The Gladiators continued their season long road trip in Reading, PA against the Royals as they looked for their first ever win at the Santander Arena. Atlanta was in search of a second straight victory in their only game against Reading this season.
Atlanta got on the board first once again for the 11th time this season on Josh Atkinson's second goal of the year. The leader amongst rookie defenseman in points received a pass from Justin Buzzeo in the neutral zone and led a 2-on-1 rush. Atkinson sent a pass looking for Eric Neiley across the slot that was unintentionally re-directed into the Reading net by a Royals defenseman. Dalton Reum also earned an assist on the opening goal that made it 1-0 Atlanta 4:15 into the first period.
The Gladiators increased their lead to 2-0 after Trevor Mingoia scored his third goal in his last two games. Derek Nesbitt intercepted a Royal's clearing attempt and took a shot in the low slot that was stopped by Reading goalie, Mark Dekanich. Mingoia collected the rebound and propelled the puck into the goal for his seventh tally of the season.
The Royals got on the scoreboard for the first time 9:40 into the opening frame. Austrian defender Fabian Iberer took a shot from the point that beat Atlanta goalie, Matt Ginn. Mike Marcou and Ian Watters got credit for the helpers on Iberer's third goal of the year.
Blake Kessel scored a power play goal at the 14:51 mark of the first period to put the Gladiators back up by two. Atlanta made the most of a 5-on-3 advantage when Kessel improved his point streak to three games as he one-timed the puck in from the point. Buzzeo received another point in the game, as did Nesbitt when they earned the assists on Kessel's third goal of the season.
Reading got back to within one early in the second when Robbie Czarnik scored his fifth goal of the year. The Detroit, MI native powered his way to the front of the Atlanta net and scooped the puck in past Ginn. Mike Pereira and Mike Boivin registered the helpers on the tally that made the score 3-2 Atlanta, 3:38 into the middle period.
The Gladiators jumped back up by two when the Captain struck for Atlanta. Neiley sent a cross-rink pass to the right wing circle where the Seaforth, ON native blasted a shot by Dekanich for his seventh goal of the season. Neiley from nearby Warminster, PA, got the only assist on Nesbitt’s third point of the game.
Pereira found the back of the net for Reading just 1:15 later to bring the Royals back to within a goal again. Boivin hit the third-year pro with a pass down on the goal line where he riffled a shot top-self past Ginn's right ear. Olivier LaBelle also received an assist on Pereira's fifth goal of the season.
Nesbitt managed his second goal and fourth point of the night with under a minute to go in the second frame. Kessel wrapped around the back of the Royals net and found Nesbitt alone in the low slot. The 12th-year pro made no mistake and one-timed the puck in for his eighth mark of the season. Tyler Shiplo collected the secondary helper that made the score 5-3 heading into the third period.
Reading once again started to chip away at the Gladiators' lead and made the score 5-4, 1:31 into the third frame. Boivin took a slap shot form the point that found its way through traffic in front and into the Atlanta net. Boivin’s first goal as a Royal was assisted by Marcou and Mike Pelech.
The Royals tied the game when the Reading, PA native, Steven Swavely deflected a point shot from Iberer past Ginn for his fifth tally of the season. LaBelle notched the secondary assist for his second point of the game on the goal that made the score even with 9:54 remaining in the match.
Reading took their first lead of the contest at the 13:49 mark of the final period. Nick Luukko ripped a shot from the high slot that slipped in past Ginn's pad. Swavely registered his second point of the contest alongside LaBelle, as they they notched the helpers on the go-ahead goal.
With the Atlanta goalie pulled for the extra attacker, Buzzeo skated into the Reading zone on a 1-on-1 rush. The Ferris State University product took a quick wrist shot that beat Dekanich low blocker with 1:03 left in the game. Atkinson managed a multi-point night with the lone assist on late the game-tying goal.
In dramatic fashion, Kessel was able to score for Atlanta with just .03 seconds left on the clock. Thomas Frazee and Mingoia stole the puck from the Reading defense on a hard forecheck. The Fairpoint, NY native, then played the puck to slot where Kessel put home the late game winner.
In taking the two points with the thrilling late game heroics, Atlanta improved to 7-6-1-1 and 16 points on the young season. Reading, after receiving no points in the regulation loss, fell to 6-6-0-1 and remained at 13 points in the standings.
Photo: Brad Drey / Purdon Photography