By Christine Troyke
Gwinnett Daily Post
DULUTH, Ga. – The Gwinnett Gladiators have been pushed to the brink of elimination and must beat the Florida Everblades in Sunday’s Game 5 to remain alive.
In a do-or-die situation on home ice, Gwinnett’s opponent is anticipating a mighty push, especially in the early minutes.
“They’re going to come out firing because it’s their season on the line,” said Everblades’ forward Ross Carlson, who scored two goals, one the winner, in Game 4. “We have to weather the storm and I think that with this veteran group, we know that.”
The Everblades won the ECHL Brabham Cup for best regular-season record and have a 3-1 lead in this first-round best-of-seven series. But all the games have been close. Two have gone to overtime, including Gwinnett’s lone win at home Thursday, and only Carlson’s empty-net goal kept Friday’s Game 4 from being the third straight 3-2 finish.
“They’re a tough team,” Carlson said. “We’ve always had trouble with them and we’ve known that coming into it. It’s a great building to come in and play in. They’re a fast team and we’re a fast team. It’s just been a grind. An absolute grind.”
The Gladiators rallied with a pair of goal in the second period to force a 2-2 tie Friday and had a couple opportunities to take the lead. But only one of the power-play units was able to generate any real chances and head coach Jeff Pyle thought that was what killed Gwinnett in the loss.
“We had a 4-on-3 (in the last five minutes of the tied second period) and we got nothing out of it,” Pyle said. “We needed that one to go up 3-2.
“We pass up opportunities that we can’t. With this (Florida) team, when you get opportunities, you’ve got to get it done and we didn’t. We’re just not smart enough at times.”