Gladiators' Pierro-Zabotel scores two goals on birthday

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Casey Pierro-Zabotel's 24th birthday didn't get off to a promising start Thursday night at the Amway Center.

The fourth-year pro took a vicious hit from behind into the boards from Orlando's Mike Liambas late in the first period with Gwinnett leading 2-1, and was slow to get up. Things improved in a hurry though for Pierro-Zabotel, as he buried the first of two goals on the ensuing shift and the Gladiators (9-3-1-0) held on for a 4-3 win to push their winning streak to six games.

Coyotes goalie prospect Mike Lee won his fourth straight start, making 33 saves while John Curry took his second loss in as many nights for the Solar Bears (5-4-2-1). The Gladiators now lead the ECHL with 19 points.

Pierro-Zabotel's first tally of the night came on a shot snapped through traffic past a stunned Curry at 14:25 on the power play to extend Gwinnett's lead to 3-1. Doug Jones had the lone helper, and the score stayed at 3-1 through 20 minutes.

Orlando cut the lead in half early in the second thanks to Ryan Ginand, but Pierro-Zabotel pushed the lead back to two at 8:14. The Ashcraft, British Columbia, native stepped out from behind the far side of the net and tucked the pack through Curry on a wraparound for his second goal of the night. Galiardi's second assist set the play up, and the Gladiators led 4-2 through two periods.

Orlando captain Ryan Cruthers cut the Orlando deficit to one once again 17:48 into the third, but the Gladiators held on despite a late surge by the Solar Bears for the win.

Gwinnett jumped all over Orlando to start the first. Coyotes prospect Evan Bloodoff opened the scoring 5:53 in, taking an outlet feed down the right wing, racing around the Orlando defense, and tucking the puck in the five-hole on John Curry. The tally extended Bloodoff's point streak to six games, with Tyler Murovich tacking on an assist.

Gwinnett made it 2-0 just 35 seconds later, as a long rebound made its way to Coyotes defense prospect Justin Weller at the far dot. The rookie promptly slapped it in for his first pro goal and first pro point with assists going to Dallas Jackson and Galiardi.

Orlando responded 26 seconds later with a shorthanded goal from Ginand, but Gwinnett regained the two-goal edge before the end of the period with Pierro-Zabotel's first of the evening.

The Gladiators are next in action Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. EST, as they face the defending Kelly Cup Champion Florida Everblades for the first time this season.