BY: Ray Schmitt, Voice of the Greenville Road Warriors
The Greenville Road Warriors claimed a 5-4 overtime win over the Gwinnett Gladiators on Sunday afternoon and ran their record to 23-16-2 on the season.
The first period felt like the early rounds of a championship boxing match with the opponents feeling one another out and trying to gauge one another. The Road Warriors earned the only power play chance of the period but could not convert despite a couple of shots. Not long after returning to full strength, Gwinnett took a 1-0 advantage when Aaron Bendickson sprung Joey Haddad behind the defense with a breakaway pass. His shot beat Jason Missiaen to the blocker side for his 13th goal of the season. Missiaen’s counterpart, Jeff Jakaitis made 10 saves in the first to keep Greenville off the board.
After being shut down in the first period, the Road Warriors’ offense roared to life in the second period and put three goals on the board. To tie the game at one, Marc-Olivier Vallerand beat Jakaitis with a wrist shot that rattled off of the goal frame and just had enough juice to cross the goal line. Gwinnett came back to take a 2-1 lead with Haddad capping off a 2-on-1 with Andy Brandt, but the Road Warriors scored twice more to take a one-goal lead into the break. Vallerand blasted a one-timer off of a feed from Jeff Prough, with Greenville on the power play, to tie the game at two. With 48 seconds left in the frame, Cullen Eddy took a pass from Prough in the high slot and laced a shot past Jakaitis on the glove side to lift Greenville to the lead.
After over 15 minutes of scoreless hockey in the third period, the final 4:26 of the third provided some of the most dramatic and exciting hockey of the season. Sean Berkstresser put Greenville ahead by two goals with his third of the season on a wrist shot from the left wing circle. Just 18 seconds later Gwinnett’s Bryan Brutlag blistered a shot past Missiaen to pull Gwinnett back within one. Jason Wilson was whistled for slashing with just over three minutes to go and gave Gwinnett a chance for a 6-on-4 advantage with Jakaitis pulled for the extra attacker. Greenville survived the power play, but the Gladiators got a goal from Justin Milo with 37 seconds to play to tie it and send the game to overtime.
In the overtime session the Gladiators were awarded a power play 57 seconds in, but it was Greenville with the best scoring chances while shorthanded. Vallerand was tripped on a breakaway and given a penalty shot only to have Jakaitis deny him the hat trick with a blocker save. Jyri Niemi also had a breakaway on the kill, but Jakaitis came through with a stick save on him. The third breakaway of overtime proved to be the charm as Connor Shields took a pass from Jeff Prough and beat Jakaitis with a shot high to the glove side.
Missiaen earned the win with 32 saves for Greenville. The Road Warriors were 1-for-3 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Mark your calendars! The Road Warriors return home on Thursday, February 9, 2012 to take on the Kalamazoo
Wings. Join us for a Throwback Thursday presented by WSSL 100.5, The Greenville News and New Rock 93.3. Throwback Thursday feature select draft beers, fountain drinks, hot dogs, and pretzels for just $2. Your group of 10 or more can also get a discount off the box office price and preferred seating based on availability by booking in advance. Call 864-674-PUCK to book your group outing with the Road Warriors.