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Gladiators edged by Florida in new coach's debut

ESTERO, Fla. -- Leigh Salters said the two things that get players and fans going are hits and checks.

Within about 20 seconds, the Florida Everblades forward provided both and it was the key sequence that highlighted their 3-2 opening-night win over the Gwinnett Gladiators before an announced 5,630 in ECHL action at Germain Arena on Friday night.

Tied 1-1 with six minutes left in the second period, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Salters delivered a solid check to Gwinnett defenseman Paul Flache, himself 6-6 and 225. Salters then got behind the Gladiators' defense, took a great lead pass from Philip-Michael Devos, skated in and lifted a backhand shot past Gwinnett goaltender Marc Cheverie.

Less than a minute later, forward Alex Hutchings took a great pass from Justin Shugg and scored, making it 3-1.

"It was great," Hutchings said of Salters' plays. "He hit a guy, then scored."

While new Gwinnett coach John Wroblewski said, "That guy can play hockey, it was a great move," Everblades coach Greg Poss also was impressed.

"What a nice goal," he said. "He's a big guy with nice hands. He got the pucks out and did a lot of good things. He started as our 10th forward, but we got him on a regular shift. He used his opportunities and made the most of them."

Salters, who picked up 113 penalty minutes in 53 American Hockey League games last year, downplayed his skating ability during the preseason.

In describing his goal, he almost seemed embarrassed.

"I got a great pass from Devos, skated right into it," he said. "I just stepped outside and made a move. That's as dipsy-doo as I'll get.

"Every time you get a goal or have a hit, there's more energy on the bench."

The win went to goaltender Patrick Nagle, who played his first regular-season pro game. He got caught out of the crease on Gwinnett's first goal in the second period but came back in the third to make a great save on a breakaway, then another shot with 1:03 left that would've tied the score.

"I tried to get out and get big and take away his options," said Nagle, who saw the shot glance off his right shoulder.

Poss added, "He came out, challenged the shot and cut the angle down. He left the guy with nothing to shoot. He was good."

Defenseman Chris Murray had Florida's first goal on a power play in the first.

Wroblewski, whose team didn't play an exhibition game, didn't like his team's play.

"We didn't work away from the puck like we should," he said. "It's rough to critique in practices, it's difficult to simulate. But we're not in the business of making mistakes -- or excuses."