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Gladiators top Elmira to move into first place

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Photo: Amanda Hertel Gladiators Tyler Murovich, Chris Clackson defeat netminder Mike Brodeur and the Orlando Solar Bears on Thursday night.

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Photo: Amanda Hertel Gladiators' Evan Bloodoff gets the assist on the Gladiators' final goal in the 4-1 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears on Thursday night at the Arena at Gwinnett.

DULUTH -- Casey Pierro-Zabotel is known for being a playmaker, his 11 assists ranking second in the ECHL. But the native of British Columbia can also put the puck in the net when needed.

Pierro-Zabotel had two goals and Mike Lee made 18 saves as the Gwinnett Gladiators defeated Elmira 3-1 Saturday night before a crowd of 5,095 in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

After starting the season 0-2-1, the Gladiators are now 6-3-1 thanks to three straight victories and top the ECHL's South Division. Elmira, the Atlantic Division leader, fell to 6-2-0.

Pierro-Zabotel, who came into the game with two goals, gave Gwinnett the lead with 5:04 left in the first period. Evan Bloodoff skated in from the right side along the end boards and slipped a past to Pierro-Zabotel in front of the net. Doug Jones also got an assist on the goal.

Then Pierro-Zabotel made it 2-0 with 8:23 gone in the second period on a tip after a shot from the point by Sean Duddy was also touched by Rylan Galiardi.

Gwinnett increased its lead to three goals when Tony Lucia scored with 3:56 to go in the second period. Galiardi's wide shot went off the end boards to Lucia and he flipped the puck past Elmira goalie Maxime Clermont for his second goal of the season.

Lee lost his bid for a second shutout this season with 6:58 left when Jack Downing knocked in a rebound after a shot by Brandon Blandina. It was Downing's first goal of the season.

Pierro-Zabotel, who turns 24 on Thursday, played two years with Wheeling -- the last when Gwinnett coach John Wroblewski was there -- before spending last season with Bakersfield. He had eight goals and 27 assists with the Condors and came into this season with 76 assists to 34 goals in 162 ECHL games.

This season Pierro-Zabotel leads the Gladiators with 15 points -- three more than linemate Jones.

Jones, who was named the ECHL rookie of the month for October, leads the Gladiators with six goals.

Pierro-Zabotel and Jones, a native of Marietta, were already a productive combination, but the Gladiators' top line became even more potent when Bloodoff was sent down from Portland of the AHL.

Bloodoff has three goals and four assists in six games with the Gladiators.

The Gladiators finish a stretch of three home games in four days with a 4:05 p.m. match today against South Carolina. The Stingrays edged Gwinnett 4-3 at home in the season opener for both teams Oct. 13.

After today's game, the Gladiators head to Florida for four games next week, facing Orlando and Florida two times each.

Orlando fell to Gwinnett 4-1 on Thursday and is one point behind Gwinnett in the South Division after a 3-0 loss to South Carolina on Saturday night.

Gwinnett had 28 shots against Elmira, with Pierro-Zabotel credited with five of them. Jones had three shots and was a plus-3 for the game.

There were only six penalties called in the game. The Gladiators were 0-for-3 on the power play and Elmira was 0-for-1.