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Rawlyk Bites Former Team as Atlanta Beats Orlando 5-4

Friday, February 24th
Rawlyk Bites Former Team as Atlanta Beats Orlando 5-4

Seeking revenge from Wednesday night's shutout by the paws of the Solar Bears, Atlanta took the ice against their division rival for the middle of a three-game set at the Amway Center in Orlando, FL. The Gladiators got 42 saves from Matt Ginn in net and two goals from defenseman Rory Rawlyk to take the back and forth offensive battle on Friday evening by the score of 5-4.

For the second straight contest, the Solar Bears opened the scoring in the first period. A 3-on-1 rush worked to perfection gave Chase Witala his seventh goal of the season and Orlando the 1-0 lead. Two-thirds of the tic-tack-toe passing play, Austin Block and Alex Gacek earned the helpers on the goal that came at the 3:49 mark of the frame.

Former Solar Bear, Rory Rawlyk tied the game 7:56 into the first period with his third goal of the season. Just as a Gladiator power play expired, A.J. White received the puck from Shane Bakker and took a shot on goal that was stopped by Solar Bear goalie, Kasimir Kaskisuo and ricocheted right to Rawlyk on the back-side. The veteran chipped in the rebound to tie the game 1-1.

After a failed attempt at the offensive end for Atlanta, Orlando headed in transition and took their second lead of the game 3:57 into the middle stanza. Witala sent a pass over to Gacek on the 2-on-1 rush where the rookie forward notched his 22nd goal of the year and second point of the game on the goal that made the score 2-1 Orlando.

Atlanta tied the game up once again with just over five minutes remaining in the second period. Atlanta's leading scorer, Justin Buzzeo, increased his team-lead in points and assists when he slid a pass to Connor Gaarder streaking towards the front of the Solar Bear net. The rookie haunted his former club by redirecting the puck between the legs of Kaskisuo for his seventh tally on the campaign.

The Gladiators took their first lead of the game just over a minute later giving them a 3-2 advantage. Atlanta captain, Derek Nesbitt, broke a 13-game scoreless streak registering his 19th goal on the campaign. Using a quick move in front, the Seaforth, ON native ripped a shot past the blocker of Kaskisuo form right on top of the crease. Tyler Shiplo and Mark Naclerio teamed up for the assists on the Nesbitt go-ahead goal.

Just 5:43 into the third frame, Joe Perry set an all-time Solar Bears record for goals in a season with his 28th of the year. Milos Bubela and Eric Faille found Joe Perry on the backdoor after some quick passing got the Gladiators out of position. Perry slammed home his record-setting tally and tied the contest at three goals a piece.

Atlanta moved back into the lead less than a minute later. After a scramble in front of the Orlando goal, Alex Guptill got the puck on his stick in the low slot. The University of Michigan product slid the disc between the legs of the Bears' netminder after a forehand-backhand deke. Tyler Murovich and Eric Neiley gained helpers on Guptill's 13th goal of the season and first as a Gladiator.

The Solar Bears brought the game back to even 9:33 in the final frame. Brenden Miller blasted a slap shot from the point that found it's way through traffic and past the blocker of Ginn for his ninth score of the year. Gacek managed his third point of the evening with an assist while Ben Danford collected the secondary helper on the goa.

Atlanta grabbed the lead again in the sea-saw third period at the 11:35 mark. Murovich and Shiplo both had shots blocked in front before the puck skittered to a waiting Rawlyk in the right wing circle. The 6-foot-5 defender matched his season total in goals in the game with his second of the match and fourth of the year when he propelled a slap shot past a Scrambling Kaskisuo to put the Gladiators in the lead 5-4.

Orlando launched a vicious comeback attempt in what remained of the third period but Ginn made highlight reel save after save as the Gladiators held on for the 5-4 victory. With winning their third game in four tries in Orlando, Atlanta improved their record to 21-25-6-1 and 49 points on the season. The Solar Bears dropped just their ninth game one home ice in regulation on the year and remained at 63 points in the loss.

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