DULUTH -- The Gwinnett Gladiators dug themselves a hole Wednesday that they couldn't recover from, falling to the Elmira Jackals 6-3 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Gwinnett has still won six of its last eight at home, heading into the 2013-14 season finale Saturday April 12th at 7:05 p.m. against Elmira.
The Jackals (24-38-3-5) outpaced the Gladiators (28-38-3-2) in the first twenty, jumping out to a 3-1 lead. Jordan Pietrus scored Elmira's first goal on the team's first shot, just 1:15 in on a nice cross-slot feed from Patch Alber to the right circle. Following eight minutes of back-and-forth action, Nolan Descoteaux scored his first professional goal after receiving a perfect backhand pass from Dirk Southern at the top of the zone. Descoteaux skated ahead untouched and buried the shot underneath Neil Conway at 9:49.
Just as the fans finished celebrating, Taylor Law swung the momentum back towards the Jackals on a turnaround shot and score just under 30 seconds later at 10:23 for his first pro goal. Then at 15:46, Pietrus scored his second of the period after a sprawling save from Josh Unice bore a rebound out to the low right slot, leaving Pietrus with an open net to bounce the puck into.
Gwinnett had its chances in the second, with two power play opportunities, but they were unable to cash in on either. Law extended the Elmira lead in the period with his second goal of the night, six minutes into the frame.
Trailing 4-1 in the closing minutes of the period, the Gladiators fed off their first penalty kill of the night. As Descoteaux exited the box, Chris Culligan stepped over the offensive blue line and delayed as long as possible until darting a pass to Maxime Legault on the far side post. Legault slipped the shot in off of Conway's skate at 17:30, to cut Elmira's lead to two.
The Jackals would pull away in the third however, with Rob Bellamy splitting the Gwinnett defense for a pretty shorthanded tally at 5:03 of the period. Legault kept the Gladiators alive with his second goal of the night at 6:30, rifling a shot high glove side past Conway with Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Springer assisting.
Despite plenty of Gwinnett pressure the Jackals salted away the game with 8.9 seconds remaining, with Rob Bellamy sliding the puck into an empty Gladiator goal. Josh Unice stopped 40-of-45 shots for Gwinnett, while Conway made 39 saves for Elmira.
To purchase tickets for the season finale on Saturday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center, 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.