2003 - 2004
March 31, 2004
Generals playoff hopes are damaged
Gladiators - 4
Generals - 3
BY LARRY KEECH
GREENSBORO - Only 23 seconds stood between the Greensboro Generals and what would have been a crucial late-season victory in their quest of an ECHL Southern Division playoff berth. Instead, the Generals were saddled with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Gwinnett Gladiators Tuesday night that could end up costing them a shot at the playoffs.
Greensboro was clinging to a 3-2 lead against a desperate opponent that had pulled its goalie with the seconds ticking down in the third period.
Generals goaltender Jamie Hodson recorded the last of his 19 third-period saves on a shot by Chris Durno, but the puck rebounded back onto Durno's stick, and he backhanded the tying goal past Hodson into the net.
"Right back onto his stick," said a disconsolate Generals coach 'Rick Adduono as he tortured himself by watching the videotape replay of Durno's goal. "That's just unlucky, and it couldn't have happened at a worse time for us. It was devastating."
Following a scoreless five-minute overtime, the game was decided by a shootout. In the seventh round, Gwinnett's Steve Slonina, beat Hodson high. The Gladiators' Michael Garnett then stopped Greensboro's Derek Crimin to end it.
Gwinnett, which was trying to solidify a Central Division' playoff berth, was credited with two points for the victory. The Generals' overtime loss netted them one point for a tie.
The outcome left Greensboro in a four-way tie for second place behind Columbia in the Southern Division. Roanoke, Florida, South Carolina and the Generals each have 80 points, and only three of the four will qualify for the playoffs.
Roanoke and Florida each have two home games left this weekend against opponents who have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Generals have two road games left against Florence and South Carolina. South Carolina has three games left; against last-place Greenville on the road, then first-place Columbia and Greensboro at home.
The Generals almost certainly will need to win both of their remaining games to resuscitate their playoff hopes.
Tuesday night's game treated 5,009 spectators at the Greensboro Coliseum to a taste of tension-filled playoff hockey.
Both goalies were magnificent. Garnett stopped at least three breakaway attempts, including two by Mike Bayrack, the Generals' leading goalscorer. Hodson finished with 46 saves.
It was an unusual night for the Generals on two counts.
Although Greensboro is one of the ECHL's highest scoring teams, the ineffectiveness of its scorers aided Garnett's cause Tuesday night. Besides Bayrack's unsuccessful breakaways for potential short-handed goals, both Geno Parrish and Pete Gardiner lost the handle on the puck during the shootout.
In addition, the Generals entered the game with a 10-1 record in overtime games. They were 7-0 in games decided in the overtime period and 3-1 in previous shootouts.
"We didn't deserve this," Adduono insisted. "Our guys played their tails off. They gave it everything they had and should've won the game. Maybe we can build on this effort the rest of the way.
"And maybe the puck will bounce our way. But one point is just so big for us right now."
And it was a point the Generals didn't get Tuesday night.
Contact Larry Keech at 373-7080 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Gladiators - 4
Generals - 3
Site: Greensboro Coliseum
Why the Generals lost: Too many missed breakaway scoring opportunities against Gwinnett goalie Michael Garnett before the visitors' Chris Dumb came up with the rebound goal that tied the score 3-3 with 23 seconds left in regulation time. After a scoreless overtime period, six of seven Generals failed to beat Garnett. Steve Slonina, the Gladiators' seventh shooter, scored the game winner against Jamie Hodson.
Three stars: No. 3 - Greensboro goalie Jamie Hodson posted 46 saves and surrendered 2 shootout goals in 7 shots. No. 2 - Gwinnett goalie Michael Garnett stopped three breakaway attempts, finished with 32 saves and allowed only 1 shootout goal in 7 shots. No. 1 - Gwinnett's Chris Durno scored twice, including the tying goal on a rebound with 23 seconds left in the third period.
Records: Greensboro 39-29-2 Gwinnett 40-22-7