Gwinnett Gladiators’ netminder Brad Phillips makes a save on Wheeling’s Max MacKay (7) during their game on Monday afternoon at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
DULUTH — The schedule and travel took a toll as the game, the Gwinnett Gladiators’ fifth in seven days, wore on.
Wheeling, despite being the road team, had to come far fewer miles to make this Monday afternoon matinee at the Arena at Gwinnett Center and skated away with a 2-0 victory.
Both teams played Saturday. The Nailers were 90 minutes away in Greenville. The Gladiators had a 780-mile trip home from Kalamazoo, Mich., where they finished a Northern road swing with a 1-2-1-0 record.
Gwinnett (15-23-1-2, 33 points) had a fairly strong first period, but faded in the second and wasn't able to solve Wheeling goalie Mike Condon.
Gladiators netminder Brad Phillips was impressive, too, and only the victim of a Gwinnett defensive breakdown during a power play.
Wheeling added an empty-net goal in the final minute of regulation to seal the win.
“It’s not easy,” Gladiators head coach Rick Emmett said of the schedule. “But it happens to every team. You have to embrace what it is and make sure you’re ready to go mentally and you give everything you have physically. Obviously we came up short in that department.”
Surging in the second, Wheeling (17-15-1-5, 40 points) scored a short-handed breakaway goal at 13:17 of the period to grab the 1-0 lead.
Trying to cycle the puck on the power play, Gwinnett's defensemen on the blue line made compounding errors and Cody Sylvester was off to the races as a consequence. Phillips got a piece of the shot, but the puck looped over the line anyway.
The Gladiators, under continued pressure, killed off overlapping penalties to close out the period and stay within easy striking distance despite being wildly outshot in the second. Wheeling’s 21 shots in the period tied a season high for Gwinnett opponents.
But they couldn't get anything by Condon in the third either.
“He made some big saves for them,” Emmett said. “As did Philly for us. We had some good looks and didn’t capitalize.”
Gwinnett leaves Tuesday night for Orlando, but first will have a structured practice — something the schedule hasn’t allowed recently — before hitting the road.