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Gwinnett Gladiators falter down stretch in season opener

Gwinnett netminder Louis Domingue shoves Greenville’s Andrew Carroll (12) as defensemen Martin Lefebvre (40) and Justin Weller (20) stand by in the Gwinnett Gladiators’ season opener against the Greenville Road Warriors on Friday. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

Gwinnett netminder Louis Domingue shoves Greenville’s Andrew Carroll (12) as defensemen Martin Lefebvre (40) and Justin Weller (20) stand by in the Gwinnett Gladiators’ season opener against the Greenville Road Warriors on Friday. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

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Gwinnett netminder Louis Domingue and defenseman Daniel Spivak (25) avoid Greenville’s Andrew Rowe as he crashes the net. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

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Gwinnett netminder Louis Domingue is knocked into the net by Greenville’s Jordie Johnston (39) during the second period of the Gladiators’ season opener against the Greenville Road Warriors on Friday. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

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Gladiator forward Kurtis Bartliff (16) carries the puck with Greenville’s Sean Berkstresser and fellow line mate Philippe Halley (23) on his heels Friday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

DULUTH — A short-handed goal from Andrew Rowe halfway through the third period spoiled the Gwinnett Gladiators’ season opener Friday night.

Rowe’s second goal of the game was the difference in a back-and-forth affair before 5,640 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Rowe completed the hat trick and sealed the 5-3 win with an empty-netter in the dying seconds.

It was a marked departure from the teams’ preseason meeting less than a week ago which the Gladiators dominated.

“We didn’t have much of a press there in the third until the end,” head coach Rick Emmett said. “We weren’t supporting. Things that we did in the first half of the game, we kind of got away from. We were trying to make too much happen.

“Then when we did have opportunities, we passed them up and looked for the extra pass.”

After forging a tie late in the second period, Gwinnett didn’t get another shot on goal until there was just 8 ½ minutes left in regulation and Greenville was already ahead.

The Gladiators did have some chances, but weren’t able to finish and will have to regroup for the rematch tonight.

“We should have been sending pucks to the net more,” Emmett said. “We had some pretty good success, got them in flux, and we got away from that.

“Certainly you want the two points. First one at home and a division rival. But it’s one of 72. You just have to move on and be ready tomorrow night.”

The Gladiators had a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Brenden Walker and captain Joey Haddad before the Road Warriors went to work.

Walker raced in to scoop up a rebound at the post and lift it over Greenville goalie Carsen Chubak from an incredibly steep angle 4:50 into the game. The initial shot came from fellow rookie Jeremie Malouin and Walker was there for the follow-up.

Haddad doubled the lead when he deflected Justin Weller’s point shot past Chubak.

That was Gwinnett’s last lead of the game. Greenville scored three unanswered to go up 3-2.

The rally started late in the first period when the Road Warriors capitalized on a neutral-zone turnover.

Rowe made a behind-the-back pass through the slot to Michael St. Croix, who didn’t miss on the open side with 2:28 left in the period.

Rowe tied it on the power play at 10:28 of the second and Greenville jumped ahead with a sniper shot from Elgin Pearce in the high slot. Pearce converted on a premium drop pass from St. Croix for the lead at 12:25.

The Gladiators got even on their own power play at 15:00. Evan Bloodoff dropped it to defenseman Jonathan Narbonne. The rookie unloaded a laser that went straight in, but the momentum didn’t carry over to the third.

“We didn’t really build on that like we would have wanted to,” Emmett said. “Then you get a little bit of a bouncing puck coming out (of the zone) on the power play and they put one in short-handed. So as far as momentum goes, that was a big key. But it’s hockey. It’s bounces and you’ve got to continue to work for them.”