DULUTH — Machinations by affiliates in Atlanta and Chicago left the Gwinnett Gladiators short-handed, particularly between the pipes.
In order to fill those gaps, head coach Jeff Pyle had to trade his captain.
Pyle sent all-star defenseman Sam Roberts to the Reading Royals in exchange for three players. He got forward Devin Timberlake, defenseman Dallas Jackson and goaltender Bobby Jarosz.
The Gladiators, who are riding a four-game winning streak, were in Reading Sunday and Pyle discussed the trade in person.
“I said if he’d throw the goalie in, it was a deal,” Pyle said. “It’s three for one. We get depth and we get three young kids that will play hard.
“It’s nothing against Sam. He’s a great guy and I’ve got no gripe with the way he played. But we didn’t have any depth and we needed a goalie. To get quality, you have to give up quality.”
Before the NHL trade deadline expired, Atlanta dealt goalie Drew MacIntyre to Montreal. With Ondrej Pavelec still recovering from injury, the Thrashers called up Peter Mannino from AHL Chicago, leaving the Wolves short in net.
Chicago already had brought up Chris Carrozzi from the Gladiators two days before the deadline and Wednesday took Edward Pasquale.
Either Carrozzi or Pasquale is expected back in Gwinnett before the team plays again Saturday, but that still leaves the Gladiators without a backup goalie.
Pyle was forced to trade away Billy Sauer two weeks ago when Pasquale was assigned to the team and Carrozzi was also here.
So Jarosz, a first-year pro out of Michigan State, was the linchpin of the deal.
The 23-year-old Illinois native played in just one game for the Royals after he was acquired in a trade with the South Carolina Stingrays on Feb. 19. He stopped 32 of 35 shots for Reading in a win against Trenton on Feb. 23.
Jarosz also spent time with AHL Hershey and the Arizona Sundogs of the CHL this season.
“I’m not going with an emergency backup anymore,” Pyle said.
All three players are flying in tonight and will be ready for practice Friday.
Gwinnett is battling for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and has just 14 games left with very little margin for error. The Gladiators are seventh in the standings with the top eight qualifying, but just two points ahead of two teams tied for the final spot.
“Guys are playing hard,” Pyle said. “We still need a little more commitment from some guys for us to really go on a run and make this interesting.
“But we’re playing better defensively and we just won four tough road games.”
Pyle said the new editions will get a chance to play more.
Timberlake, a 6-foot-2 winger, is in his first pro season after a four-year career at Brown University. He was a team captain his final two seasons and accumulated 61 points in 110 total games for the Ivy League Bears.
The 25-year-old has seven goals and seven assists in 35 games with the conference-leading Royals.
“He’s a solid two-way forward that played a little in the ‘A’ at the end of last season and a few games this season,” Pyle said. “He’s gotten a couple goals up there, but hasn’t gotten the ice time in Reading.”
Jackson is also a rookie, but matriculated from major junior hockey in the WHL.
He had two goals and seven assists in 30 games with Reading this season. Jackson, 21, spent his last five seasons in the WHL where he amassed 30 goals, 70 assists and 173 penalty minutes in 174 games.
“He’s also a solid two-way player, a good defenseman with decent size,” Pyle said. “And he’s fired up to come here.”