7) South Carolina’s Wayne Simpson (#19) flips Gwinnett’s Dirk Southern (#7) over Joey Haddad (#27) in the second period of Thursday’s game.
DULUTH — Reeled back in twice by the league’s best team, Antoine Corbin unleashed another big blast to once more give the Gwinnett Gladiators a lead.
This one stood up.
The Gladiators snapped a three-game losing streak and beat South Carolina 3-2 before a boisterous 4,906 on Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Corbin capped a gorgeous passing play with 7:11 left in the third period, scoring his second goal of the night. Josh Currie bulled into the zone along the boards and dished it to Brenden Walker down low. Walker saw Corbin charging into the high slot and centered a pass.
Corbin put everything into a booming one-timer and celebrated wildly after it bulged the back of the net.
“I wanted that puck,” Corbin said. “That play developed so quickly. I saw there was big gap in the middle and right away I knew it was my chance to get in there.
“I called for the puck and (Walker) was in the right position.”
It was the third straight game against the Stingrays and second decided by a single goal. The Gladiators found a way to win this time and showed signs that the ever-fluctuating roster is finding some chemistry.
“We’ve only been a group for a week, 10 days, with all the trades that happened,” said Corbin, who was acquired from Cincinnati on Dec. 11. “The guys are starting to get to know one another and it’s starting to come together on the ice.”
Coming off the brief holiday break, the team had a chance to refocus and it showed Thursday.
“Being with your girlfriend, your friends, your family, it’s always a great thing,” Corbin said. “Having three or four days off, we got to clear our head and it’s beneficial for everybody.”
The Gladiators played well with a scant 1-0 lead, earned just 3:19 into the game and got the saves they needed from Brad Phillips to hold that through intermission.
Maxime Legault scooped a loose puck out of some traffic at the point and, hassled all the way by a Stingrays defender, walked from the top of the circle to the high slot. Legault whipped a shot toward the net and it was tipped by Bartliff to foil goalie David LeNeveu.
South Carolina got even 2:18 into the second period with Lindsay Sparks unguarded on the backdoor. Zach Currie snapped a pass from below the goal line through the crease and Sparks banged it home to tie the game 1-1.
But Gwinnett pushed back — and took advantage of its third power-play chance.
After a 5-on-3 advantage expired, the Gladiators were still set up in South Carolina’s zone. Joey Haddad fed it to Corbin on the blue line and the defenseman buried a rocket into the back of the net at 5:35. Corbin dropped to one knee and gave an emphatic fist pump after his second goal of the season put Gwinnett ahead 2-1.
“I’m always the first guy to thank my teammates,” Corbin said. “The job is to put the puck on net and luckily tonight it went in twice.”
The Gladiators started the third period with another power play, but it was Phillips that played best in the opening minutes by denying Peter Boyd on a short-handed one-on-one breakaway.
Phillips did yeoman’s work in the third and it was no fault of his when the Stingrays tied it again.
Banging away in the crease with a man advantage, Paul Rodrigues scored on the third point-blank chance South Carolina was allowed at 4:06 of the period.
Gwinnett didn’t fold the tent, though, and Corbin powered his new team to the win. Now the Gladiators must do it again today against Wheeling with a 6:05 p.m. start at the arena.
“We beat a pretty good team tonight,” Corbin said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league so we just have to replicate that every night. Yeah, we’re going to hit some rough patches. Yeah, we’re going to have some tougher shifts. But at the same time, if we work hard, the results will come.”
Notes: Gwinnett sent defenseman Devon Krogh to Cincinnati in order to complete the trade for Corbin. Krogh made good progress as a rookie out of Ohio State this season and became a dependable blueliner for the Gladiators. One of the few players on the roster without a minus rating, Krogh also didn’t take many penalties and played 21 of Gwinnett’s first 26 games. … Forward Dirk Southern and defenseman Justin Weller were both back in the lineup Thursday after prolonged injury absences. Southern has been out since Nov. 18 and Weller returns after missing seven games.