03/14/2017 8:10 PM
Unable to hold off the visitors early, Atlanta allowed three goals in the first period and never caught up, as the Gladiators fell to the Florida Everblades in their final matchup of the season by a score of 7-4 which ended a four-game home winning streak at the Infinite Energy Arena on Tuesday night.
Florida would open the scoring 3:52 into the opening period to go ahead 1-0. Mitch Heard won the faceoff at the far circle in his offensive zone and pushed the puck forward to Brendan O’Donnell. The second-year pro then kicked the puck to the blade of his stick and snuck a shot past the left pad of Atlanta goalie, Matt Ginn. The tally was O’Donnell’s team leading 34th of the season, and his 11th in as many games against the Gladiators.
Atlanta would reply with a goal of their own 11:34 into the first period. After Thomas Frazee applied pressure to the Florida defenders and clubbed a pass to the front of the net, AJ White corralled the puck on a turnover in the slot and lined a quick shot that ricocheted off the pad of Florida goalie, Anthony Peters and to the blade of Mark Naclerio. The Connecticut native then wristed a shot into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the year.
Less than two minutes of play later, the Everblades struck again to regain the 2-1 lead. Logan Roe was credited with his third goal of the season after he snapped a shot through the legs of a defender in front to beat Ginn on his blocker side. Matt Berry notched his third assist in the last two games with the only helper on the tally.
The Everblades then doubled their lead at the 15:16 mark of the first. O’Donnell received a pass in the neutral zone from Michael Kirkpatrick and drove into the zone from the near side all the way across the crease and beat Ginn to the left of the blue paint for his second tally of the night. Kyle Pereira achieved a milestone and collected his first professional point with the secondary helper on the goal that increased Florida’s lead to 3-1.
Heard netted his second goal of the season just 1:47 into the second period to increase to Florida lead to 4-1. The former Colorado Avalanche draft pick snuck a shot past the blocker of Ginn, who did not see the pass come from behind the net. Both Kirkpatrick and O’Donnell increased their point totals for the game with an assist on the play.
Atlanta would cut the deficit to 4-2 with a goal at the 16:03 mark of the middle frame. Tyler Murovich knocked in a rebound through traffic to increase his home-game point streak to 10 games with his 19th tally of the season. Josh Atkinson notched his seventh point in the last six games with an assist on the play, while Frazee doubled his point total for the game with the secondary helper.
Only :31 seconds into the third frame Florida would increase their lead to 5-2 with a strike from the slot. Stephan MacAulay brought the puck into the offensive zone on a breakaway and rang a shot off the post and into the net for his seventh goal of the year. Dalton Smith and Curt Gogol both added an assist on the Everblades' goal.
A power play strike at the 3:09 mark of the final period would bring the Gladiators back to within two and make the score 5-3. Frazee collected the puck in the offensive corner and found Atkinson at the point, who then looked around and saw Derek Nesbitt wide open at the far slot. The rookie lifted a pass over to the Atlanta captain, who blasted a one-timer over the glove of Peters for his 24th goal this season.
Florida regained their three-goal cushion at the 8:56 mark of the third. John McCarron potted his 19th of the year after he deflected a backhand shot from Berry at the far circle. The Everblades then scored their seventh of the night after Heard wristed a shot past two defenders for his second goal of the game. The tally was unassisted and increased Florida’s lead to 7-3.
Atlanta would bring the game back to within three after Alex Gacek scored for the second straight game. The former Miami University (OH) Redhawk was able to line a shot past a sprawling Peters for his 24th of the season to make the score 7-4.
The loss on home ice dropped Atlanta to 23-28-6-2 and kept the Gladiators in sixth in the South Division with 54 points. Meanwhile Florida improved to 40-15-2-3 on the season with the win, and increased their point total to 85 to improve their lead atop the division to 10 points.