Gladiators re-sign versatile veteran forward Brandt

DULUTH -- The Gwinnett Gladiators' roster got a big dose of leadership with the re-signing of forward Andy Brandt on Wednesday.

Brandt has spent the better part of three seasons with the Gladiators and is entering his fifth year as a pro.

The 27-year-old, who got married last month, said he was excited about coming back to Gwinnett.

Although the majority of Brandt's contract negotiation was done with former coach Jeff Pyle, now with AHL Texas, he's spoken many times to the team's new head coach, John Wroblewski.

"I'm like everybody else, I couldn't be happier for Jeff," Brandt said from his home in Wausau, Wis. "Part of the reason Gwinnett has such a strong base in Duluth is because of Jeff. He was involved in the community and people wanted to come out and watch the team. First and foremost, I had a huge grin on my face. He's deserved this all along.At the same time, it's tough to see a coach go that you played for for three years. He gave me my start. It's sad to see him go, but I'm excited for him and for John to get his opportunity."

Brandt said Wroblewski called him the day after he was hired by Gladiators' president Steve Chapman.

"We started talking and he set his plan in motion," Brandt said.

Wroblewski favors a hard-pressing style of play that forces and capitalizes on turnovers -- which suits Brandt's game.

"My interactions with Brando over the summer have been extremely fruitful," said fellow Wisconsin native Wroblewski. "I'm definitely going to rely on him to be a leader for this club."

Wroblewski saw Brandt play a number of times last season as an assistant coach in Wheeling and also has watched a lot of video of him while scouting other teams in the league.

"The biggest thing that stands out in his play on the ice is he has a constant motor and is extremely versatile," Wroblewski said.

Brandt had 40 points in 69 games for the Gladiators last season. He also had two assists in five games with AHL Manitoba.

He spent 2009-10 with Victoria and put up 28 points in 64 games. It was the only season he hasn't played for Gwinnett, the team which signed him up out of the University of Wisconsin in the spring of 2007. The extremely durable forward appeared in all 72 games for the Gladiators in 2007-08 and 2008-09. He had a career-high 44 points as a rookie.

"Seeing Gwinnett's games (on video), Brando always seemed to impact the game with his work ethic," Wroblewski said.

Brandt didn't know Wroblewski personally, but the hockey world is a small one and there's often lots of overlap.

"The funny thing is he's from Neenah and I have a brother who is the same age," Brandt said. "He remembers playing with him through central district tryouts. So I talked to my brother quite a bit.

"I also talked to Ben Street, who I played with in college (at Wisconsin). He played half the year in Wheeling last season before getting called up to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and he had nothing but good things to say."

Brandt has spent the offseason at home for the first time in three years and has been working out the whole summer, including a week in Madison with Badgers and former Badgers. He did take a week-long break for a honeymoon in Costa Rica last month, but other than that, has been focused on training. Now he and his wife, Ashley, are packing up their stuff and getting ready for the move down to Gwinnett for the season.

Training camp opens Sept. 30 and the first on-ice workout will be Oct. 1. The season starts on the road Oct. 14 at Florida and the home opener is Oct. 21 against Greenville at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Single game tickets for the Gladiators' ninth campaign go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday.