DULUTH -- The Gwinnett Gladiators came out in the black on Friday night, beating the Wheeling Nailers 3-1, just 24 hours after losing to the same team 5-1.
"It was a complete flip-flop of the game," Gladiators head coach John Wroblewski said. "I thought that (Thursday) night Wheeling completely dictated the forecheck and tonight we did. It was an effort where we broke the puck out much more efficiently than last night and conversely, we stalled their breakout. That was the key to the game."
Gwinnett got off to another slow start, with goaltender Billy Sauer giving up a goal on a rebound to the paint 54 seconds into the game.
A hooking call on a faceoff against Wheeling gave the Gladiators a power play -- and it was just the opening they needed. Forward Pat Galivan tipped in a Shane Sims shot from the point to even it up at 7:43.
"(The Nailers) got one out of the gate and I was really happy with how we responded," Wroblewski said. "It was almost as if that didn't even happen. We changed up our strategy a little bit on the power play. We wanted to get five guys hard on the puck -- nothing cute, nothing fancy, just get pucks down to the net, which obviously Shane Sims did."
Gwinnett had three power plays in the second, but did not convert and the game stayed tied 1-1.
Then Colin Vock took matters into his own hands 4:20 into the third period, stealing the puck from two Nailer defensemen in the slot and roofing the puck from a bad angle over netminder Peter Delmas.
After failing to take advantage of a 5-on-3 power play in the third period, Tyler Murovich deflected a Will Colbert shot through traffic with under five minutes to go for the Gladiators' final goal.
The third game of the season was the charm for the Gladiators against the Atlantic division-leading Nailers, where Wroblewski was an assistant last season. It was a chessmatch between two coaches who approach the game similarly, Wroblewski and Stan Drulia, who took the Nailers to the conference finals last season.
"I love the competition," Wroblewski said of playing Wheeling. "It's fun to coach against someone who thinks the game maybe one step ahead of another guy and always fun to square off against a friend, too."
From the other bench, Drulia was impressed by his former assistant's coaching Friday night.
"I told our guys that the team over there respects their coach," Drulia said. "And they're going to respond to him after a not-so-good effort (Thursday). They kept chipping pucks behind our 'D,' making them turn and made it tough on them.
"I know John's got a strategy. He doesn't just throw guys over the boards -- there's a purpose and a method to the madness."
The Gladiators nearly doubled the Nailers' shots 32-17, becoming the first team to outshoot the Nailers this season.
"It's always nice to see a group respond like we did," Wroblewski said. "Right now we're a group who's trying to battle through call-ups, send-downs and a different lineup every night. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy (beating my old team) more. They've got the best of us twice. I was very happy we got some retribution. That's the last time we play them in the regular season, but I've got a feeling if we're going to do anything big this year, we're going to have to go through Wheeling at some point."