ESTERO, Fla. - Daniel Spivak’s slapper from the point found twine 1:41 into overtime to clinch a dramatic 6-5 win for the Gladiators over the Florida Everblades Friday night at Germain Arena.
Gwinnett trailed 4-1 in the second period, with Florida (24-17-1-2) rallying for four straight goals before the Gladiators (18-25-1-2) mounted their comeback. Bobby Hughes managed to cut the deficit to two on the power play late in the second, slapping a rebound under Florida goalie Connor Knapp at 18:01 off a point shot from Rob Kwiet. Jonathan Narbonne had the second assist.
The Gladiators carried that momentum into the third, picking up the first two goals of the period. Casey Pierro-Zabotel beat Knapp with a snapshot from the near circle just 1:20 into the period, with Marshall Everson assisting. Hughes then sprung Evan Bloodoff with an outlet pass, and the forward converted a shorthanded breakaway just under five minutes in, lifting a shot over Knapp’s right shoulder from close-in to tie the game at 4-4.
Jordan Henry put the Blades back on top at 9:49 on the power play, but Gwinnett wouldn’t quit. With just 3:26 left in regulation Everson took a pass from Brenden Walker and slid a shot from the far circle under Knapp to again tie the game and force overtime.
In the OT session, Walker led the charge into the Blades zone, finding Pierro-Zabotel along the far boards. A pass to the point ended up on the stick of Spivak, who launched a shot through traffic and over Knapp to clinch a 6-5 Gladiators win. It was Spivak’s first goal as a member of the Gladiators, and first in the ECHL.
The last time Gwinnett came back from a three-goal deficit to win was on Nov. 10, 2012, also at Germain Arena. The Gladiators came back from a 5-2 second period deficit to prevail 7-6.
Knapp took the loss for the Blades making 18 saves on 24 shots, while Mathieu Corbeil stopped 28 of 33 for the Gladiators.
Gwinnett tallied the lone goal of the opening period thanks to some nifty stick work from Walker. The forward tipped the puck from a Florida defenseman just outside the Everblades blue line, and raced into the zone on a 2-on-1 with Pierro-Zabotel. A quick tick-tack-toe setup ended with Walker burying a shot past Knapp off the far post for a 1-0 Gwinnett edge through 20 minutes.
Florida bounced back for four straight goals in the second. It took just 57 seconds for Jordan Henry to tie the game on the power play with a shot from the slot, and Mike Merrifield put Florida ahead at 12:32 tipping in a backdoor setup. Kyle Bonis’ 16th goal of the season made it a 3-1 game at 13:35, and Brandon MacLean hammered home a rebound on the far side of the crease at 17:31.