Having had a few days of rest since their last game, the Gladiators returned to the ice on Friday night for their 27th game of the season. Atlanta traveled south for their weekend matchup with the Florida Everblades at Germain Arena.
It did not take long for the scoring to begin, as Florida found the back of the net just :28 seconds into the game. John McCarron intercepted a pass in the high slot and fired home a wrist shot that flew just past the reach of Atlanta goalie, Matt Ginn. The product of Cornell's 11th goal of the year put him in first on the Everblades with 25 points, and gave his team an early 1-0 lead.
The Everblades would then double their advantage as Adam Brace knocked in a rebound with 14:54 remaining in opening frame. The Ontario native stood in front of the net as Matt Berry ripped a shot that was denied in front by Ginn and then tapped in the bouncing rubber through a scrum in front. Both Berry and Josh Wesley were credited with an assist on the tally that put Florida ahead 2-0.
Atlanta would cut the Everblades' lead to 2-1 just over three minutes later on a strike from Cason Hohmann. The product of Boston University scored his first goal with the Gladiators in his first game in the garnet and gold, after he broke into the zone on a 2-on-1. Hohmann attempted to send a pass to Trevor Mingoia, but it was instead blocked back to the forward who then wired a shot right over Florida goalie, Anthony Peters’ glove.
With 6:35 remaining in the first period, Eric Neiley brought the Gladiators back even with a backhand shot that made the score 2-2. The second year pro put the puck top shelf for his 15th goal of the year, which placed him in the team lead in that category. Brock Higgs and Justin Buzzeo combined with Neiley on the play and each received an assist.
Higgs then put the visitors in front 3-2 with just 1:36 left in the first. The Atlanta Alternate Captain sent a bomb of a shot towards the net that found its way through traffic in front and snuck by Peters for the power play tally. Ben Marshall picked up the lone assist on Higgs’ ninth of the year.
Michael Kirkpatrick struck for the home team and evened the score at 3-3, 5:55 into the second period. The forward took advantage of an Atlanta turnover at his defensive blue line and turned the jets on to blow past the defensemen for a breakaway, in which he beat Ginn with a wrister from the circle.
The Gladiators were quick to regain their lead as Shane Bakker tallied his second of the year just :50 seconds later. Bryan Cameron found the puck in the corner and took a quick shot towards the net where the former Wheeling Nailer Captain grabbed the rebound and buried it to put Atlanta ahead 4-3. Cameron and Patrick McCadden both put their name on the scoresheet with an assist on the play.
Bakker continued on his hot streak and struck again for his second of the night 10:13 into the middle frame. Jacob Bolton wristed a shot from the point that went wide and bounced off the boards to the front of the net. There, the Atlanta Alternate Captain found the puck in his feet and swept a quick shot past Peters, who was pulled after the play. The goal, assisted by Cameron and Bolton, put Atlanta ahead 5-3.
Former Glad, Akim Aliu started the comeback for the Everblades after he put the home team back on the board with his second of the season. The former Chicago Blackhawks draft pick received a pass from Josh McCarron at the back door and threw a shot over the shoulder of Ginn. The shorthanded goal brought Florida back to within one and made the score 5-4.
A little over two minutes later Brendan O’Donnell struck the rubber off the post and in to tie the game 5-5. Kirkpatrick lined a pass through three defenders to the Winnipeg, MB native who stood alone at the back post. The forward then knocked in his team leading 12th tally in front. Brant Harris and Kirkpatrick picked up the helpers on the goal.
With just :02 seconds remaining in the middle stanza, Wesley shot in a rebound for his second point of the night. Berry took a slap shot from the point after he received a pass from Zack Kamrass. The puck bounced off multiple bodies in front before Wesley settled it down at the back post and put his team ahead 6-5.
The Gladiators were able to tie the game at 6-6 with only 8:13 left in the third period. Cameron was able to sneak the puck in from the left circle for his second of the year after he received a pass from Thomas Frazee. The resident of North Vancouver, BC picked up the assist in his first game back with Atlanta after a three game stint in the AHL.
With only 4:40 remaining in the final period of regulation, Atlanta struck again to go ahead 7-6. Buzzeo came into the zone and sent a no look pass to Higgs who then one-touched the puck to Neiley who sent the puck flying into the goal for his second notch of the game. Buzzeo and Neiley tallied their second point of the night on the play, while Higgs notched his third.
Only one minute later Florida tied the game 7-7 on a shot that went in while Ginn was down on the ice injured. O’Donnell picked up his second goal of the game after sending the puck towards the open net, while Harris also put his name back on the scoresheet with a helper.
With the game tied at 7-7 after 60 minutes of regulation play, the teams headed to overtime to decide the winner. Harris finished it for the Everblades 3:00 into the final period to win the game 8-7 for the home side. The forward received a pass from Wesley on a 2-on-0 rush and picked his corner for the game winner.
Despite their offensive outburst the Gladiators fell to the Everblades in overtime on the road. The loss dropped the Gladiators to sixth in the ECHL's South Division with a record of 10-13-3-1 and 24 points. Meanwhile, Florida improved to 16-4-1-2 on the season good for first place in the South Division with 35 points.