The Atlanta Gladiators returned to the Infinite Energy Arena for the first time in the 2017-18 season on Friday night as they welcomed the Florida Everblades for their home opener. A strong showing on the power play for the Everblades proved to be enough, as they outlasted the Gladiators and picked up a 4-2 road win.
Atlanta opened the scoring for the game 17:53 into the first period. Thomas Frazee carried the puck into the offensive zone for the Gladiators and dropped a pass to Ben Marshall. The defenseman then ripped a shot off the pad of Florida goalie Martin Ouellette that rebounded to the front of the net where Chase Witala tapped in the loose puck. The British Columbia native’s tally was his first of the year and put the Gladiators ahead 1-0.
The Everblades then tied the game at 1-1 just 1:08 into the middle frame. Michael Kirkpatrick was credited with the first goal for the visitors after he knocked a bouncing puck over the glove of Atlanta’s goaltender Matt Ginn. Both Keegan Kanzig and Stephen MacAulay notched an assist on Kirkpatrick’s second goal of the season.
A 5-on-3 power play notch would then give Florida their first lead of the night. Josiah Didier found the back of the net for the Everblades with a powerful one-timer from the point to go ahead 2-1. Steven Lorentz and Clark Seymour picked up the assists on the play after cycling the puck in the offensive zone during the two-man power play.
Florida would double their lead 1:28 into the third period to make it 3-1. Mitchell Heard scored for the visitors with a forehand-backhand move on the penalty shot. The goal was the former Colorado Avalanche draft pick’s second on the season.
The Everblades would seal their victory with a goal 16:37 into the third period. Heard tapped in a rebound in front of the net to make the score 4-1. Atlanta would reply with a power play goal of their own with just 1:17 remaining in the third. The strike was Luke Sandler’s first of the year, but proved to be too little, too late.