Its easy for Coyotes fans to pay attention to the players that stayed in the state to play for the CHL's Arizona Sundogs and even easier to watch this year's Portland Pirates as they overflowing with prospect talent, but one team that fans haven't taken a lot of notice to are the Gwinnett Gladiators.
During this year's lockout out Coyotes fan's attention is divided. Turning to the next professional hockey in the desert leads them to the Arizona Sundogs. The Prescott Valley team created buzz when they announced they would be bringing in former teammate and current Coyote David Schlemko into the fold for the remainder of the lockout. Not long after the Sundogs would again grab fan's attention by adding Coyotes' fourth liner Kyle Chipchura. Chipchura who is sharing ice-time with Schlemko was just recently named the Oakley CHL Player of the Week shortly before leaving the team on a leave of absence.
For the fans that craved stiffer competition that involved other Coyotes, the attention was turned to the AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. The Pirates who are maintaining the biggest amount of fan's attention is polishing prospects like Brendan Shinnimin, Brandon Gormley and Andy Miele while keeping fresh NHL players fresh such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson. But lost in that mix is ECHL's Gwinnett Gladiators. (Stay up today on locked out Coyotes here)
Yes, we have a ECHL affiliate. Yes, they are pretty good, and if you use Yotes Gurl's terminology, the Gladiators house some of the BB'est of BB Yotes. But don't worry if you forgot about the Gladiators, their NHL parent team did also.
Prospects Evan Bloodoff, Louis Domingue and Mike Lee currently call Gwinnett, Georgia home. Bloodoff, the former junior hockey stud played for the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL before heading to Portland in 2011. The Nelson, BC native now sits cozy with six goals and 11 points in 13 games this season with the Glads.
Domingue and Lee both were sent down after being cut from the Pirates, the Pirates opting to go with goaltenders, Mark Visentin and Chad Johnson. Domingue who shined with QMJHL's Quebec Remparts was coached under hockey great, Patrick Roy and shares duties with Lee. He has played sparingly so far, but was the starter in the Glads 2-1 win on Sunday. Lee spent time in the USHL with the Fargo Force before playing for St. Cloud State in the WCHA and is the starting goaltender for the Glads. He's been one of the best goalies in the ECHL so far this season. He's currently ranks second in the league in both G.A.A. (1.83) and save percentage (.932) and has already been named the ECHL goalie of the week twice this season.
The scoring column for the ECHL team is been spread out among it's roster but most of the goals have been touched by forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel. Pierro-Zabotel who was a former Penguins' prospect before becoming a free agent after his contract expired with the Pens. Unable to re-sign with the Bakersfield Condors he signed with Gwinnett in September. Leading the team in points, Pierro-Zabotel now has six goals and 24 points in just 17 games. Strong numbers for a player and a team who are still in the early swing of their season. If the Gladiators keep up the pace their are on, they are poised to rip through the ECHL and return to the post season.