Photo: Amanda Hertel Cody Brookwell and the Gwinnett Gladiators defeat the Elmira Jackals 4-1 on Saturday at the Arena at the Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH -- The Gwinnett Gladiators used a fearsome forecheck to earn a dominating 4-1 win over Elmira and wrest first place in the East from the Jackals' clutches Saturday.
The Gladiators stymied Elmira's breakout all night for their second straight victory over the former conference leaders.
Gwinnett does, though, remain tied with Greenville for the top spot in the South Division and Eastern Conference.
Greenville beat Florida to keep pace and the Gladiators don't have much time to savor the win. Gwinnett (22-12-7-3, 54 points), in the midst of an eight-game home stand, plays again at 4:05 p.m. today against another Atlantic Division opponent when Trenton comes to town.
"Things carried over from Thursday night, we were short with eight forwards and we played a solid game," said forward Pat Galivan, who scored the first goal and played a tremendous all-around game Saturday. "We got a couple guys back up front tonight so we had a bit more energy.
"The effort and the confidence carried over and I think we kind of nullified all their strengths."
Controlling the puck and haranguing the Jackals up and down the ice, Gwinnett limited Elmira (26-14-1-0, 53 points) to just 17 shots. The Gladiators led the whole way and got a big power-play goal to shut the door on a potential comeback early in the second period.
"We do match up well against them," Galivan said. "We're a hard-working, gritty team and they're a bit more of a wide-open skill team.
"It feels good to get back on track. We had a loss and an overtime loss (in Greenville last weekend). We did a good job responding, but the weekend's definitely not over yet. We've got a big game tomorrow. Every game is big at this point in the year."
The Gladiators picked a pair of corners 1:12 apart to take a 2-0 lead halfway through the first period.
Getting a feed from defenseman Dallas Jackson near the Elmira blue line, Nikita Kashirsky wired a shot from the outside edge of the left-wing faceoff circle. Galivan tipped it into the far top corner, foiling goalie Timo Pielmeier at 8:13 for his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Paul Flache doubled Gwinnett's lead at 9:25, unloading a one-timer from just inside the blue line. Flache got a perfect pass from Bryan Brutlag and tucked the low, hard shot just inside the near post. Brutlag finished with three assists in the game.
"(Those quick goals) boosted our confidence even more," Galivan said. "Flache has got probably the hardest shot on the team and both goals were because guys were going to the net.
"Coach (John Wroblewski) preaches that all year. If you get pucks to the net, good things will happen."
Elmira climbed back within one on a power-play goal -- Josh Brittian shoveled his own second rebound from the slot at 11:17 -- but the Gladiators answered on their own man advantage.
Starting the second period with two full minutes on the power play, Gwinnett needed just 42 seconds to convert.
Cycling well, Justin Milo was on the wall and sent a centering feed to Tyler Murovich, waiting in the slot. Murovich ripped the shot under Pielmeier's arm for a 3-1 lead, which lasted until Milo salted away the win with an empty-netter at 18:56 of the third.
"The power play was one of the biggest keys to the weekend," Galivan said. "That unit got us back on track with a couple goals Thursday night and then tonight they kind of put the icing on the cake for us."