Atlanta took the ice in Estero, FL for the last road game of the regular season in search of their first win over Florida this year. After trailing 3-0 to start the third period, the Gladiators battled back to get the game within one goal only to ultimately fall to the Everblades 4-2 Saturday night.
Florida notched the opening tally just 1:29 into the contest. Michael Kirkpatrick slid a pass behind the defense into the Gladiators’ zone. Brett Bulmer beat everyone to the puck and scored on a short-range breakaway to give the home-side the 1-0 lead.
The Everblades doubled their advantage 6:21 into the middle frame. Derek Sheppard blasted a one-timer from the high slot that eluded Dan Vladar and sailed into the top shelf of the net. Joe Cox and Logan Roe received the assists on the second Florida goal.
Just nine seconds later, Florida moved ahead by three. Right off the face-off at center ice, a quick passing play sent Matt Berry in on a breakaway. The former San Diego Gull roofed a shot over Vladar’s shoulder for his 14th mark on the season.
The Gladiators took advantage of a power play 5:21 into the third period to cut the deficit back to two goals. Luke Sandler worked the puck to the creased where Taylor Stefishen slammed it across the goal-line in a netmouth scramble. Stefishen’s 7th goal of the season was also assisted by Taylor Doherty.
With just over four minutes left in the game, the Gladiators moved the score back to within one. Derek Nesbitt sent the puck to Eric Shand at the point where he took a quick snap shot towards the net. Alex Rauter knocked down the disc in the low slot, spun to the front of the goal and chipped the puck over Florida goalie, Martin Ouellette for his first pro tally in his first pro game.
After a few chances to tie the contest late, Florida iced the win with an empty net goal with under a minute to go in the contest. With the 4-2 loss on the road, the Gladiators locked-down the fourth seed in the South Division Semi-Finals and will play the top seed in the first round of the postseason. Florida moved one step closer to earning the Brabham Cup as the ECHL’s regular season champion with their 49th win and 104th point.
Up next, the Gladiators head home to play host to the Orlando Solar Bears for the first of back-to-back games at the Infinite Energy Arena to close-out the regular season next Friday at 7:35pm.