Everblades spoil Awe's Gladiators return

Photo: Amanda Hertel     Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Sacha Guimond, who was just assigned from AHL Worcester on Friday, takes a shot on Florida goalie Pat Nagle at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Sacha Guimond, who was just assigned from AHL Worcester on Friday, takes a shot on Florida goalie Pat Nagle at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.


Photo: Amanda Hertel Defenseman Jon Awe returned to the Gwinnett Gladiators lineup for the first time since 2008 on Friday, getting a goal and an assist against Florida. Awe has been playing overseas for the last four years.


Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Ryan Donald is upended in a collision with goalie Mike Lee and Florida's Leigh Salters during Friday's game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. It was Donald's first game back from injury.

DULUTH -- Among the new faces on the ice for Gwinnett was a familiar old one Friday night.

Jon Awe fittingly made his return on Medieval Times' "Turn Back Ye Olde Clock" Night and the old Gladiator with the powerful shot seemed to do just that.

Signed out of semi-retirement as a free agent, the 32-year-old defenseman had a goal and an assist. It wasn't enough to get Gwinnett a victory, though.

Brody Sutter took advantage of a Gladiators turnover in the neutral zone and scored a breakaway goal with 7:03 left to give Florida a 3-2 victory to the disappointment of a crowd of 4,554 in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

It was the fourth loss in a row for the Gladiators and dropped them out of first place in the ECHL's South Division, a point behind Greenville.

The Gladiators (25-15-1-1, 52 points) play at Greenville (25-14-2-1, 53 points) tonight, then host the Road Warriors on Monday in a 12:30 p.m. MLK Day game.

That will be the third meeting in five days for the teams, with the Road Warriors having won 5-1 in Greenville on Thursday.

The Gladiators, who have been forced to go through massive roster changes recently, are 4-4-1 against Greenville this season.

Gwinnett had a 12-shot edge over Florida (19-3-3-4, 45 points), but Everblades goaltender Pat Nagle made 36 saves and Gwinnett's Mike Lee was the victim of a fluke goal while making 23 stops.

Awe, though, did all he could in an attempt to break Gwinnett's losing streak.

He had a game-high eight shots and was plus-two for the game.

Awe, who played with the Gladiators for parts of three seasons, was signed as a free agent Friday after sitting out the first part of the season and playing in the AAA men's league at the Duluth IceForum.

Awe holds the ECHL record for most power-play goals by a defenseman with 18 for the Gladiators during the 2006-07 season. The Memphis native had 101 points (43 goals and 58 assists) in his first stint with Gwinnett.

Awe, who appeared in 84 games with five AHL teams, played the past four years in Korea and then Italy, where he had 17 points in 27 games last season.

Despite Awe's strong return, the Gladiators never led against the Everblades.

Florida took the lead with 6:27 left in the first period as Mathieu Roy made a nifty move to split two Gladiator defenders and flipped the puck over Lee's shoulder for his team-best 14th goal of the season.

Awe, who had four shots in the first period, tied the game 40 seconds into the second. His shot from the left wall caromed back out in front and he put the puck past Nagle for the unassisted goal.

The Everblades went ahead again on a fluke goal midway in the period. Ryan McGinnis dumped the puck in from center ice and the puck crazily careened off the sideboards and past Lee. It was McGinnis' first goal of the season.

But the Gladiators tied again with 8:09 left in the second period as Casey Pierro-Zabotel fed the puck ahead to Joey Haddad, who beat Nagle for his third goal of the season. Awe also got an assist.

The Gladiators were able to dress a full compliment of 18 players thanks to the addition of Sasha Guimond and Awe to bolster the defense.

Guimond, assigned from Worcester (AHL), was acquired by the Gladiators from San Francisco on Monday along with defenseman Justin Bowers in exchange for Cody Carlson, Christian Ouellet and Rylan Galiardi. The 21-year-old native of Quebec was scoreless in two games with Worcester, but had 25 points in 33 games with San Francisco. This is his first professional season.