The Gladiators had a milestone night from their captain, but Atlanta could not stop the home team’s offense as they fell to the South Carolina Stingrays by a score of 5-3 at the North Charleston Coliseum on Saturday night.
Atlanta opened the scoring for the contest with a historic tally 9:32 into the first period. Derek Nesbitt fired a one-time shot from the near circle on the power play that beat South Carolina’s goalie, Parker Milner, for his 100th career goal in a Gladiators uniform. The Captain’s 27th goal of the year was assisted by Ben Marshall and Thomas Frazee.
South Carolina would then bring the game back even at the 18:30 mark of the opening frame. After Matt Ginn made a leg save on the original shot towards net, Patrick Megannety jammed in a rebound to the side of the goal to tie the game at 1-1. Both Patrick Gaul and Olivier Archambault were credited with an assist on the rookie’s third goal of the season.
The home team would then take their first lead of the night just :38 seconds in to the second period. Archambault carried the puck into the offensive zone and delivered a drop pass to Joey Leach. The former Calgary Flames draft pick then wired a shot from the slot that flew over the blocker of Ginn to put the Stingrays ahead 2-1.
The Stingrays then doubled their lead with a strike at the 4:14 mark of the middle frame. Derek Arnold struck the puck out of the air after Ginn made the first stop to put his team ahead 3-1 on his 14th goal of the year. Steve McParland tallied his 27th assist of the year on the play, while Marcus Perrier notched his 18th with the secondary helper.
The Gladiators would close the gap with a goal of their own just :49 second later. Josh Atkinson took the puck at right point and skated around three South Carolina defensemen before he slid a shot through the legs of Milner to bring the game back to within one. Nesbitt doubled his point total for the night with a helper on the goal, while Shane Bakker added his name to the scoresheet with the primary assist.
Just under a minute and half of playing time later, Atlanta struck once again to knot the game at 3-3. Atkinson skated through the center and left a pass for Alex Guptill at the left circle. The former Michigan Wolverine then stunned all 4,047 in attendance at the game with a fake shot and instead mailed a pass to Thomas Frazee at the back the door, who tapped in his 17th of the year to tie the game at 3-3.
At the 9:06 mark of the second, South Carolina connected on a breakout rush to regain a 4-3 lead. Kelly Zajac corralled a pass from Arnold and made two quick moves before he slipped the puck between Ginn’s legs for his 13th goal of the campaign.
The Stingrays then took their second two-goal lead of the night with a rebound goal 16:06 into the second stanza. Joe Devin tapped a loose puck into the open net for his 13th score of the year after Wade Epp took the first shot. Kevin Dufour also picked up an assist on the strike that made it 5-3.
Despite special-teams chances for both teams, no one was able to find the net in the third period, and the Stingrays held on for the 5-3 victory. The loss dropped the Gladiators to 24-33-6-2 on the season, and kept Atlanta in sixth in the South Division with 56 points. Meanwhile, South Carolina improved to 36-26-2-1 and jumped to a tie for third in the division with 75 points after the win.
Up next, the Gladiators will travel to Norfolk, VA for a weekday matchup with the Admirals. The puck drop between Atlanta and Norfolk is scheduled for 7:15 on Wednesday night at the Norfolk Scope.