Gladiators Unable to Overcome Everblades in 3-1 Loss
ESTERO, FL - Two nights after a sour result at the hands of the Florida Everblades, the Atlanta Gladiators bounced back to give one of the top teams in the ECHL a tough fight. Unfortunately, that would not be enough as Florida tallied two power play goals en route to a 3-1 win over the Gladiators Friday night.
Both teams were awarded penalties in the opening minutes, creating 4-on-4 for roughly :90 seconds, but neither team could take advantage. An evenly-contested opening frame seemed destined to be scoreless after twenty minutes, but a scrum between defenseman Vytal Cote and Florida's Kyle Platzer resulted in a power play for the hosting Everblades in the final two minutes. A few seconds into the man-advantage, Blake Winiecki capitalized and gave the 'Blades the 1-0 lead. Atlanta looked to keep the deficit minimal before the break, but the division leaders struck again. Patrick Bajkov and Michael Neville fed defenseman Matt Finn for another tally to double the hosts' lead with just :56 seconds remaining in the first period.
The visiting Gladiators had a golden chance to get off the mat early in the second frame. Florida earned back-to-back penalties to give Atlanta :53 seconds of 5-on-3 power play, but the Glads were unable to capitalize. Not long after, the visitors finally punched back on a traditional 5-on-4 power play. A gaggle of players in front of Jeremy Helvig's net gave Zach Malatesta and Nick Bligh a chance to shovel the puck to Justin MacDonald waiting on the back side of the netminder. He buried his chance to bring Atlanta within one goal with 15:48 to play in the middle frame. The Gladiators continued to assault the opposing net in the waning minutes of the second period, but entered the second intermission trailing 2-1.
The visitors had plenty of chances on the man-advantage throughout the night, but finished just 1-for-6. One of those chances halfway through the final frame was cut short after a light penalty called on the Gladiators. After a scoreless 4-on-4 run of play, the 'Blades yet again found the back of the net on the power play. Winiecki gathered his second tally of the night with help from Derek Sheppard and Nathan Perkovich. Atlanta could not overcome the two-goal deficit, and they were saddled with a second consecutive defeat in southwest Florida.
The Gladiators conclude the series with the Everblades Saturday night at 7:30 PM in Estero before travelling to Jacksonville to face the Icemen Sunday afternoon at 3:00 PM. Atlanta returns to Infinite Energy Arena next week, including the highly-anticipated Hockey Heritage Night on Friday, March 15th against Florida. Get your tickets today at atlantagladiators.com!
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