Photo: Amanda Hertel Jason Clark and the Gwinnett Gladiators couldn't get anything by former Gladiator netminder Ryan Zapolski in the 2-0 loss on Friday night.
DULUTH -- Ryan Zapolski posted his league-leading fourth shutout of the season Friday night.
Three of those have been against his former team, the Gwinnett Gladiators. Two on the Gladiators' ice.
Zapolski led South Carolina to a 2-0 victory with 27 saves in the first of back-to-back games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
"I guess it's just how it works out -- there's no hard feelings," Zapolski said of his record against the Gladiators. "They gave me an opportunity to get in this league really.
"I think it's been more just the style of both our teams. Our team plays really defensively. They're fairly defensive as well. The games we play against each other are usually low-scoring, so it just happens I'm fortunate to have three shutouts against them."
The Erie, Pa., native played 12 games for the Gladiators last season and two earlier this year when his counterpart Friday, Louis Domingue, was injured.
Domingue only gave up one goal -- the second was an empty-netter with 51 seconds left in regulation as Gwinnett (27-18-2-1, 57 points) pushed for an equalizer -- but Zapolski was better.
"Our defenseman do a great job tying up sticks in front of the net when I give up rebounds," Zapolski said. "They do a good job blocking shots up top, too. It's definitely one of the strengths of this team. I can't say enough about how good we were in front of the net tonight."
The Gladiators are 2-6-1-1 in their last 10 games -- since the NHL lockout ended -- and remain in second place in the South Division standings. They play South Carolina again today, the 11th time of the season, at 7:05 p.m. on a night when the arena is expected to be packed for several promotions.
"This time of the year is huge for us," Zapolski said. "We're fighting for a playoff spot. Every night is like a playoff game for us right now. So we've got to be our best every night. We look forward to every opportunity we have to get two points."
South Carolina (23-22-1-3, 50 points) had three power-play chances, including 41 seconds 5-on-3, in the first period and were held scoreless. Referee Geoff Miller called overlapping penalties on Gwinnett for closing a hand on the puck. The first, on John Scrymgeour, was after Scrymgeour was cross-checked into the corner boards with no call. That on the same shift that Miller failed to call it when defenseman Sacha Guimond was cross-checked at the point.
But the Gladiators killed it off to close out the period and then got three opportunities of their own on the power play. All of which went for naught and, in between, the Stingrays grabbed a 1-0 lead.
Defenseman Luka Vidmar lofted a straight-on shot from just inside the blue line that eluded Domingue at 9:59 of the second period.
Gwinnett kept trying for an equalizer and had a premium chance early in the third, but Joey Haddad and Casey Pierro-Zabotel couldn't get the puck to go.
"When I gave it to Joey behind the net and he almost had a wrap-around, I got pretty lucky," Zapolski said. "I got a stick on his wrap-around attempt and then one of our defenseman made a save backdoor."
Defenseman Kevin Quick got in the way of Pierro-Zabotel's try to keep Gwinnett from tying the game.
The Gladiators pulled Domingue with 1:22 left in the game and Hunter Bishop dove to push a bouncing puck into the open net with under a minute to go, sealing the win.