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Gladiators survive late flurry from IceMen to win fourth straight

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DULUTH -- Things got interesting at the very end, but the Gwinnett Gladiators held on for a 6-5 win over Evansville on Saturday.

Casey Pierro-Zabotel set up the Gladiators' first three goals and helped treat another big crowd of 7,370 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center to the team's fourth straight win.

Nick Walsh and Yuri Bouharevich scored their first goals of the season as the Gladiators beat the fiesty IceMen, who scored three goals in the last 5 minutes of the game.

"That's an important two points for us; we kept our streak going," Pierro-Zabotel said. "We kind of got a little loose at the end, but we'll fix it for tomorrow."

Gwinnett (31-18-2-1, 65 points) jumped back into first place in the South Division during this run of wins and plays again today at home against another northern opponent, Cincinnati.

"Especially on a Sunday afternoon game, our fourth game in five days, we really have to keep it simple," Pierro-Zabotel said. "And we have to work as hard as we can."

Pierro-Zabotel found a pair of rookie scorers for a 2-0 lead in the first period.

The Gladiators' leading point-getter was on the half-wall and dished it to Walsh, moving across the top of the circle. Walsh's first goal of the season was a pretty one. He danced toward the net, did a little toe-drag to get to the front of the net and ripped the puck just inside the post about halfway up at 8:11.

A little over six minutes later, Pierro-Zabotel dug the puck out from behind the net and snapped it to a wide-open Justin Weller. The defenseman laid into a big blast from above the circle and buried his second goal of the year behind goalie Paul Dainton at 14:37.

"I've got great chemistry with the guys on my line, (Andy Brandt), Walsh and Yuri," Pierro-Zabotel said. "We all play well together."

Control of the the second period see-sawed back and forth with Evansville (17-29-2-3, 39 points) tying it 2-2 before Gwinnett regained its two-goal lead.

Three of the goals were in a span of just 2:21.

The Gladiators came out of intermission sluggish and Evansville scored 47 seconds in on a point-blank shot by Josh Beaulieu.

The IceMen tied it at 7:50 after a protracted period of pressure around the Gwinnett net. Jake Obermeyer got a smart cross-crease feed from Todd Robinson and smashed it past Mike Lee at the post.

But the Gladiators answered quickly, on yet another set-up by Pierro-Zabotel less than a minute later. Scott Arnold charged off the bench and Pierro-Zabotel, deep in Evansville's zone fed it up top. Arnold hammered a shot past Dainton at 8:49.

"That was important, especially right after they scored their second goal, we come out as hard as we could and got a couple back," Pierro-Zabotel said. "It gave us a little breathing room."

Joey Haddad pushed the lead to 4-2 at 10:11, carrying the puck through neutral and firing a shot over Dainton's far shoulder.

Gwinnett exploded for two goals 12 seconds apart in the third period. It needed both of them.

Brandt rolled down the wing and left a sweet little drop pass for Bouharevich inside the blue line. Bouharevich unloaded and lit the lamp for the first time this year at 11:02.

Haddad scored his second goal of the night on the very next shift, roofing a pass from Justin Bowers at 11:14.

Evansville got two power-play goals and another with the goalie pulled over the final six minutes, but ran out of time to complete a comeback.