Gwinnett Gladiators goaltender Chris Rawlings gets square to the shooter during a game against Greenville at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
DULUTH — The Gwinnett Gladiators are off to the worst start in franchise history after losing their first four games.
History also shows that October isn’t when championships are won.
Last season it took Reading, which went on to win the Kelly Cup, seven games to get its first win. The last two ECHL champions have a combined October record of 3-9-2-0.
The Gladiators themselves lost the first three games of 2012-13 and ended up as division champs with the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.
As rosy as all those stats are, they still need to start earning some points before the standings gap gets too wide to bridge. They get the opportunity tonight against Orlando, which won both games against Gwinnett this weekend. The Solar Bears are in town for a 7:05 p.m. game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
“We get a chance to get back in it and redeem ourselves in a sense,” head coach Rick Emmett said. “Saturday, we were certainly were good enough to win. We were the better team most of the night. We had plenty of scoring opportunities, we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
After managing just 20 shots on goal in both of its first two games at home, the Gladiators peppered Orlando netminder John Curry. But the goalie denied 28 of the 30 attempts and the Solar Bears just edged out a win.
The next day was a different story. Penalties stilted the flow of the game and Gwinnett fell behind early in a 4-1 loss.
“We were an 0-3 team that felt it was good enough to have won at least the last two games and we were frustrated,” Emmett said. “We came out wanting to play hard. A quick goal against put us on our heels a bit and the next thing you know, any momentum is killed by penalties.”
Gwinnett did get a boost Tuesday with the assignment of reigning ECHL Defenseman of the Year, Sacha Guimond, from AHL Utica. Guimond, 22, put up huge numbers in a Gladiator uniform after being acquired from the San Francisco Bulls via trade during the 2012-13 campaign, racking up five goals and 19 assists in just 25 games.
Guimond has played just two games this season with the Comets and arrived in Gwinnett on Tuesday night.
“Any time you get a defenseman skilled in puck moving who knows how to create some offense, it helps,” Emmett said.
While the hockey gods give, they also take away.
Goaltender Louis Domingue was called up to AHL Portland and left Gwinnett on Tuesday, possibly for an extended period.
So the Gladiators will have to ride Chris Rawlings, also a Phoenix prospect, for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think we have a glaring weakness,” Emmett said. “We have enough ability. You hear the word ‘young,’ but that’s what the league is.
“Sometimes a team needs to go through growing pains. The compete level and mentality is good. The energy at practice today is good. But being 0-4, we need to get points back, especially against teams in the division.”
With the assignment of Guimond, the Gladiators released defenseman Brad Nunn.