Despite bringing the game back to even late in the second period, Atlanta could not hold off the visitors in the final frame, as the Gladiators fell to the South Carolina Stingrays by a score of 5-2 on Wednesday night at the Infinite Energy Arena.
South Carolina would strike first with a goal just 5:51 into the opening period. Derek Arnold collected the puck in the far corner after an Atlanta turnover and found Kelly Zajac near the slot. The Winnipeg native then pushed the puck forward from his own skates and sent a backhand shot that trickled through the legs of the Gladiators’ goalie Dan Vladar. The tally was the fifth-year pro’s 11th of the season, and put the Stingrays ahead 1-0 early.
The visitors then doubled their lead 1:21 into the second period. Olivier Archambault corralled the puck to the right of the net and snuck a short-angle shot past the leg of Vladar. Both Marcus Perrier and Scott Tanski were credited with an assist on the former Quad City Mallard’s 13th goal of the year.
Atlanta would come back with a power play goal at the 4:31 mark of the middle frame to cut the score to 2-1. Josh Atkinson held the puck at the high slot and found Mark Naclerio at the far side boards. The former Brown University captain then turned and lifted a pass to Tyler Murovich, who paused for a moment before he wristed a shot that flew past the glove of South Carolina goalie, Parker Milner. The goal was the Gladiators alternate captain’s 20th of the year and increased his home point-streak to 11 games.
The Gladiators would then tie the game at 2-2 at the 15:52 mark of the second. Naclerio received the puck in the right circle and was able to take a shot through the legs of the Stingrays' defender to beat Milner on his glove side. The rookie's seventh goal of the year, and second point of the night, was assisted by Tyler Shiplo and Tommy Vannelli.
The visitors would regain their lead 10:41 into the third period. After Joey Leach kept the puck in at the far point, the defenseman ripped a shot towards the net that deflected off the skates of Patrick Megannetty to give South Carolina the 3-2 lead. The goal was the Clarkson University product’s second of the year.
Patrick Gaul would then find the back of the net with just over five minutes remaining to give the Stingrays a 4-2 lead. Cody Corbett picked up the puck in his defensive zone and delivered a lead pass to John Parker at the red line. The rookie then sent a pass through two defenders to Gaul, who redirected the puck over the shoulder of Vladar for the goal. Less than one minute later, Arnold would tap in the visitors third goal of the final period to take a 5-2 lead. The goal marked the forward's second point of the night, and was assisted by Steven McParland and Perrier.
The loss on home ice gave Atlanta a record of 24-31-6-2, and kept the Gladiators in sixth in the South Division with 56 points. Meanwhile, South Carolina improved to 34-26-2-1 with the win, and is now tied for fourth in the division at 71 points with the Orlando Solar Bears.