Orlando’s Ian Slater checks Gwinnett’s Sacha Guimond during the third period of the Gladiator’s game on Wednesday night. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
DULUTH — The Gwinnett Gladiators set a record for the fastest two goals in franchise history and, though it took a shootout, picked up their first win of the season Wednesday.
Sacha Guimond, just assigned from AHL Utica, scored in the sudden-death seventh round of the shootout to beat Orlando 4-3 and snap a four-game losing streak.
“Feels great,” said forward Josh Currie, who scored the game’s first goal and assisted on another. “It feels like it took forever for that. But it’s good now. We just have to keep going and keep growing. We’re on the right track and guys are feeling a lot better.”
The Gladiators charged the lead with goals six seconds apart to start the third period, beating the old mark by two seconds.
Starting the period on the power play, Maxime Legault was open in the high slot and blasted a laser under the crossbar 1:23 into the third.
Gwinnett won the ensuing faceoff and Philippe Halley sprinted in alone. Halley went to the same spot over goalie Christopher Gibson’s shoulder and gave the Gladiators a 3-1 lead at 1:29.
“We knew we had to win 20 minutes to win a game,” Currie said of the second intermission locker room talk. “We came out with a strong first few minutes, but you’ve got to give them a lot of credit, they’re relentless. We kind of got lazy and they were able to come back. But we kept our heads high and we were able to pull through for a huge win.”
Orlando, coming off a 4-2 loss in South Carolina on Tuesday night and a long bus ride to Gwinnett, worked back to a tie on goals at 5:54 and 8:50.
An 0-4 team that lost twice to the Solar Bears last weekend, the Gladiators didn’t cede any more ground this time.
“Hopefully we learned a little bit tonight about never giving up no matter your situation,” head coach Rick Emmett said. “You go up 3-1, the bench is pumped up and has a ton of energy. Then they make some good plays at the net, get some goals and tie it up.
“That group in there could have said, ‘Here we go again,’ and felt sorry for themselves. But kudos to them. They didn’t. We stuck together.”
Currie made good on a smart feed by Legault behind the net to score his first professional goal and give the Gladiators a 1-0 lead 6:02 into the game. Legault snapped it to Currie, jumping into the slot, and Currie immediately smacked it into the top corner.
Currie scored in Gwinnett’s exhibition game, but this one counts for real, and came just a few minutes after he was stonewalled by Gibson on a juicy rebound chance.
The Solar Bears tied it at 11:16 on a play which the Gladiators bench railed against as being offside. Zach Harrison put the cap on a sharp passing play, rifling the puck past Chris Rawlings from head-on about 20 feet out.
Gwinnett had a lot of opportunities to regain the lead in the first period, but couldn’t put the finishing touch on any of them. The most glaring was a 3-on-1 short-handed rush created by captain Joey Haddad in the final minute of the period. On the wing, Haddad dropped it to defenseman Devin Krough in the middle and Krogh ripped the shot well wide.
“We had a ton of chances,” Currie said. “We didn’t finish, but obviously it’s great to get our first win and Emmer’s first pro win. That was huge for him to get off his back. It’s good. Now it’s just a stepping stone and we have to continue to build.”