Greenville squeaks by Gladiators after wild third period

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Down 2-0 after two periods, the Gwinnett Gladiators needed a resurgent final 20 minutes just to stay alive against the Greenville Road Warriors.

The Gladiators (26-36-3-2) certainly met that task and more, but it wasn’t enough as they fell short in a thrilling 4-3 game to the Road Warriors (37-22-2-3) Friday night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville.

The home team had the numbers in their favor in the final period, as they were 21-1-2 when holding a lead after two. The Gladiators made the Road Warriors work for that statistic, starting with their first goal of the game at 12:44 of the third. Marshall Everson took the initial shot from the left wing point that was tipped down and in by alternate captain Dirk Southern right in front of Jason Missiaen.

Just 47 seconds later, Andrew Yogan gave the Road Warriors the two goal lead back. Behind the net, Yogan threw a centering pass forward that bounced off the back of Daniel Spivak and past Mark Guggenberger’s right shoulder.

Another 50 seconds after that, Casey Pierro-Zabotel rushed into the Gladiators zone and took a shot from the top of the right side faceoff circle, which bounced off of Missiaen’s pads and onto the stick of Brenden Walker, streaking in all alone on the empty net.

Marc-Olivier Vallerand capped off a furious two minutes with a fluke goal on a partial breakaway at 14:49. Vallerand took the puck up the left wing side, having the slot cut off by Eric Springer, but threw a puck on net that squeezed by Guggenberger from a weak angle.

The Gladiators weren’t ready to fold yet, despite the 4-2 deficit. A late interference penalty by Emerson Clark at 19:01 set the table for a 6-on-4 opportunity after Guggenberger was pulled from the net. With the pressure on, Chris Culligan scored Gwinnett’s third goal of the period at 19:31, stationed at the far post. It was Culligan’s ECHL debut after playing three games with the AHL’s Texas Stars.

Gwinnett outshot Greenville in the third, 18-4, but it wasn’t always that way as the Road Warriors outplayed the road team for the majority of the night.

Greenville looked strong in the first period, outshooting Gwinnett 17-8. It scored the opening goal at 5:08 when Bretton Cameron slammed in a rebound chance on Guggenberger, who thought the initial shot from Sean Berkstresser rebounded left instead of straight ahead in the low slot, where Cameron was waiting. The Gladiators didn’t get their first shot on the board until over the halfway mark of the frame.

The Gladiators started to turn the tide their way with competitive defense in the second, limiting Greenville to only 12 shots. Defenseman Ryan Hegarty doubled up the score, however, on a power play tip out in front at 10:49, from Yogan and Josh Nicholls. For Nicholls, the secondary assist extends his league-high point streak to 14 straight games. Nicholls has had 10 points and nine assists since starting the streak on February 17.

In the end, Missiaen picked up the win, making 31 saves on 34 shots, while Guggenberger received the loss allowing four goals on 33 shots. Greenville improves to 8-2 against the Gladiators this season.