07/26/2018 7:32 AM
DULUTH, Ga. – The Atlanta Gladiators announced Thursday that they have re-signed defenseman Ben Danford and forward Darby Llewellyn to standard professional contracts.
“I had a ton of fun last season with all the guys we had, and thought the staff and organization was great to work with,” said Danford. “Now with Jeff (Pyle) taking over, his excitement of coming back is contagious, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Danford, 29, had his best season in professional hockey during the 2017-18 season with Atlanta, after he notched 34 points (10g, 24a) in 52 games. The Stillwater, MN native led all of the Gladiators defenders in goals, assists and points. The 6-foot, 185-pound D-man was ranked in the top five in the ECHL in scoring by defensemen before an injury ended his regular season with just over 20 games remaining. Danford appeared in three of the four playoff games for the Glads after returning from injured reserve, and registered two points (1g,1a).
“I think the reason for my success last season all stemmed from a hot start which gave me a ton of confidence going forward,” said Danford. “I was immediately comfortable with the team and my D-partners from the beginning and rode the wave of a good first month throughout the rest of the season.”
The fifth-year pro scored 20 points (6g, 14a) and a +21 rating in 51 games during the 2016-17 season with the Orlando Solar Bears, following two seasons in Europe after his collegiate career. The offensive defender skated in three games for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL at the end of his senior season at Canisius College. The four-year standout with the Golden Griffins posted 84 career points (10g, 74a) in 158 NCAA games.
“We battled a ton of adversity last year with a crazy amount of injuries, and did it like true professionals,” said Danford. “To have the successes we did, under the circumstances we had, was incredible, and I want to see what we can do with a season of better fortunes health wise. I truly believe the sky is the limit for us.”
Llewellyn, 22, ended his rookie season second on the Gladiators in goals with 17, and sixth on the team in points with 30, in 66 games played last year. The Ann Arbor, MI native led Atlanta in shorthanded goals with three, and topped all Glads rookies in goals and plus/minus (+4). The second-year pro amassed one assist in four playoff games for the Gladiators.
“I gained a lot of confidence offensively once I got settled into the pro game last season, and used that to have a solid end to my rookie year,” said Llewellyn. “During the summer I’ve been focusing on bulking up and adding muscle to elevate my overall game to a new level.”
Prior to the start of his pro career, the 6-foot, 190-pound forward appeared in 301 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) games and put up 171 points (95g, 76a) for the Kitchener Rangers. Llewellyn was named alternate captain of the Rangers during his final two seasons from 2015-2017.
“We have a great group of hardworking, character guys as the core of our team,” said Llewellyn. “I like the direction the organization is going, and am excited to come back and complete our unfinished business from last season.”
The 16th season of Atlanta Gladiators hockey begins at the Infinite Energy Arena on Friday, October 19th against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 7:35 PM. For ticket information, visit the official team website at www.atlantagladiators.com or call the main office line at 770-497-5100.
The Gladiators are members of the ECHL, the nation’s premier "AA" hockey league. All home games are played at the 10,867-seat Infinite Energy Arena, located just off I-85 on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth – where parking is always free. The Gladiators have established an unrivaled commitment to excellence, maintaining a distinctive reputation for affordable and family-friendly sports entertainment and consistently ranked as one of the top “Things To Do” in the Atlanta area and across the North Georgia region.
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