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Gladiators power past potent Greenville for 7-3 victory

Greenville’s Ryan Gegarty (5) watches as Mike Merrifield (23) scores his first of two goals against the Greenville Road Warriors in the 7-3 victory for the Gwinnett Gladiators on Friday night. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

Greenville’s Ryan Gegarty (5) watches as Mike Merrifield (23) scores his first of two goals against the Greenville Road Warriors in the 7-3 victory for the Gwinnett Gladiators on Friday night. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

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Josh Currie and Dirk Southern (center) celebrate with teammates Matthew Clune and Marshall Everson after scoring Gwinnett’s seventh goal of the game. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

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Gladiators defenseman Eriks Sevcenko (11) picks up a puck in front of netminder Mark Guggenberger on a night where he also had four assists on the other end of the ice. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)

DULUTH — The Gwinnett Gladiators scored four unanswered goals and steamrolled a formidable Greenville team in a 7-3 victory on Friday night.

The Gladiators didn’t need quite the same comeback as in their previous outing against the Road Warriors. It was just a one-goal deficit this time — instead of three — but it was still enjoyed heartily by the 5,703 on hand at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

It was the third of four straight games against the division rival and second consecutive win. The two teams close out their season series tonight in Greenville.

“It’s not easy (any night) — Greenville is good team,” said defenseman Eriks Sevcenko, who assisted on four goals. “But we try and we shoot a lot. We know we need the wins. We know we don’t have playoffs so this is fun. But tomorrow will be a hard game.”

The offensive show was led by Sevcenko and Mike Merrifield, who were acquired from Florida in a March 13 trade. Sevcenko had four assists, twice setting up power-play goals, and Merrifield lit the lamp on a pair of plays at the top of the crease.

“I want to thank coach (Rick Emmett) for giving me time on the power play,” Sevcenko said. “I try to play better every game and I hope coach is proud of me.”

The Gladiators tied the game at 12:22 of the first period after ceding the opening goal to Greenville at 6:54.

Captain Joey Haddad swept behind the net and dished a backhanded pass to former junior teammate Chris Culligan. Wide-open in the slot, Culligan snapped the shot past goalie Jeff Malcolm to even the score 1-1.

Culligan, who played with Haddad in Cape Breton of the QMJHL, joined the Gladiators on March 26 after finishing his college career at the University of New Brunswick. It was his second goal in just three games.

Gwinnett held the momentum, scoring three times in just over four minutes during the second period to forge a 4-1 lead. The first two came courtesy of some good finish on blue-line bombs by Sevcenko.

Part of the deal that sent Evan Bloodoff and Rob Kwiet to Florida, Sevcenko helped Gwinnett to it’s first lead at 7:00 of the second. The Latvian’s blast was deflected by Maxime Legault with what Malcolm thought was a high stick. His query was shaken off by referee Chris Pitoscia.

The Gladiators got their first chance on the power play moments later and converted for a 3-1 lead. Sevcenko again unloaded a long shot and Dirk Southern was there to jam home the rebound at 8:35.

A smart string of passes pushed the lead to 4-1 at 11:07. Defenseman Eric Springer started it with a sharp breakout from deep in his own zone. Merrifield capped it by going hard to the net and smacking in a centering feed.

“We score one goal and we don’t stop,” Sevcenko said. “Everyone chip in, go hard and try to score more because we know if we score only one and play defense, it’s not so good. We need to score more if we want to win.”

Greenville got one back just 46 seconds later when leading scorer Andrew Rowe broke in alone on Guggenburger. Rowe roofed a backhander for his 28th goal of the season and got the Road Warriors within 4-2.

But Gwinnett slammed the door in the third on goals from Marshall Everson, Merrifield and Josh Currie.