Gwinnett Gladiators Bryan Brutlag (8), Stephen Mallaro, and Nikita Kashirsky (17) celebrate a goal against goalie Dave Caruso in Gwinnett's 5-4 victory over the Trenton Titans on Sunday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
DULUTH — For the first time in franchise history, the Gwinnett Gladiators won in regulation when trailing by three goals.
Big defenseman Corey Fienhage unloaded a bomb from the point with 4:20 left in regulation to defeat the Trenton Titans 5-4 on Sunday before an enthusiastic crowd of 4,869 in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Fienhage got a feed from Tyler Murovich, who fought for the puck in the faceoff circle, and beat a screened Dave Caruso. Pat Galivan was right on top of the Trenton goalie, making it impossible for him to see Fienhage's rocket.
“The weekend was a tremendous success,” head coach John Wroblewski said. “We were put to the test in a multitude of ways. Trenton is a dangerous team. They put up a tremendous game against Greenville (Saturday) night as well. A great effort. They didn't come out on top, but they gave them a serious game.
“For us to come back against a team like that, that's a confidence booster. Not every game is going to go exactly how you plan. We have to be prepared to win games in different avenues and we displayed that as well.”
The comeback was the second of the weekend against Trenton and third straight win for Gwinnett, which had lost three straight before beating the Titans 8-6 on Friday. The Gladiators (33-17-7-4, 77 points) leapfrogged idle Greenville for first place in the conference and division with the win.
“It's unbelievable. It's a great way to finish the weekend,” said Nikita Kashirsky, who scored two goals. “We battled really hard after last weekend's poor performance in South Carolina. Scoring so many goals and coming from behind, it's a character builder.”
Down 4-1 just 3:30 into the second period, Gwinnett began its rally with defenseman Stephen Mallaro's first goal as a Gladiator. Mallaro teed up a blast from the point that beat a screened Caruso at 5:19. The rookie who played 22 games with Trenton (19-32-3-5, 46 points) earlier this season provided a quick answer that sparked a big comeback.
Bryan Brutlag cut it to 4-3 at 6:55 when he jumped around from behind the net to sweep a rebound into the yawning far side of the net.
Kashirsky, who opened the scoring just 36 seconds into the game, tied the game with his second goal of the night. Cycling on the power play, Kashirsky was just inside the blue line and got a feed from Jonathan Parker. Kashirsky wired a shot from straight on that bulged the back of the net at 19:08 and dropped down to one knee and gave an emphatic fist pump in celebration.
Parker, a rookie sent down from AHL Rochester by the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 15, assisted on all three goals to leave the game deadlocked 4-4 with 20 minutes to play.
“We just gave them opportunities and they capitalized,” Kashirsky said. “We knew that if we don't give them anything, we don't make mistakes, put the pucks in the right spot and go forecheck, we're going to end up getting the win. If we play smart and hard, I think we're the best team in the league for sure.”