Gwinnett’s Maxime Legault (18) takes a shot on Greenville netminder Jeff Malcolm while Mike Marcou (22) holds back Daniel Spivak (25) during Saturday’s game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
DULUTH — The Gwinnett Gladiators have already played Greenville — their closest ECHL opponent — four times and they face the Road Warriors for the third time in four days on Monday.
Familiarity usually breeds contempt in hockey and there is no question that Gwinnett and Greenville have a rivalry going.
The Road Warriors held on in the frantic final minutes for a physical and often chippy 2-1 victory Saturday night, beating the Gladiators for the third time.
Special teams did in Gwinnett before 5,554 disappointed fans in the Arena at Gwinnett Center, the Gladiators giving up the deciding goal short handed and going 0-for-9 on the power play.
Gwinnett got a power-play chance to tie the game with 2:01 left and it became a two-man advantage with 42.3 seconds remaining when Greenville’s Bretton Stamler drew a spearing penalty with a resulting game misconduct.
The Gladiators, though, were frustrated by Road Warriors goalie Jeff Malcolm, who finished with 25 saves.
Peter Delmas stopped 28 shots for Gwinnett, but he couldn’t keep the Gladiators from falling to 2-8-0. Greenville, which avenged a 3-1 home loss to Gwinnett on Friday, is 4-6-0.
The winning goal for the Road Warriors came on a deflating short-handed breakaway by Marc-Oliver Vallerand nine minutes into the third period.
Vallerand was caught from behind, but going to the ice was able to backhand a shot that slipped between Delmas’ pads. Andrew Cole, who came up with the puck on the Gwinnett turnover, got an assist.
Greenville had a chance to pad the lead on a penalty shot by Vallerand with eight minutes left, but Delmas stopped his backhander with his left pad.
That gave the Gladiators a chance. They couldn’t take advantage, though.
Gwinnett’s only goal came from Marshall Everson, making his home debut, in the second period.
Greenville took a 1-0 lead four minutes into the second period on a controversial goal after a lucky bounce. Josh Nichols tried to tip in a pass on the rush and appeared to miss, the goal going in off his leg.
The Gladiators argued that the puck had been kicked in, but Nichols’ first goal of the season was allowed to stand. Vallerand and Elgin Pearce were credited with assists.
Gwinnett, though, tied it with four minutes left in the period as Everson dashed down the right side and beat Malcolm with a shot to the goalie’s glove side. C.J. Lee got an assist on the goal.
Everson, who played four seasons at Harvard University, signed with the Gladiators on Thursday and made his debut Friday in Greenville. The 23-year-old had 31 goals and 32 assists in 119 games with the Crimson.
Although outshot 16-8, Gwinnett almost took the lead before the second period was over. Evan Bloodoff had a short-handed breakaway, but Malcolm stood firm to make the save.
The Gladiators also failed to take advantage of a first-period power play lasting nearly five minutes, including time with a 5-on-3 advantage. Gwinnett had just one scoring chance during the golden opportunity and each team had seven shots in the opening period.
Delmas, property of the Montreal Canadians, was back in goal for the Gladiators after stopping 30 shots in the victory over the Road Warriors in Greenville on Friday night. He joined the team after Louis Domingue was called up to Portland (AHL).
The 23-year-old native of Nova Scotia, a second-round draft choice by the Colorado Avalanche in 2008, came in with a .949 save percentage in his first two games with Gwinnett. He stopped 26 of 28 shots during a loss at South Carolina in his Gladiators debut last weekend.
Notes: Speedy forward Alex Belzile, who missed the first eight games because of an injury, got off five shots at Greenville on Friday and was back in the lineup on Saturday. He had 10 goals and 20 assists in 40 games with Gwinnett as a rookie last season. … Brendon Walker missed his sixth straight game for the Gladiators and fellow forward Joey Haddad — the Gwinnett captain — sat out his fifth game in a row. Neither injury is expected to be long term. … Defenseman Daniel Spivak was back in the Gwinnett lineup after Nathan Martine took his place on Friday. … Saturday was Military Appreciation Night. … The Gladiators are home next Thursday and Friday against the Florida Everblades.