Coming off of their third win in as many games, the Atlanta Gladiators welcomed in-division rivals, the Orlando Solar Bears, to the Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday night. The matchup was the teams’ third of nine on the year, and the first to take place in Duluth.
The Gladiators continued their recent trend and found the back of the net first for the league leading ninth time this season. Trevor Mingoia was the Atlanta forward who knocked in the tally after he received a pass from Josh Atkinson at the doorstep just 8:43 into the game. Shane Bakker also picked up his first point as a Gladiator with an assist on the rookie’s fourth goal of the year.
Despite being largely outshot by the Solar Bears; Atlanta was able to strike again just 2:39 into the middle period. Jacob Bolton took a blistering slap shot from the point that was redirected in front by Brock Higgs and slid directly to the blade of Eric Neiley. The Dartmouth product did not have to think twice before tapping the loose puck in for his sixth goal of the year. Both Bolton and Higgs were credited with an assist on the tally that increased Atlanta’s lead to 2-0.
Orlando was quick to respond however, netting their first of the night just 69 seconds later. Cason Hohmann brought his squad within one after picking up a rebound in the slot and sending the puck past the Gladiators goalie Matt Ginn. The Arlington native’s first of the year was assisted by Brett Findlay and Willie Corrin at the 3:48 mark of the second.
Atlanta then regained their two goal lead only 56 seconds after conceding the first goal to Orlando. After being set up at the point by Justin Buzzeo, Blake Kessel wound up for a hard shot from the right slot and fired the puck through a bevy of bodies and into the back of the net. The Wisconsin native notched his first goal in the garnet and gold on the play which made it 3-1 Atlanta.
The Solar Bears would then crawl back to within one 4:36 into the final period. Tony Cameranesi was the goal scorer for Orlando, as the forward was able to send a quick shot over Ginn’s blocker to make the score 3-2. Ben Danford was credited with the assist on Cameranesi’s first goal.
Just over a minute later, Thomas Frazee scored his team-leading seventh goal of the year to put Atlanta ahead 4-2. The second year Glad was holding his ground in front of the net when a rebound kicked off the pad of Kasimir Kaskisuo and landed on the forwards stick. He then tapped it in, giving both Bolton and Mingoia their second point of the night with an assist.
In the back-and-forth fashion of the game, it was Orlando who would then strike to bring the score back within one. Hohmann picked up the power play goal for the visitors after being left wide open at the backdoor. Brenden Miller and Patrick Watling both put their names on the scoresheet with an assist. The power play tally brought the score to 4-3 7:39 into the third.
Eric Neiley was then responsible for putting Atlanta up 5-3 just 17 seconds following the Orlando tally. The second year pro fired his second of the night into the open net, giving him his seventh point in four games. Higgs and Buzzeo continued their line’s chemistry and each had an assist on the play.
With Brett Findlay making a break out of the penalty box, Eric Faille sent a pass up the ice to the fourth year pro who came in on a breakaway and stickhandled his way past Ginn. The shorthanded tally brought Orlando back to within one, making it 5-4 with 9:43 remaining.
Just over four minutes later, Johnny McInnis netted his first goal of the year to knot the game at 5-5. The native of Boston was the third Orlando player to get a whack at the puck, leaving Ginn no way to stop the third rebound. Both Miller and Faille were given their second assist of the night on the power play goal.
The Solar Bears would then take their first lead of the game with 1:31 remaining. Cameranesi picked up his second of the night after a tic-tac-toe passing play left him wide open in the offensive zone. The Toronto draft pick was assisted on the play by Watling and Faille.
Orlando sealed their win with an empty net goal from Hohmann. The former assistant captain at Boston University skated the puck into the zone and sent it flying into the open net for his hat-trick goal. The tally was unassisted and made it 7-5 Orlando with 60 seconds remaining.
Faille decided the visiting team was not done yet however, and sent a blistering shot past Ginn for his fourth point on the night. Miller was credited with his third assist on the final goal of the game. The goal came with only 33 seconds remaining and finished the score out 8-5 in favor of Orlando.
After failing to hold on to their third period lead, Atlanta drops to 5-4-1-1. This puts the Gladiators in second place in the ECHL South division with 12 points on the year. Meanwhile, after surging in the third period, Orlando improves to 4-3-1-0 with the win, placing them in fourth in the South with nine points.