Gladiators fall in overtime 3-2 to South Carolina

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Wayne Simpson scored in overtime to lift the South Carolina Stingrays to a narrow 3-2 win in a hard fought battle with the Gwinnett Gladiators Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum.

Phoenix Coyotes prospect Brenden Walker buried his 15th goal of the season for Gwinnett (24-32-3-2), while Kurtis Bartliff tallied his 14th. Goaltender Josh Unice made 23 saves for the Gladiators in his first start as a professional in the final meeting of the season between the two South Division rivals. Gwinnett finishes the season 6-8-1 against South Carolina (36-19-2-3).

Walker opened the scoring 2:50 into the game, streaking down the right wing and blasting a shot over the glove of Stingrays goalie Allen York to push the Gladiators ahead 1-0.

South Carolina would answer with the next two, however. 27 seconds after Walker’s tally Nick Larson deflected in a Peter Boyd pass on the far post, and Paul Rodrigues tipped a Dylan King point shot past Unice to give the Stingrays a 2-1 lead through 20 minutes.

The Gladiators drew even just over six minutes into the second period, with Bartliff hammering home a Mike Merrifield touch pass from the low slot to tie the game at 2-2. The helper was Merrifield’s first point with Gwinnett since being acquired from the Florida Everblades on Wednesday.

The score stayed tied into overtime despite a late Gwinnett push in the third period, and Simpson would end the game 1:42 into the extra session. The rookie forward took a feed from Derrick Pallis in the low slot and lifted a shot over a sprawled out Unice to seal a 3-2 Rays win. It would be Simpson’s 10th goal in 12 games against Gwinnett this season.

Gwinnett is next in action Monday at 7:05 p.m. In Elmira against the Jackals. The next home game for the Gladiators is Saturday March 29th at 7:05 p.m. against the Greenville Road Warriors. To purchase tickets, please visit www.gwinnettgladiators.com, or call the main office line at 770-497-5100.

The Gladiators are members of the ECHL, the nation’s premier “AA” hockey league and are affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL. All home games are played at the 11,355-seat Arena at Gwinnett Center, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.