By Dan Tomayko
Gwinnett Daily Post
DULUTH, Ga. – With the Gladiators fighting for their Kelly Cup lives, their oldest player and team captain helped provide a much-needed spark.
Cam Brown, who turned 37 on May 15, got the Gladiators off to a fast start, getting the first shot on goal just after the puck dropped, and helping to lead Gwinnett’s offensive assault en route to the 6-1 win.
“It started from Brownie right on down,” Gwinnett’s Matt York said. “He’s the captain, he’s the veteran, and he’s the leader and everyone sees how hard he works and everyone keys off of that.”
“We talked about it this morning, that all we have to do is worry about is coming to play in the first period, play smart and not take any costly penalties,” Brown said. “All things have to come into place, but having a good first period was something to build on.”
Brown and the rest of the members of the checking line – York and Derek Nesbitt – did much more than their enforcer duties, as they accounted for two goals and four assists in the winning effort.
“It was (one of Brown’s best games), not because he scored but because of the leadership that he brings and that he does all of the little things well,” Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle said. “That whole checking line did a great job.
“You come to work hard every night, whether you’re a checking line or offensive line,” Brown said. “Matty York makes a great play getting that second goal and that gave us lots of confidence and that is a big part of the game.
“I don’t think we as a line did anything special, we just did what we were supposed to do and everything worked.”
York found the net first to give the Gladiators a 2-0 lead as Brown found him with a centering feed and the defenseman-turned-forward was able to put it top shelf past Alaska keeper Chris Beckford-Tseu.
“(Brown) works so hard I try to keep up with him,” York said. “He’s 10 years older than me but he wants it so bad that he works so hard.”
Brown found a way to be involved with every minute that he was on the ice.
The Gladiators’ captain made a heads-up play just as he was coming onto the ice to start a shift early in the second period, keeping the puck in the offensive zone and dishing to Jeff Campbell, who found Guillaume Desbiens for the goal and the 3-0 lead.
Brown added a goal of his own later in the period as York kept control of the puck while under constant pressure from the Aces behind the goal and was able to feed Brown just in front of the net.
The Gladiators’ winger fired a low shot past Beckford-Tseu, giving Gwinnett the 4-0 lead.
The line also succeeded in its checking duties, seemingly getting under the Aces’ skin in the third period, drawing a few roughing penalties and picking on the nerves of a clearly frustrated Alaska squad.
“That’s a big part of our game, dumping the puck in and going down and finishing the check,” Brown said. “Obviously if they’re down a few goals, then they may take a few shots at us and we’ll get a power play and we’ll take that too.”
While the win staves off elimination, the Gladiators still have to come back out tonight and do the same thing to send the series back to Alaska.
“Our whole team plays well with our backs against the wall,” Brown said. “Of course we would rather be up 3-1 than down 3-1, but at the same time we are where we are and we have to take care of what we have to do.”