GREENVILLE, S.C. — Down 3-0 and at risk of dropping their fourth straight game, the Gwinnett Gladiators responded in a big way Sunday afternoon in Greenville. Gwinnett rallied for four unanswered goals in the final two periods, stunning the Road Warriors 4-3 for their first win of the season.
Just 35 seconds after Casey Pierro-Zabotel tied the game at 3-3, forward Chris Clackson capitalized on a defensive zone turnover by Greenville (2-3-0-0) in the third. The Pittsburgh native won a battle for the puck at the bottom of the far faceoff circle, and put a shot in off stunned goaltender Adam Courchaine to push Gwinnett (1-2-1-0) ahead for good at 16:42.
Coyotes goalie prospect Mike Lee slammed the door shut from the there on out, making 33 saves for his first pro win. Pierro-Zabotel also extended his point streak to four games, scoring twice to fuel Gwinnett’s comeback.
The Road Warriors jumped on Gwinnett in the opening period. Greenville forward Brandon Wong put a backhander high over the glove of Lee at 9:44, and Marc-Olivier Vallerand deposited a wrist shot past the Gladiators goaltender on the power play from the far circle at 15:02 to cap the scoring in the period. Greenville pelted Lee with 17 shots to just eight for Gwinnett in the first.
The period was accentuated by a fierce fight between Clackson and 6-foot-6, 210-pound Greenville defenseman Steve Delisle, with the 6-foot, 205-pound Clackson landing several devastating rights to get the better of the bout.
The Gladiators' struggles continued however as they fell behind by three in the second period. Greenville rookie Shayne Wiebe scored his second goal in as many days against Gwinnett on the man advantage to make it 3-0, but the Gladiators responded later in the middle period to turn the tide.
Joey Haddad buried his first goal of the season, hammering home a rebound generated off some brilliant maneuvering and a well-placed shot by forward Doug Jones. That made it a 3-1 game at the 13:45 mark, and the Gladiators weren’t finished. Pierro-Zabotel snapped in a second chance off the pads of Courchaine with Haddad and Jones assisting to cap the second period.
Gwinnett completed the comeback late in the third. Pierro-Zabotel potted his second goal of the game off yet another rebound opportunity from close in for an unassisted tally at 16:07. That set the stage for Clackson’s heroics just 35 seconds later.
The Gladiators are next in action Wednesday night at 8:15 p.m., as they face one of the new additions to the ECHL, the Evansville Icemen, for the first time in Evansville.