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Two sides of Murovich endear him to Gladiators fans

Photo: Amanda Hertel   Gwinnett Gladiators' forward Tyler Murovich scores a goal against his former team, the Wheeling Nailers, earlier this season.

Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators' forward Tyler Murovich scores a goal against his former team, the Wheeling Nailers, earlier this season.

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Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators forward Tyler Murovich is mobbed by South Carolina players after goalie Philipp Grubauer (31) makes a save earlier this season at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

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Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators' forward Tyler Murovich gets in the face of Greenville defenseman Francis Meilleur during a game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center earlier this season.

The other Tyler Murovich can get a laugh without saying a word.

On the ice, Murovich is one of the best forecheckers on a tenacious Gwinnett Gladiators team. On the ice, Murovich gets under the opposition's skin with his feisty game.

On the ice, Murovich wants to be disliked.

Off the ice, it's impossible not to like this second-year pro from Pittsburgh.

Off the ice, Murovich is as friendly and funny as they come. Off the ice, no one is more suited to interacting with the fans or filming the short video promos the team features on the jumbo screen during home games.

Both sides of Tyler Murovich are perfect representations of what the Gladiators strive to be as an organization.

"He's got an endearing personality for sure," head coach John Wroblewski said. "You look at him on the ice and he's extremely different from who he is away from the rink. On the ice, he's a fiery competitor.

"Then away from the rink, he's one of the most jovial and well-liked guys on the team. He's very fun to be around and he's got an infectious personality."

During breaks in the action at home games, the team runs promotional and informational messages produced in-house. Murovich is featured prominently in many of them. He's a natural in front of the camera, letting his personality shine through and smoothly running through the lines.

"Honestly, the guys are always good about doing those, but Tyler is one of the only guys so far that comes to me with ideas," said media relations assistant David Foley, who produces and tapes the spots.

Foley said Murovich and goalie Jeff Jakaitis came up with one of the best promos this season. Einstein HR is the payroll provider for the team. Murovich and Jakaitis thought Einstein -- or at least Jakaitis playing the physicist -- should be in the spot.

"I got a white wig for Jakaitis and we did it in one take," Foley said.

These kind of things are part of being a pro athlete, especially in the minors where teams really emphasize their connection to the fanbase.

"I just enjoy doing it," Murovich said. "I have fun -- and I play best when I'm having fun.

"Obviously we do it as a job, but they say living the dream for a reason. It's really fun playing here. We all want to work our way up, but we're just enjoying every day here."

It's more than in-game videos. It's also post-game get-togethers at area restaurants, appearances at schools and other community events throughout the season.

"In terms of eagerness, he's just a naturally funny guy," Foley said. "He's a nice kid, which says a lot because we have a lot of nice guys on the team.

"But it's interesting because on the ice, he's quite the trash-talker. And a flat-out pest."

It isn't that Murovich instigates a lot of verbal repartee. His play sparks the ire of opponents on its own.

"He's not out there looking for it," a grinning Wroblewski said. "There are certain guys that are always jabbing. But with him, that more or less evolves because of his play. Once that confrontation occurs, then he's pretty relentless in terms of going after guys.

"He's not afraid to throw his two cents in there."

Murovich has scored some key goals in recent weeks and helped ignite a languishing power play in a crucial clash with then-conference leader Elmira last Thursday. Murovich assisted on three goals, all with the man advantage, and Gwinnett earned two big points.

"I'm lucky enough to have great chemistry with guys like Justin Milo," Murovich said. "We were working the one side really well. It helped playing with him because he was making some really slick passes."

Before last week, Wroblewski hadn't been using Murovich on the power play, a unit that ranked last in the ECHL.

"We addressed a couple things and a lot of it was puck recollection," Wroblewski said.

Murovich, a fitness fanatic, has the kind of motor that makes getting to loose pucks -- or stealing them -- one of his best attributes.

"I've always taken pride in being a hard-working player," said Murovich, who played three seasons with Saginaw of the OHL before turning pro last year. "I try to be the hardest working guy on the ice and just kind of be a pest out there. I try to bring the energy that hopefully the team will feed off of. That's something I've always had in my game."

Even when Murovich wasn't putting up a lot of points, his play was significant in the Gladiators' rise to the top of the East.

"He had a slow start production-wide for us," Wroblewski said. "There were some issues that he had in the defensive zone with some different reads. But he's taken to the video and he's made the proper adjustments.

"He's kind of one of the guys you would use for a posterchild for quality defense leads to offense."

Wroblewski saw the potential in Murovich's game last season as the assistant coach in Wheeling.Murovich started his rookie season under contract with Springfield of the AHL. But Springfield had a glut of centers and more veteran players.

"I wasn't really given much of a chance," Murovich said. "When I moved on to Reading, I had a good chance to get my game back and play in this league."

Wheeling only played one game against Reading with Murovich in the lineup. But when the Nailers were in need of a player, Murovich was the one Wheeling's AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opted to acquire.

"Wilkes-Barre purchased his contract from Springfield the same day we were playing Reading," Wroblewski said. "So he did the morning skate with Reading, Wilkes-Barre purchased his contract and he suited up for us that night."

Murovich was an important cog for the Nailers down the stretch and well into their conference finals run.

"The first thing you notice about him is his work ethic," Wroblewski said. "That wasn't hard to miss. We were at a time in Wheeling where we were desperate for bodies and our affiliate went to bat for us and got us a quality player."

When Wroblewski was applying for head coaching jobs in the ECHL this summer, he made sure to get in touch with Murovich.

"He was a 21-year-old rookie last year and played on four different teams -- two in the American League and two in the ECHL," Wroblewski said. "I contacted Tyler and said if an American League deal doesn't come your way, I'd love to have you.

"One of my big things for him was to get on a team and be on a team for a year, get a season under your belt and be able to work on your game instead of yo-yoing all over the country."

Murovich has 27 points in 44 games and Wroblewski just sees him getting better and better.

"As the season goes on, as other guys might be losing a little bit of pace, he's getting stronger because of his dedication to fitness," Wroblewski said. "He's got a motor and he's relentless.

"If you ever watch him work out, you see his dedication to fitness and it is second to none. He is in as good a shape as any athlete that plays the sport. That is one of the things that carries over to his game. He takes a tremendous amount of pride in keeping himself in that elite shape and it definitely allows him to play that style."

Murovich has a hard time even taking a couple weeks off at the end of each season.

"It never lasts two weeks," he said with a grin. "I'm always back in the gym."

Then he spends the rest of the summer weight training and skating at the rink his family owns in Pittsburgh. During the season, Murovich is usually the last guy to leave the arena after practice and maintains a strict diet.

It's the only way for him to be such a tenacious player, constantly wreaking havoc on the forecheck and rolling at full speed for a full shift, every shift.

"He's a pretty laid-back guy off the ice," forward Pat Galivan said. "He definitely puts his work in though. He's usually the last guy to leave.

"On the ice, he brings that energy that our team is built off. He's a spark-plug out there. The team feeds off his energy. When he's going, our team is usually going pretty good. He definitely plays an in-your-face style."