Despite a strong first and third, the Atlanta Gladiators were unable to recover from poor play in the second period, as they fell to the Florida Everblades by a score of 5-3 at the Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday night.
Atlanta would open the game’s scoring with a strike 14:19 into the first period. Justin Buzzeo tallied his 14th goal of the year after he maneuvered through the Florida defenders and sent a backhand shot over the glove of Anthony Peters. The goal was assisted by Alex Guptil, which gave the third year pro his first point in the garnet and gold, as well as Drew Baker.
The Everblades would then knot the game at 1-1, 2:01 into the middle frame. Josh Wesley was credited with the tying goal after he wristed a shot from the side of the net that redirected off the back of a Gladiators defender and trickled past Atlanta goalie, Matt Ginn. The goal was the Carolina Hurricanes draft pick’s fourth of the season and came unassisted.
Just over two minutes of playing time later, Florida would take their first lead of the game with a power-play goal. Brendan O’Donnell carried the puck across the offensive zone before he sent a pass over to Brant Harris, who then one-timed a slap shot for his 20th goal of the season. Michael Kirkpatrick also notched an assist on the goal that put the Everblades ahead 2-1.
Matt Berry then added a goal 6:16 into the second period to put Florida ahead 3-1. The Michigan native took a pass from Clark Bishop to the left of the net and quickly turned to fire a shot over the blocker of Ginn. The tally was Berry’s 15th of the season, while Bishop picked up his third assist of the year on the play.
The Gladiators would then cut their deficit to just one and make the score 3-2 with a power-play goal 3:56 into the third. Trevor Mingoia scored for Atlanta with a one-time snap shot from the near point that traveled past the left pad of Peters. Josh Atkinson and Tyler Murovich assisted the product of Providence University’s 15th goal of the season.
Thomas Frazee would tie the game for the home team with only 5:30 remaining in the third period. The Everblades defenders all found themselves behind the net which left the North Vancouver native alone in front to tap in his 13th goal of the season. Buzzeo added his second point of the game with an assist, while Nick Trecapelli was credited with the secondary helper.
With only 1:58 left in the third, O’Donnell netted his 29th of the year to put Florida ahead 4-3. The Winnipeg native brought the puck into the zone and made a spin move past the defensemen to allow him to wrist a backhand shot past Ginn. Kirkpatrick added his second point of the night with an assist on the play and then would get his third with an empty net goal just :50 seconds later. Kirkpatrick’s goal was the final of the game and put the Everblades ahead 5-3.
The loss dropped Atlanta to 17-21-6-1, which kept them in sixth in the South division with 41 points. Meanwhile, Florida improved to 31-9-2-2 with the win and remained in first in the division with 66 points.