Powered by a three-point performance from Alex Gacek in front of his friends and family just outside his hometown of Hampton, NH and 40 saves from Matt Ginn in net, the Atlanta Gladiators defeated the Manchester Monarchs by a final score of 5-1 at the SNHU Arena on Saturday evening.
The Gladiators opened the scoring with a power play goal 12:42 into the first period. Eric Neiley notched his second goal in as many nights with a wrist shot from the slot that beat Colin Stevens to give Atlanta the 1-0 lead. Gacek and Derek Nesbitt both tallied an assist on Neiley’s team-leading 25th of the season.
Manchester would bring the game back even with a score 4:58 into the middle frame. Chris Leone brought the puck into his offensive zone and wristed a shot from the near side circle that veered past the blocker of Atlanta’s goalie, Matt Ginn. Wade Murphy and Quentin Shore were credited with the assists on the Michigan native’s fourth mark of the year.
Atlanta then responded to regain their lead at the 6:22 mark of the second period. Trevor Mingoia fired a wrist towards the net that rebounded off the pad of Stevens and slid to the blade of AJ White in the left circle. The forward then slammed the puck into the open net for his third goal of the year.
Derek Nesbitt would then tap in a loose puck to the right of the crease to move into a tie for the team-lead with his 25th of the year on the goal and put the Gladiators ahead 3-1. Tyler Murovich notched his 14th assist of the campaign on the play, while Gacek doubled his assists for the game and increased his point total to eight in five games with Atlanta.
The visitors netted their fourth of the night just 1:49 into the final period to take a 4-1 lead. After both Nesbitt and Murovich tried to shove the puck through the pads of Manchester’s backup goalie Jack Flinn who relived the injured netminder Stevens, Gacek snuck behind the defenders and knocked in a rebound to force a three-way tie for the team lead in goals with his 25th of the campaign.
Mingoia tapped in a pass from Josh Atkinson at the back post to put the Gladiators up 5-1 at the 16:27 mark of the third. The tally was the Providence College graduate’s 19th of the season and sealed the victory for Atlanta.
The visitors improved to 24-29-6-2 with the win and stayed in sixth in the South Division with 56 points. Meanwhile, Manchester dropped to 32-20-7-4 and remained in third in North Division with a season total of 75 points.