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Rookies lead Gladiators to second straight 1-0 victory over Orlando

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Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators' Tyler Murovich, Tony Lucia, and Ryan Donald celebrate Alex Belzile's (22) first professional goal in Gwinnett's 1-0 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears on Friday night.

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Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett's John Scrymgeour collides with Orlando's Derick Martin during the Gladiators' 1-0 victory over the Solar Bears on Friday night.

DULUTH -- When veteran forward Joey Haddad had to go on the injured list last week with a bad back, Gwinnett needed a replacement.

Alex Belzile was the player the Gladiators called on and the signing of the 21-year-old rookie from Quebec paid off in a big way Friday night.

Belzile's first professional goal gave Gwinnett a second straight 1-0 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears in the Arena at Gwinnett Center as goaltender Louis Domingue matched Mike Lee's shutout of the previous night.

"It was really nice to see him score that goal," coach John Wroblewski said of his newest player, who was moved up to the top line for his third game.

The first-place Gladiators (14-4-0-1 for 29 points) scored 5:31 into their victory on Thanksgiving, but this time they had to wait until past the midway mark of the third period to break through before a crowd of 5,013.

Belzile split two defenders on a power-play rush and his initial shot hit off an Orlando defender and right back to him.

Belzile didn't miss his second chance, flipping the puck into the near side of the net with 8:35 to play before goaltender Darcy Kuemper could get back in position. Tyler Murovich and Ryan Donald got the assists.

Domingue made 22 saves to match Lee's total as Gwinnett won 1-0 for just the fifth time in its 10-year history.

It was Domingue's first professional shutout, so there was plenty to celebrate all around for the Gladiators, who have won 14 of their past 16 games.

Domingue has played little this season because of a groin injury. Belzile got his chance because of Haddad's bad luck.

"(Belzile) was on Phoenix's radar all summer," Wroblewski said. "He was in their development camp."

But the Coyotes didn't come to contract terms with Belzile and he was with Wheeling in the ECHL before being released. The Gladiators had room under the salary cap and grabbed him to replace Haddad.

"We had really good reports about his skill level and ability to create," Wroblewski said.

Belzile played three years for Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and 92 points in 63 games last season.

It looked like Gwinnett, which has played in nine straight one-goal games, might be able to give Domingue a little cushion. But Tony Lucia's apparent goal on a breakaway with 1:33 left was wiped off by referee Jason Rollins because of the net was off its moorings.

"I was in complete agreement with the call," Wroblewski said. "There wasn't any controversy."

Orlando pulled Kuemper for an extra skater in the final minute, but Domingue preserved the victory and shutout.

"He was extremely solid," Wroblewski said of his goalie. "He was there when he needed to be."

Domingue, 20, got the start in the Gladiators' opener at South Gwinnett on Oct. 13, but he strained a groin muscle in the 4-3 loss and was sidelined for nearly a month.

The fifth-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2010 NHL draft returned Nov. 10 and won 7-6 in a wide-open game at Florida. His only other game had been a 2-1 victory at South Carolina last Sunday.

Domingue, 20, played four seasons in the QMJHL and led the league with a .914 save percentage last season while going 23-8-4 for the Quebec Remparts, who are coached by Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy.

Kuemper, who had 36 saves, was making his first appearance for Orlando after being sent down by the Minnesota Wild from Houston (AHL) to get more work. The sixth-round pick in the 2009 NHL draft was 3-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .914 save percentage for the Aeros.

Gwinnett outshot Orlando 11-6 in the first period, with Domingue not getting much action until a late power play by the Solar Bears. The four penalties in the period matched the total for the entire game on Thursday and each team had two power plays after getting only one in the previous game.

Kuemper made 17 saves in the second period, while Domingue faced just five shots. Orlando's Brett Lyon drew a five-minute boarding penalty and the Gladiators got three minutes on the power play after that was followed by a roughing calling on Maxime Villemarie. But Kuemper kept the game scoreless.

Gwinnett's winning goal in the third period came after a hooking call on Ryan Cruthers.

The Gladiators are now off until Wednesday, when they begin a two-game home set with Fort Wayne. The teams will also play next Friday.

Orlando (8-8-2-1, 19 points) has already seen enough of the South Division rival Gladiators and it isn't even December. Gwinnett has beaten the Solar Bears five times, the last four by one goal.