The Atlanta Gladiators laced up their skates for the first of a three-game in three-night stretch as they welcomed the Florida Everblades to the Infinite Energy Arena on Friday night. A multiple point night from five different players made the difference for Florida as they bested Atlanta by a final score of 5-3.
Florida would open the game’s scoring just 2:02 into the first period. John McCarron found the loose puck deep in his offensive zone, and tapped a pass over to Stephen MacAulay in the corner. The Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native then centered a pass towards the net that was knocked in by Michael Kirkpatrick in front of the crease. The goal was Kirkpatrick’s ninth of the season and gave the Everblades an early 1-0 lead.
Atlanta was quick to respond, and brought the game back to even at 1-1 just 3:36 into the opening frame. Zack Malatesta won the race to the puck in the neutral zone and skated it across the blue-line. The rookie defender then sent a drop pass to Ryan Lannon at the point who blasted a slap-shot that was deflected in front by Lindsay Sparks and past Florida’s netminder Callum Booth. The goal was Sparks fourth of the year, while Lannon notched his first assist since 2011 on the play.
The Everblades then retook their lead with 6:58 left in the first period. Gus Young tallied his third goal of the season after he gathered the puck in the high slot and wristed a shot that rang off the post and crossed just over the goal-line. Tyler Ganly added his name to the scoresheet with an assist on the play, while Kirkpatrick picked up his second point of the night with a helper on the goal that made it 2-1 for Florida.
The Gladiators would then score a power play goal to bring the game even once again with 2:11 left to play in the first. Josh Atkinson controlled the puck in the high slot and circled towards the boards when he found Brady Vail open on the near side. Vail then attempted to send a pass across the zone, but the puck deflected off the skate of a Florida defender and skittered to the crease where Phil Lane tapped in his 11th goal of the year to knot the score at 2-2.
With 11:55 left in the second period, Florida would net a power play goal of their own to take a 3-2 lead. McCarron was credited with his seventh goal of the year, and second point of the contest, after he poked in a rebound to the right of Atlanta’s goalie Dan Vladar. Both MacAulay and Young also tallied their second point of the game on the play.
The back-and-forth nature of the game continued as Atlanta once again struck to bring the game even with 5:45 left in the middle frame. Lane buried his second goal of the night for the Gladiators with a snap-shot from the far post that beat Booth just over the pads. Sparks doubled his point total for the game with an assist on the goal that made the score 3-3.
Florida gained a one-goal lead once again with 12:42 left in the third period. MacAulay blasted a shot from the slot that snuck in for his first goal, and third point, of the game. McCarron was credited with his third point of the game as well on the play, while Clark Seymour notched the secondary assist.
The visitors would score an empty-net goal to seal the victory in the last minute. Unable to crack the Florida code, the Gladiators dropped to 10-7-1-1 with the loss on home ice and remained in fourth in the South Division with 22 points. Meanwhile the Everblades improved to 15-2-1-1 with their eighth straight victory over Atlanta, and increased their lead atop the division with 33 points on the season.
Up next, the same two teams will face off for the sixth time this season tomorrow night. The puck drops at 7:05 on Saturday night as the Gladiators will don specialty Captain America jerseys when they host the Everblades for Marvel Superhero Night at the Infinite Energy Arena.