Gladiators' late surge falls short against Komets

DULUTH -- Fort Wayne has the distinction of being the first team to beat the Gwinnett Gladiators twice in regulation this season.

The Gladiators had a three-game winning streak end with a 4-3 loss to the Komets on Wednesday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. It was just the second time the Gladiators lost in the last month.

League-leading Gwinnett (14-5-1) had won 11 of its last 12 games -- a run that started after a 1-0 loss in Fort Wayne on Oct. 27.

"There were some things we executed on that we have to be happy about," Gladiators head coach John Wroblewski said. "But we were either a foot away from being in front of (goalie Ken) Reiter or a foot away from having the comfortable tap-in or it was something maybe we lacked doing earlier in the week as a practice.

"So we have to evaluate where we lacked those inches and those feet earlier on this week."

Reiter, who won a NCAA national championship with Minnesota-Duluth in 2011, made 44 saves in the win and got some help from the posts. Defenseman Dallas Jackson alone drilled the iron twice while sending booming shots from the points on the power play.

Fort Wayne, which plays here again on Friday night, had just 15 shots on goal in the win.

"(Reiter) played a very strong game, but also, he can be beaten and we proved that," Wroblewski said. "We just need to do it on a more consistent basis. On Friday night we have to come out with the hunger that we displayed at times in the third. That was our downfall: Not displaying that effort soon enough."

The Gladiators had chances to take the lead in the first period, including a penalty shot for Tyler Murovich less than five minutes into the game and a late power play. But they were stonewalled by Reiter and Fort Wayne needed just 17 seconds to convert on its first power play to carry a 1-0 lead into intermission.

A big shot from outside bounced off the end boards and right to an unguarded Josh Brittain on the doorstep. Brittain deftly went forehand to backhand and roofed the steeply angled under the crossbar at 10:10 of the first period.

Gwinnett got even on equally impressive snipe by Doug Jones. The Marietta native came out of the corner and found the small space between the crossbar and the goaltender's head. Jones elevated the point-blank shot nearly straight up and tied it 1-1 at 9:28 of the second period.

But the Komets had an immediate answer. And then another a couple of minutes later.

Jean-Michael Rizk scored at 10:24 and Thomas Beauregard doubled the lead at 11:59.

Tyler Butler pushed Fort Wayne's lead to 4-1 with a shot from the blue line that beat a heavily screened Mike Lee at 5:54 of the third.

"It was a pretty even game in the first," Wroblewski said. "Both teams were challenged to play in all three zones. As the second period progressed, it was much more jumbly. Bounces came into play a little bit too often. There was a little bit more luck involved.

"But at the end of the day, you really have to credit Fort Wayne for creating their luck. They put good pressure on us. Most nights when you get out to a 4-1 lead, that's going to be enough for you to win."

The Gladiators made a late charge, but it wasn't quite enough.

Casey Pierro-Zabotel slung in a backhander from the slot with just under five minutes left in regulation cut the lead to 4-2.

Then Jones scored his second of the game, jamming the puck under Reiter at 17:33.

Gwinnett had several chances in the dying seconds and just couldn't push another one through. Reiter slammed his stick against the post, snapping it in half, after the final horn. The rookie netminder then flung the remaining half across his crease.