Gladiators snap skid on Brookwell blast

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DULUTH -- Cody Brookwell doesn’t get a lot of points.

The big defenseman freely admits he isn’t an offensive juggernaut. Which makes the ones he does get even bigger.

The Gwinnett Gladiators can agree.

Brookwell took the shot that helped the Gladiators snap a two-game skid against Greenville with a 3-2 win at home on Saturday. Gwinnett came from behind against the Road Warriors in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 7,012 and leap-frogged Greenville to get back atop the South Division standings.

Brookwell, who’s lone goal this season is a game-winner, gave the Gladiators their first lead of the game 6:55 into the third period. He teed up a blast from the point that was deflected in the slot. The change of direction, credited to Justin Milo after the game was over, handcuffed towering goaltender Jason Missiaen, who fended off a staggering amount of rubber.

Gwinnett outshot Greenville 38-14 and the finish was a thriller.

The Gladiators managed to keep the Road Warriors from tying the game despite playing the last 21.7 seconds on a 6-on-3 penalty kill. Down two men and with Missiaen pulled, the faithful had to hold their breath as the time ticked slowly away.

In the end, Brookwell's goal held up and Gwinnett picked up two big points despite not getting the kind of start the team thrives on.

The Gladiators' forecheck was absent for the early going -- and Greenville capitalized.

Stretching the defense with a pass by Marc-Olivier Vallerand that crossed the faceoff circles and found Brett Robinson open on the far side. Robinson made no mistake, rifling the puck past goalie Jeff Jakaitis for a 1-0 lead just 2:03 into the game.

Gwinnett picked up the pace from there and gave the big, boisterous crowd plenty of reasons to lean forward. An increasingly unfriendly rivalry continued to develop -- a crowd gathered at nearly every stoppage around the nets -- and both teams put in some hard work to kill off penalties in the middle of the period.

The Gladiators peppered Missiaen, looking every bit of his listed 6-foot-8, down the stretch. But they couldn't get one through and the crowd had to hold onto its stuffed toys -- ready for donation to area children's charities -- through intermission.

They didn't have to wait much longer though.

Andy Brandt tipped a shot by Paul Flache past Missiaen 2:44 into the second period.

Flache pinched in along the right-wing wall to get to a loose puck. The captain lofted a wrister on net and Brandt was in the slot to tip it home. Brandt did a fist-pump and thousands of toys rained down.

All the players pitched in to get the ice cleared off and once play resumed it remained a back-and-forth duel.

Greenville got a scoring parry in with less than five minutes left in the second.

The Road Warriors' power play cashed in after Nikita Kashirsky was called for slashing in the offensive zone 40 seconds earlier. Justin Bowers snapped a low wrister through Jakaitis at 15:39.

The Gladiators, down once again to Greenville, found another answer coming out of the break.

Kashirsky broke through the neutral zone on his horse, pulled up and unleashed a bomb from the top of the circle. He buried it in the back of the net 1:22 into the third and celebrated his first goal since Dec. 2 accordingly.