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Second lieutenant able to play for Gladiators

Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Marcel Alvarez is a second lieutenant in the Army stationed at Fort Benning. He was traded to the Gladiators and drove from Columbus to play all three games in Gwinnett this weekend.

Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Marcel Alvarez is a second lieutenant in the Army stationed at Fort Benning. He was traded to the Gladiators and drove from Columbus to play all three games in Gwinnett this weekend.

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Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Marcel Alvarez is a second lieutenant in the Army stationed at Fort Benning. He was traded to the Gladiators and drove from Columbus to play all three games in Gwinnett this weekend.

Playing three professional hockey games in less than 24 hours takes a physical toll.

Fortunately for Marcel Alvarez, his day job keeps him more than fit.

Alvarez, who played all three games for the Gwinnett Gladiators this weekend, is in the Army's Ranger School at Fort Benning.

"I don't want to make it sound like it's not demanding, but compared to what I do for a living now, this is much easier on the body," said Alvarez, who wrapped up a four-year career by captaining the Black Knights at West Point last season. "I told a couple guys (on the team) some of the conditioning we did this week and they looked at me like I was nuts."

Alvarez, a second lieutenant, is a lot of what you'd expect from a West Point grad going to Ranger School. Heavily muscled. Shaved head. Strong handshake. Direct stare. Thoughtful answers.

He's also a guy savoring the chance to play hockey again.

Because anyone who goes to West Point isn't expecting to have a pro sports career.

"The second you sign up, pro sports have been thrown out the window for the most part," Alvarez said. "I cherish every game. It really is a bonus and I look forward to every time I can get out there."

The 25-year-old graduated from West Point in May and his first job was as a graduate assistant for the academy's hockey team. During that time, Alvarez played for the Trenton Titans, about 100 miles away. He spent his spring break last year with the team and then attended training camp this fall. The Titans didn't keep him on the roster though.

"They wanted a full-time guy, which I completely understand," Alvarez said. "I'm not going to get mad at them, but I really wanted to play and when the call came that they needed a guy, I jumped all over it."

The defenseman played 15 games for Trenton from Dec. 7 to Jan. 12. Alvarez reported to Fort Benning on Jan. 13.

He asked Trenton if a trade would be possible, if there was somewhere he might still be able to play. Trenton suspended Alvarez from the team in order to keep his rights. Last week an opportunity came about for a deal.

"Somehow Gwinnett had an asset to trade," Alvarez said. "So it worked out where there was a three-team trade with Cincinnati, Trenton and Gwinnett. I landed here and played immediately."

The Gladiators dealt defenseman Sean Duddy, who played 18 games for Gwinnett over the last two seasons but returned home to Ohio in November for personal reasons, to Cincinnati. The Cyclones acquired Alvarez from Trenton for future considerations and sent him the Gladiators.

"Part of me does wish this could have happened earlier because I've been down here for five weeks now, but I'm fortunate enough to even have this opportunity," Alvarez said.

Monday through Friday, he's in training at Fort Benning. The weekends are his own.

"As long as I follow the right regulations, the right protocols, I'm set," Alvarez said.

He drove up Friday in time to play in a 6-5 win over Wheeling at the Arena at Gwinnett Center and then stayed the weekend in a local hotel for a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader against Florida.

"I just drive up, bring my girlfriend and the dog," the Cleveland native said. "We hop in the car and come up and I play."

Alvarez was able to knock some of the rust off last weekend in Columbus, playing for the SPHL's Cottonmouths. He'll likely play for them again over the next month while the Gladiators are on an unusually long nine-game road stretch.

"The coach down there has been very, very good to me," Alvarez said. "He reached out to me as soon as I got down here and asked if I wanted to play as soon as I got settled in. So whenever there's a home game with them and my schedule works out, I'll play."