DULUTH, GA – The Greenville Road Warriors received stellar goaltending from Nic Riopel in winning a defensive battle, 2-1, over the Gwinnett Gladiators on Sunday afternoon at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. The win improved Greenville to 26-14-2 on the season.
In a first period where Gwinnett received the only two power plays of the frame, it was fitting that the Road Warriors’ best scoring chance came on a shorthanded breakaway. With just over three minutes remaining in the first, Mark Voakes took a loose puck just inside the Gwinnett line and raced in unimpeded on Gwinnett goalie Billy Sauer. Sauer tossed out a poke check that forced Voakes wide to the right and the Road Warriors forward’s backhander hit the side of the cage. Gwinnett had a great chance on the same power play with Dan Kissell creating a rebound opportunity for a hard-charging Danick Paquette. But a quick flick of the right pad by Nic Riopel prevented the Gladiators from taking the lead. Riopel finished the frame with 11 saves while Sauer matched him with six.
Greenville picked up the first goal of the game, just like it had done in the previous three games this week, to grab the first lead of the game in the second period. And with nine saves from Nic Riopel, the Road Warriors took the one-goal lead into the second intermission. With a point in each of his last six games, Shane Harper has been the most reliable source of offense for the Road Warriors lately. His goal at 7:26 of the second put the Road Warriors ahead. On a bank pass off of the end boards by Sam Klassen, Harper took the puck in the slot and fed a wrist shot past Sauer. Lee Baldwin also assisted on the goal. Gwinnett took a pair of penalties late in the period to give the Road Warriors their first power plays of the night, but they were unable to capitalize on either chance.
In the third period, the Road Warriors found the killer instinct that had eluded them in the past couple of games. A minute and 56 seconds in the Shields-Harper-Wong combination struck again for the Road Warriors to build the lead to 2-0. Harper took an outlet pass on the right wing from Wong and charged into the Gwinnett end. Shields was driving hard to the net and took a dish from Harper at close range before feeding a backhander through the legs of Sauer. That goal proved to be the game winner because Mike Forney broke up Riopel’s bid for a shutout with his 11th goal of the season 3:56 into the third. Despite being out-shot 17-5 in the third, the Road Warriors’ defense and goaltending held stout and allowed for the one-goal victory.
Riopel earned his ninth win of the season with 36 saves. The Road Warriors were 0-for-3 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.
Mark your calendars! The Road Warriors will return home from a seven-game road trip on Wednesday, February 9 to take on the South Carolina Stingrays at 7:05 p.m. at the BI-LO Center. The Road Warriors will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with special games and promotions throughout the evening. Group seating remains available for the game and you can call 864-674-PUCK to book your group outing and save off the box office price, receive preferred seating based on availability, and enjoy other great benefits.