The Gladiators continued their offensive outpour from Saturday night and potted five goals in the second period on their way to an 8-3 victory over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at the Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Atlanta would open the scoring for the second game in a row with a power play tally 6:18 into the first period. Alex Gacek carried the puck in the offensive zone and found Tommy Vannelli open near the point. The rookie defender then sent a pass parallel to the blue line over to Trevor Mingoia, who took a quick snapshot that beat Greenville’s goalie Brandon Halverson on his glove side. The goal was Mingoia’s 18th of the year, and put the Gladiators ahead 1-0.
The Gladiators then doubled their lead to 2-0 13:59 into the opening period. Mark Naclerio was credited with his fourth goal of the season after he attempted a pass from behind the net that knocked off the stick of a Greenville defender and snuck into the net. Connor Gaarder added his name to the scoresheet with an assist, while Rory Rawlyk picked up the secondary helper.
Gacek found the twine 3:28 into the second period for his first goal as a member of the Gladiators to give the home team a 3-0 lead. The New Hampshire native received a pass to the right of Halverson from Eric Neiley, and lifted a shot over the sprawling goaltender. Rawlyk was once again credited with the secondary helper.
Only :38 seconds of playing time later, the Gladiators scored again to go ahead 4-0 less than five minutes into the middle frame. Gaarder captured his second point of the game and his eighth goal of the year when he was able to knock in a rebound amid a mass of bodies in front of the net. Alex Guptill picked up an assist for the second game in a row on the play, while Neiley also grabbed his second point of the contest on the play.
Just under four and half minutes later, A.J. White received a lead pass that put him on a breakaway where he ripped a shot past the blocker of Halverson. The goal was the UMass-Lowell product’s second of the year and put the Gladiators ahead 5-0. Vannelli doubled his assist total on the game with the only helper on the play.
Atlanta then scored their fourth goal of the second period 10:19 into the middle frame. Derek Nesbitt tied the team lead with his 23rd goal of the season after he lined in a shot from the right circle to put Atlanta ahead 6-0. Both Vannelli and Mingoia received another point with assists on the play.
Greenville would finally get on the board 10:50 into the second. Matt Prapavessis scored his sixth of the season after he one-timed a pass from Angelo Miceli at the high slot. Bretton Cameron was credited with the secondary assist on the goal that cut the lead to 6-1.
Ahti Oksanen would bring the Swamp Rabbits back to within four 11:54 into the second frame. The former Boston University Terrier was able to tap in his 20th goal of the year while he sat wide open to the left of Atlanta goalie, Matt Ginn. Tristian King and Allan McPherson added the assists on the play that brought the score to 6-2.
The Gladiators then struck back and brought the score to 7-2 with Naclerio’s second goal of the afternoon. The rookie forward had a rebound land right on his stick in front of the net and slid a shot under the pad of Greenville’s backup goaltender Steven Summerhays. Vanelli and White each tallied another point with assists on the goal that gave Atlanta a season high five goals in a period.
The Swamp Rabbits would then make the score 7-3 with less than four minutes remaining in the middle period. After Chad Duchesne sent a pass up to Nick Betz in the neutral zone, the former Erie Otter carried the puck into the zone and outwaited the Atlanta defenders to deliver a pass across the crease to Miceli. The 22-year-old then wristed a shot over the glove of Ginn for his 19th goal of the season.
Tyler Murovich would put his name on the scoresheet with a goal 13:40 into the third period. The Atlanta alternate captain netted his 18th of the season with a backhanded shot over the shoulder of Summerhays to give the Gladiators an 8-3 lead. Gacek and Naclerio both added another point with an assist on the final goal of the game.
The Gladiators improved to 23-27-6-2 with their second win over Greenville in as many days, and sit in sixth in the South division with 54 points. The loss dropped the Swamp Rabbits to 35-23-4-1, however, they maintained their position in second in the division with 75 points.