Playing in their third game in as many days, the Atlanta Gladiators returned to home as they welcomed the Orlando Solar Bears to the Infinite Energy Arena on Sunday afternoon. A quick start to the third and a stellar performance in the crease proved to be the difference, as Atlanta netted two goals within the first two minutes of the final period, and Dan Vladar made 50 saves on the way to a 4-1 victory.
Orlando tallied first in the game with a four-on-three power play goal 4:17 into the opening frame. Max Novak received a pass at the point on the far boards of his offensive zone, and looked around to find Nolan Valleau open across the zone. The Solar Bears assistant captain then teed up a one-timer from the high slot that found the back of the net for his seventh goal of the year. Martins Dzierkals added the secondary assist on the goal that gave the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Atlanta then tied the game at 1-1 with a goal just :26 seconds into the second period. Darby Llewellyn knocked the puck off the stick of an Orlando player and then sped past the defense to go in on a breakaway. Once alone in the zone, the rookie faked to each side once before he lifted a backhand over the pad of Mackenzie Skapski for his third goal of the season.
The Gladiators built on their momentum, and took their first lead of the game 1:26 into the third period. Josh Atkinson brought the puck in the offensive zone for Atlanta and curled towards the slot before he dropped a pass to Brady Vail. The Henderson, NC native then rang a shot off the far post and in for his sixth goal of the season, to give Atlanta the 2-1 lead.
Less than a minute later, Atlanta struck on the power play to add to their lead and go up 3-1. Luke Sandler found the puck at his skates after a missed attempt to clear the zone by Orlando, and wristed a shot towards net. The puck hit off the pad of Skapski and rebounded to the stick of Alex Gacek, who backhanded it into the net for his eighth goal of the season.
Vail would add an empty net goal with :16 seconds remaining to make the final score 4-1. Having notched their fourth win in as many tries over the Solar Bears this year, Atlanta improved to 11-8-1-1 with the victory on home ice and jumped to third in the South Division with 24 points. Meanwhile, Orlando continued their struggles against the Gladiators and fell to 8-10-3-0 on the season, good for fifth in the division with 19 points.
Up next, the Gladiators will take two days off before they return to action on Wednesday when they play host to the Icemen. The puck drops at 7:05 PM between Atlanta and Jacksonville at the Infinite Energy Arena on December 6th.
Vladar Leads Way With 50 Saves in Atlanta's 4-1 Win Over Orlando
Sunday, December 3rd
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