The Gwinnett Gladiators have re-signed forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel for the 2014-15 season. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
DULUTH — The second piece of what was the Gwinnett Gladiators’ most potent line down the stretch is coming back with the hope of picking up where things left off.
Forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel’s re-signing was announced by the team Wednesday.
Pierro-Zabotel joined the Gladiators in January after playing half a season in Germany. The 25-year-old eventually was paired with Marshall Everson and Brendan Walker — to great effect. Pierro-Zabotel finished with 28 points and his 21 assists were fifth best on the team despite playing just 36 games.
The line made quite a statement in the season finale as Gwinnett thrashed Elmira. Pierro-Zabotel alone had two goals and two assists in the 7-0 rout.
“It was a good last game to finish on, especially for our line,” Pierro-Zabotel said.
The last six weeks of the season gave everyone a reason for optimism, particularly important after a dismal start put the team in a hole too big to dig out of.
“A lot of guys were saying they wanted to come back,” Pierro-Zabotel said. “I liked everything that developed at the end of the year.”
It wasn’t looking so promising when Pierro-Zabotel left Germany and returned to the Gladiators.
“They were on a losing streak and it took a while to get out of that groove,” said Pierro-Zabotel, who led Gwinnett in goals and points during the 2012-13 season. “Then we got (goaltender Mark Guggenberger).”
The pieces began to fall into place and the Gladiators were a threat in the final weeks.
The re-signing of Guggenberger and Everson already have been officially announced and Pierro-Zabotel is another key cog for Gwinnett, which missed the playoffs for just the third time in 11 seasons last year.
“I was pretty happy with the way it went in Gwinnett,” Pierro-Zabotel said. “I hope to carry that on.”
It was a marked difference from the first half of 2013-14 for the native of British Columbia. Not that his production was way off — Pierro-Zabotel had 22 points in 33 games for Lausitzer of the DEL2.
“It just wasn’t working out with the team I was on,” he said. “I left because it wasn’t a good situation.”
He was back in North America when Gwinnett came calling.
“I knew (head coach Rick Emmett and assistant Andy Brandt) from the year before, so it was an easy transition,” Pierro-Zabotel said.
He’s played five seasons in the ECHL, including over 100 games for the Gladiators.
Selected 80th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third round of the 2007 draft, Pierro-Zabotel spent two seasons in the Penguins organization with Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before moving on to Cincinnati and Bakersfield of the ECHL.
In 2012-13, Pierro-Zabotel had 22 goals, 53 assists and a team high +19 in 66 regular season games. He also led the Gladiators in the playoffs with nine points in their 10 games.
“Emmer and Brando want me to play like I did last season and be a good leader,” Pierro-Zabotel said.
He’s spending his offseason training in Kamloops, B.C., with a host of other pro players, including Shane Doan.
“There’s always enough guys to get some ice together,” he said.