Atlanta finally returned home after a season long seven game, 10 day road trip looking to get back to their winning ways on the annual Thanksgiving night game. The Gladiators played host to Norfolk Admirals for the first matchup of the back-to-back set at the Infinite Energy Arena.
For the third straight game the Gladiators conceded the game's first goal as Norfolk got the scoreboard exactly 10 minutes into the opening period. In his first professional game, Cody Bradley found Norfolk's Alternate Captain, Nick MacNeil, in the low slot. The 6-foot-4 forward turned and fired a shot that was stopped by the Gladiators' goalie, Matt Ginn. John Dunbar chipped the rebound over top of the Lindsay, ON native for his third goal of the season.
Atlanta evened the score 5:59 into the middle frame. Josh Atkinson send the puck to point for Blake Kessel where the Wisconsin native blasted a shot on goal was denied by Norfolk's goaltender, Connor Knapp. Eric Neiley moved into second place in the ECHL in goals as he put home the rebound through the five hole of the Admirals' netminder for his 11th tally of the season.
Just as the Gladiators killed off the second Norfolk power play of the night, Drew Baker put Atlanta up by one with his second goal of the season. Brock Higgs increased his ECHL lead in assists to 20 when he moved a cross-ice pass to Baker in neutral zone that sent the veteran defender into the Norfolk third of the ice. The native of Alpharetta, GA then unleashed a slap shot from the right wing circle that blew past Knapp's blocker. Justin Buzzeo registered the secondary helper which extended his league leading point streak to 12 games with 19 total points in that span.
Neiley was at it once again when he scored his second goal of the night, moved into a tie with teammate Derek Nesbitt for the ECHL lead in goals with 12 and gave the Gladiators some insurance with the 3-1 lead. At the 17:27 mark of the third period, Buzzeo and Higgs teamed up again for the helpers and found the trailing Neiley on a 3-on-1 rush. The Dartmouth College product made no mistake on a backhand shot from the low slot that whistled over the shoulder of Knapp to put Atlanta up by two late in the final frame.
The Gladiators would get a shorthanded empty net tally from Blake Kessel with just under two minutes remaining to seal the victory and take the 4-1 decision over the Admirals. With the two points in defeat of Norfolk, Atlanta improved their record to 9-9-1-1 and moved to 20 points on the campaign which kept them in second place in the South Division. Norfolk continued their struggles this year as they fell to 2-10-3-0 and remained at 7 points and in last place in the Eastern Conference.