DULUTH, Ga. - The Gwinnett Gladiators haven't had an ideal start to the 2013-14 regular season, but Friday night they rewarded their home fans, defeating one of the Eastern Conference's division leaders for a second straight game. After knocking off the South Carolina Stingrays on Thursday, the Gladiators upended the Wheeling Nailers, 4-1, in front of 5,623 fans at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The Gladiators wasted little time in opening the scoring, as they found the twine at the 2:57 mark of the first period. Rob Kwiet skated to the middle of the blueline, before letting a wrist shot go, which was tipped into the back of the net by Evan Bloodoff, who recorded his 10th goal of the season. Gwinnett outshot Wheeling 13-4 during the opening period.
The score remained 1-0 until the 12:26 mark of the second period, when the home team upped its lead. Former Nailer Joey Haddad found a loose puck on the left side of the crease, and proceeded to lift it up and over Alex Westlund's right pad, connecting on a power play goal. Dirk Southern and Josh Currie assisted.
A little more than five minutes into the third, the Nailers began to look at a potential comeback, as they cut the deficit to one. Mike Ratchuk took a shot from high on the right side of the slot, which found its way through traffic in front. Chaz Johnson recorded an assist, as he was playing in his 500th professional game. Unfortunately, the end of game heroics weren't to be, as Rob Kwiet blasted home a power play goal at 10:51, before finishing off his squad's victory with an empty netter in the final seconds.
Paul Karpowich got the victory in goal for the Gladiators, making 19 saves on 20 shots. Westlund turned aside 32 of the 35 shots he faced in his season debut for the Nailers, but took the loss.
The Nailers will travel to South Carolina Stingrays for a 7:05 tilt against the Stingrays tonight before returning home on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. contest against the Reading Royals.