Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators' Pat Galivan crashes the net as a puck shot by Aaron Bendickson sneaks by Florida netminder Pat Nagle on Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH -- After going to overtime against the same team Friday, the Gwinnett Gladiators made quick work of the Florida Everblades on Saturday, winning by a final score of 6-2 in front of 5,037 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The difference? Adjusted defensive zone coverage by the Gladiators.
"There was an excellent response from that end I thought," head coach John Wroblewski said. "That took care of a lot of things for us. And obviously getting off to a good start there with some timely goals right out of the gate was very important."
Captain Paul Flache got credit for the first goal at 7:00 in the first period on a shot from the defensive line, but the puck met interference in front of goaltender Pat Nagle, either by Tyler Murovich or a Florida defenseman.
The second Gladiators goal was scored by Dallas Jackson on the power play, but looked very similar, a blue line shot through traffic that went in five-hole.
The game seemed to be put away as the Gladiators scored their third goal, with Murovich crashing the crease and getting a fortuitous bounce off a defenseman's skate to get the puck past Nagle.
But the Everblades came right back, with Matt Marquardt scoring a wrister over the near-side shoulder of Marc Cheverie on just their fifth shot of the game.
In the second period, the Gladiators were outshot, but maintained their two-goal lead, trading goals with the Everblades. With a power-play expiring, Aaron Bendickson put in a rebound off the back boards from a close angle. Then the Everblades cashed in a rush, with Mathieu Roy scoring on a rebound to the slot.
Bendickson earned third-star honors for the goal, given that he hasn't played pro hockey all season. He played 30 games for the Gladiators last season, but now lives locally and plays in a men's league.
"When we're short a guy and he can play for us, he's got an open invite," Wroblewski said. "He's a solid player for a guy who doesn't practice with the team and plays men's league just to stay in shape. It's pretty amazing how he can step in and not only not look out of place but contribute and provide momentum. He took a heck of a check in the second period and that was something he didn't have to do. It speaks volumes about his character."
The deshirted boys in the stands spoke volumes about him as well -- players on a youth team he helps with at The Cooler in Alpharetta.
The third period featured a fifth goal for the Gladiators on the power play. Shane Sims took a hard slapshot from the point, which found the back of the goal, with a little help from a Florida redirection.
The Gladiators sealed the win with an empty net goal with 1:05 remaining. Pat Galivan had the honors.
Cheverie stopped 30 of 32 shots, helping his case as a rival to teammate Jeff Jakaitis, December's ECHL goalie of the month.
Wroblewski said that having depth in case of call-ups is of course important, but, "I like having two competitive guys because they make each other better. Depth makes for internal competition, which in turn helps the team."
The Gladiators move on to a four-game home-and-home series against the Greenville Road Warriors.