest of the penalties and got a huge goal from big man Paul Flache. With Ford down after a scramble in front of the net, Ian McKenzie corralled the puck behind the net and found Flache at the top of the right circle. The 6-foot-6 defenseman buried a Howitzer of a slap shot — which forward Justin Milo leaped up to clear a path for — past Ford at 8:18 to get the Gladiators within 3-2.
“We didn’t get negative or anything (trailing in the third),” Galivan said. “We just said, ‘Forget about it. We can’t do anything about the score. All we can do is keep working.’”