The Atlanta Gladiators traveled to the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on Thursday night for a matchup with the Jacksonville Icemen. Chase Witala stole the show in the first matchup between the new division opponents by netting 3 assists in a 6-5 win for the Gladiators.
Jacksonville scored the opening goal of the contest 9:35 into the first period to go ahead 1-0. Eglin Pearce knocked a rebound out of mid-air after Dan Vladar stopped the original one-timer from the slot. Ryan Graham and Everett Clark were credited with the assists on Pearce’s second goal of the season.
The Gladiators responded with a tally of their own with 4:37 remaining in the opening frame. Thomas Frazee grabbed a loose puck in the offensive zone and directed a pass to Josh Atkinson at the point. The second-year defenseman then sent a shot toward the net that deflected off a Jacksonville player and found the back of the net. The goal was Atkinson’s first of the year and brought the score back even to 1-1.
Atlanta then took their first lead of the contest with a power play goal 1:51 into the second period. Derek Nesbitt netted his first goal of the season with a deflection on a shot from Alex Gacek. Zach Malatesta picked up his first professional point with an assist on the goal that put the Gladiators ahead 2-1.
At the 8:59 mark of the second, the Icemen brought the game back even with a goal from Cameron Critchlow. The rookie was able to net his first of the season after he blasted in a pass from Mike Ratchuck to the left of Dan Vladar. Bobby Macintyre notched the secondary assist on the goal that tied the game at 2-2.
The visitors would then regain their lead with 8:24 remaining in the second. After a shot form Cody Carlson was stopped in front by Jacksonville goalie Jamie Phillips, Nesbitt scooped up the rebound and backhanded a shot into the back of the net for his second strike of the night.
Phil Lane would then redirect a shot from the point past Phillips to give Atlanta a 4-2 lead. Frazee was credited with his second helper of the night on the play, while Ben Danford added his name to the scoresheet after he received an assist for taking the original shot on the play.
Atlanta increased their lead to 5-2 just :25 seconds later when Danford skated the puck into the slot and threaded a shot into the upper corner for his first goal of the season. Witala also tallied his second point of the night on the play, while Lindsay Sparks increased his point-streak to five games with an assist on the goal.
The Icemen would cut the lead to 5-2 with 4:47 remaining in the second period. Alexandre Goulet potted the goal for the home side on a two-on-one play in the offensive zone. Emerson Clark and Jimmy Lodge both picked up an assist on Goulet’s third of the year.
Two goals in the final two minutes of the middle frame would bring Jacksonville even with Gladiators at 5-5. Garet Hunt tapped in a loose puck through a scrum in front of the net for the home side’s fourth goal of the game. Then with only :32 seconds left in the period, Goulet slipped a shot into the open net after Lodge found him wide open at the backdoor.
Atlanta would regain their lead on a strike 3:23 into the third period. Patrick D’Amico bested Phillips in a breakaway situation to give the Gladiators a 6-5 lead. Witala notched his third point of the evening on the play, while Ben Marshall received his first with the assist.
Atlanta notched their first win of the season on Thursday and improved to 1-4-0-0 for the year. The win allowed the Gladiators to jump to sixth in the South division with two points. Jacksonville has still yet to find their first victory, and fell to 0-2-1-0 with the loss on home ice. With only one point on the season, the Icemen dropped to seventh in the division.
Up next, the Gladiators will travel to Orlando for the first time this year for a weekend matchup with the Solar Bears. The puck drops at 7:00 on Saturday night at the Amway Center between the division foes.