Swamp Rabbits Edged in Final Seconds of Season Finale
Duluth, GA - Josh Nicholls scored twice on Saturday, helping the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (29-33-10), proud ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack, tie the game following a four-goal deficit, but Atlanta's Ian Barteaux notched the game-winner with just 3.8 seconds left as the Gladiators (34-31-7) earned a 5-4 victory in the season finale at the Infinite Energy Center.
Chris Leone and Brian Hart also scored for the Swamp Rabbits, who finished the season 15-19-2 on the road.
The Gladiators took command in the opening frame with two goals on eight shots to build a 2-0 advantage. Derek Nesbitt struck first at 6:17 when he tipped Max Everson's slap shot from the blue line and redirected the puck past goaltender Alain Valiquette's blocker. It was Nesbitt's team-leading 28th tally of the season.
Tyler Murovich padded Atlanta's lead at the 17:09 mark when he netted his 19th goal of the season. From the left boards, Murovich collected a feed from Patrick D'Amico, spun and fired a heavy wrist shot on target that knuckled past Valiquette's glove to make it 2-0.
Atlanta continued to pull away in the second period when D'Amico and Brock Higgs added their names to the list of goal scorers. D'Amico buried his 15th tally of the season at the 4:14 mark to make it 3-0.
Higgs recorded his sixth goal of the season at the 11:10 mark with a power-play tally to expand Atlanta's lead to four. With Josh Nicholls in the box for tripping, Eric Neiley found Barteaux at the blue line for a one-time slap shot that was redirected by Higgs at the doorstep.
The Swamp Rabbits' four-goal comeback began at 17:28 of the second period when Leone scored his first professional goal on the power-play with a wrist shot from the right circle. He received the pass from Michael St. Croix and beat goaltender Matt Ginn blocker side with Tyler Shiplo in the box for slashing.
Hart made it 4-2 with his second goal in as many nights at 4:02 of the third period. At even strength, Ryan Rashid sent a feed to the bottom of the right circle for Garett Bembridge, who immediately swung a cross-ice pass to Hart at the left post for the tap-in goal. It was Hart's 11th goal of the season.
Nicholls kept things rolling and tied the contest at 4-4 with back-to-back goals in a span of 3:35. His first came on the power play at the 13:30 mark when he drilled a shot through Ginn's five-hole from the left hash marks with D'Amico in the box for goaltender interference. Nicholls added his 21st tally of the season at 17:05 when tucked a low snap shot under Ginn from the left circle.
Despite Greenville's late-game momentum, Barteaux notched the game-winner in the final four seconds following a holding minor to Tyler Elbrecht. From the top of the point, Barteaux called for the puck and hammered a slap shot through traffic and past Valiquette's glove for the power-play tally.
Both teams finished the game 2-for-3 on the power play, while Atlanta outshot Greenville 37-30. Valiquette (5-5-0) made 32 saves in the setback and Ginn (17-16-3) halted 26 shots in the Gladiators win.
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