ESTERO, Fla. -- The Gwinnett Gladiators scored four goals in a physical third period and knocked off division foe Florida 6-3 on Wednesday night at Germain Arena.
Gwinnett (10-6-3-2), which remains in Florida for two more games this week, moved into a tie with South Carolina atop the South Division and the Eastern Conference.
The Gladiators broke a 2-2 tie early in the third, as rookie defenseman Shane Sims blasted a slapper from the near point off a Florida defenseman and past goalie Pat Nagle at 3:23. Sims' third of the season on the power play was assisted by Nikita Kashirsky and Justin Milo.
Kashirsky then found the back of the net for what proved to be the game-winner, snapping an Andy Brandt centering feed through the five-hole of Nagle at 6:27 for a 4-2 Gwinnett lead.
Brandt added an unassisted empty-netter at 16:54, but Florida's Rylan Galiardi notched a power play goal at 19:00 to make it 5-3. Bryan Brutlag finally capped the scoring at 19:32 with another empty-netter.
Kashirsky, Brandt and Sims all had a goal and an assist each.
Aside from the five combined goals, the final was also marked by rough play between the two sides that peaked with game misconducts to Gwinnett's Joey Haddad (elbowing) and Chris Clackson (instigating a fight). In total, there were 68 penalty minutes assessed to both teams in the third period alone.
The lone goal of the first period came off the stick of Haddad. His seeing-eye wrister snuck through traffic and beat Nagle from the near side at the 14:08 mark of the first. Pat Galivan and Will Colbert had the assists on Haddad's ninth of the season.
Florida (9-9-1-1) drew even thanks to a blistering slapper from forward Mike McKenzie at 3:30, but the Gladiators answered at 6:40. Dallas Jackson sprung Colin Vock down the middle into the Blades zone, and the forward lifted a backhand shot top-shelf on Nagle to put Gwinnett back up 2-1. Sims had the other assist on Vock's second goal.
Florida tied the game late in the second. On a Colbert double minor for high sticking, David Rutherford beat recently reassigned goalie Marc Cheverie from the slot at 18:25 to make it 2-2.
But Cheverie and the Gladiators prevailed in the third. Cheverie, who came back from AHL Portland on Saturday, made 28 saves en route to his third win of the season.