Gladiator Joey Haddad makes a pass to Dirk Southern, left, in the crease with Christopher Gibson in net for the Orlando Solar Bears. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
DULUTH — Gwinnett Gladiators head coach Rick Emmett said playing Orlando this weekend would be a good test.
So far, Gwinnett is failing.
Riding a three-game winning streak, the Gladiators were lackluster Friday against the Solar Bears and lost 5-1 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The rematch, and the Gladiators’ chance to prove beating two of the best teams in the league last week wasn’t a fluke, comes tonight at 7:05 p.m.
“They came out with jam and we came out very flat,” Emmett said. “We’ll see if we can regroup.”
Orlando scored three goals on nine shots in the span of 7:06 during the middle of the first period and skated into intermission with a 3-1 lead.
After giving up a short-handed goal to Andrew Johnson and a wrister from the top of the circle to Scott Tansi, the Gladiators climbed within a goal at 13:08. A puck chipped in from the point found Marshall Everson streaking down the middle of the ice. Everson, in his first game since the last meeting between these teams on Dec 15, ripped a shot past goalie Christopher Gibson.
But hardly a minute later, the Solar Bears got a fortuitous ricochet off the glass on a dump into the zone. It jumped right to Kory Nagy near the post and he put it away at 14:12 of the first.
The Gladiators mustered just five shots on goal in the first and Orlando’s Eric Baier blew a one-timer past Paul Karpowich just 3:40 into the second period. The 4-1 lead signaled the end of the night for netminder Paul Karpowich. His replacement, Brad Phillips, held the fort for the rest of the period before getting beat on the power play at 3:54 of the third.
“Orlando is pretty deep right now,” Emmett said. “We played against some depleted lineups (in South Carolina and Florida) so it’s a little bit of reality. To realize what you’re up against and be up to the task.”