Evansville, Ind. – The Evansville IceMen had their New Years Eve party crashed by the Gwinnett Gladiators in front of 7,339 fans at the Ford Center. The IceMen were in danger of being shutout by Gladiators Goaltender Mike Lee until IceMen Left Winger Matt Schepke spoiled the bid.
Evansville scored its first and only goal of the game late in third period of Monday night’s game, getting on the board 14:45 into the period off of an initial shot by IceMen Defenseman Matt Gens. The point shot was rebounded by Evansville’s Schepke for his fourth goal of the season. Gens, the game’s third star, received the first assist on the lone Evansville goal, while Left Winger Anthony Nigro claimed the second assist. Schepke has accounted for six points (4G, 2A) in the span of the last four games.
Gwinnett’s Lee held the shutout bid for the majority of the game as he earned the vote for first star. Lee saved 42-of-43 shots faced, accomplishing a stout .977 save percentage.
The IceMen allowed the first goal of the game after accomplishing that feat in each of the last two games. Gwinnett Forward Tyler Murovich, and the game’s second star, collected his ninth goal of the season just 22 seconds into regulation, giving the Gladiators an early 1-0 lead. Gwinnett Forwards Scott Arnold and Christian Ouellet assisted on the opening Gladiators goal that held as the lead for the remainder of the first period.
The Gladiators continued their dominance when scoring the game’s first goal on Monday. Gwinnett is now (19-1-1) on the season when owning the first lead of the game. The IceMen, unable to rebound against the Gladiators, are now (2-15-1) when allowing the first goal of the game.
Evansville had two power play chances in the first period on Monday night, with one of those opportunities resulting from a bizarre play involving Gwinnett Goaltender Mike Lee. A chase for the puck had materialized when Lee collided with IceMen Right Winger Cody Beach in the middle of the IceMen offensive zone, thus disallowing Beach to make a play. Lee was penalized for tripping 7:03 into the first period, putting Evansville on their first power play of the game. Gwinnett Defenseman Cody Carlson served the two-minute minor penalty as the Gladiators penalty killed off the threat.
The second period played out eerily similar to the first, with Gwinnett’s Murovich providing the game-winner, lighting the lamp within the first minute for the second time of the game. Murovich’s second marker of the game, and tenth goal of the season, came 39 seconds into the middle frame and was assisted by Gwinnett’s Carlson. The 2-0 Gladiators lead stabilized throughout the second period and was enough to deny the IceMen a win on the final night of the year.
Identical to the first period, the IceMen were granted two power play opportunities in the second, but were unable to get on the board against Gwinnett after 40 minutes.
The Gladiators extended their lead to three at the 5:32 mark of the third period when Gwinnett’s Arnold earned his third goal of the season, this one coming on the power play. Arnold’s tally proved to be more than enough for the Gladiators to hold on for the victory.
IceMen Head Coach Rich Kromm pulled IceMen Goaltender Paul Dainton with just under three minutes to go in regulation, in hopes of reducing the Gwinnett lead to one with enough time to work for the tie. The decision to pull the goalie came with Evansville’s Beach in the penalty box serving a double-minor for elbowing and unsportsmanlike conduct.
The losing goaltender was Evansville’s Dainton, who is still winless in five starts for the IceMen. Dainton saved 21-of-24 shots faced, equaling a .875 save percentage.
With the win, the Gladiators take sole possession of first place in the South Division with a 34(22-11-1) record for 45 points on the season. Evansville is now (1-5-0) against South Division opponents. The IceMen fall to 34(11-20-3)25 on the season and remain in fifth place in the North Division. After starting the month of December with a six-game unbeaten streak, the IceMen have dropped seven of their last eight decisions.
Evansville outshot Gwinnett for the game, 43-24. The IceMen power play was blanked by the Gladiators as Evansville went 0-for-4. Gwinnett went 1-for-6 on the power play against the IceMen.
The IceMen will welcome back former team members Dan Gendur and Dale Mahovsky as they host the Orlando Solar Bears on Friday, Jan. 4. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. and will be broadcasted by ‘Magic 98.5’ FM and 1400 AM WEOA, as well as the rest of the IceMen Radio Network.