Steelheads Fall in Atlanta to Open Road Trip
Duluth, GA - Former Steelheads Branden Troock and Derek Nesbitt both scored goals and Dan Vladar made 34 saves, as the Atlanta Gladiators (29-31-3) skated to a 4-2 win over the Idaho Steelheads (35-20-7) on Tuesday night at Infinite Energy Arena.
The Steelheads climbed back from a three-goal deficit to pull within one, but Nesbitt's eleventh goal of the season into an empty net sealed the win for Atlanta, improving their hold on the South Division's final playoff spot to eight points over the Norfolk Admirals.
Lindsay Sparks made it 1-0 Gladiators at 6:18 of the first period, taking the puck at the right point during a 4-on-4 and carrying it down to the side of the goal. Sparks pulled rookie goaltender Michael Bitzer out of the net before deking around him, carrying the puck below the goal line and then tucking it inside the post for his 13th goal of the year.
At 13:00 of the first, Atlanta struck again when a turnover at the Atlanta blue line sent Phil Lane in on a breakaway. He fired the puck through Bitzer's legs for his 28th goal of the season.
Atlanta went up 3-0 at 1:15 of the second period on a power play goal by Troock. After Vladar turned aside a shorthanded breakaway for Steve McParland, the Gladiators regained the zone and Davis Vandane set up Troock for a one-timer for his 17th goal of the year.
The Steelheads got on the board eight seconds after Troock's goal, with a Jack Nevins wrist shot hitting Valdar's pad, ricocheting into Connor Chatham's midsection, and bouncing into the back of the net to make it 3-1. It was Chatham's eleventh goal of the season and Nevins' first point as a Steelhead.
Idaho pulled within a goal at 36 seconds of the third period when McParland banked the puck off of Vladar from below the goal line and in to make it 3-2 with his team-leading 28th goal of the season. McParland has five goals in his last five games.
Vladar denied several late opportunities in the third period with the Steelheads pushing for the tie. Chatham was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway midway through the third period, and a jam attempt at the side of the net in the final two minutes with the net empty popped over Vladar's pad and rolled along the goal line before being cleared away.
Bitzer suffered his first professional loss, stopping 23 shots.
The Steelheads continue their road trip on Thursday night in Charleston with the first of two games against the South Carolina Stingrays at North Charleston Coliseum, Idaho's first visit to Charleston since January of 2013. Puck-drop is scheduled for 5:05pm MT, with the game available on 1350AM KTIK and on ECHLTV.
Goals: Chatham (11), McParland (28)
Michael Bitzer: 23 saves on 26 shots
Power Play: 0-for-3
Penalty Kill: 2-for-3
CENTURYLINK THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Dan Vladar ATL
2. Tanner Pond ATL
3. Branden Troock ATL
COORS LIGHT OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Branden Troock: Game-winning goal, 2 shots
PLAY OF THE GAME:
At the start of the second period, the Steelheads were tasked with killing a two-minute penalty to Jack Nevins for hooking. Already down 2-0, the Steelheads nearly stole the momentum when Steve McParland pulled away on a shorthanded breakaway. McParland moved across the goal mouth form right to left, trying to tuck the puck in the near post while catching Dan Vladar moving against the grain. Vladar dragged the left pad and made the stop, and on the ensuing rush up ice, the Gladiators set up the power play and fed Branden Troock at the left circle for a one-timer and the eventual game-winning goal on the power play.
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