Powered by a strong start that saw Atlanta net four goals in the first period, the Gladiators defeated the Greenville Swamp Rabbits by a score of 6-1 at the Infinite Energy Arena on Saturday night.
Atlanta would open the scoring early and get on the board just :14 seconds into the game. Eric Neiley caught everyone by surprise with a quick wrist-shot from the far circle that beat Greenville’s goalie Brandon Halverson on his glove side. The Dartmouth product’s 23rd of the season was assisted by Rory Rawlyk.
The Gladiators would then double their lead 8:28 into the first period. Thomas Frazee was credited with his 16th goal of the season after he tapped in a loose puck in the crease. Alex Guptill tallied his 12th helper this year with the lead pass to the North Vancouver native.
The home team would find the net for the third time in the opening period, 10:47 into the game. Derek Nesbitt controlled the puck for Atlanta on the power-play and found Mark Naclerio open to the left of the net. From there the rookie swept the puck over to Tyler Murovich, who then wristed a shot that hit off the post and went in. The goal was the Gladiators assistant captain’s 17th of the season and put Atlanta ahead 3-0.
Nesbitt would chase Halverson out of the game after he was able to knock in a pass to put Atlanta ahead 4-0, just 15:29 into the opening frame. The Gladiators captain tapped in a puck in front of the net after Murovich was able to corral the puck in the near corner and send a pass towards the crease. Alex Gacek picked up his first point as a member of the Gladiators with the secondary assist on Nesbitt’s 22nd of the year.
Atlanta would increase their lead to 5-0 with 10:42 remaining in the second period. Josh Atkinson received a breakout pass from Matt Ginn and skated through the Greenville defenders, before he then made a quick move to the right of Greenville’s backup goalie Steven Summerhays and buried his ninth goal of the year. The power-play tally was the Gladiators’ second special teams goal of the night.
Just over two minutes of playing time later, Rory Rawlyk netted his third goal as a Gladiator, and fifth of the year, to put the home team ahead 6-0. The Edmonton native knocked in a one-timer after Trevor Mingoia skated the puck into the zone and delivered a pass to him to the left of Summerhays. Tommy Vannelli also added his name to the scoresheet with the secondary assist.
Greenville would finally get on the board 8:37 into the third period. Angelo Miceli collected the puck in his offensive zone, and then he sent a soft shot that skittered through the legs of Atlanta goalie, Matt Ginn. Both Brandon Alderson and Bretton Cameron were credited with an assist on the goal that made the score 6-1.
The win on home ice improved Atlanta to 22-27-6-2 and kept the Gladiators in sixth in the South division with 52 points. Greenville dropped to 35-22-4-1 with the loss, however, they maintained their position in second in the division with 75 points.