After a quick trip up I-85 for yesterday’s matchup, the Atlanta Gladiators returned to the Infinite Energy Arena as they welcomed the Florida Everblades for an in-division contest on Sunday afternoon. After fighting hard for sixty minutes of regulation, the teams headed to extra-time where Florida clinched the 4-3 victory in the shootout.
Florida would open the scoring just 1:37 into the game. Justin Kea carried the puck into the offensive zone on the far side and threw a pass towards the front of the net. After the puck redirected off the back end of a defenders stick, it landed on the blade of Brett Bulmer who lifted a shot into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the season. Logan Roe picked up the secondary assist of the goal that gave the visitors the 1-0 lead.
Atlanta would then even the score at 1-1 with 4:56 remaining in the first period. Taylor Doherty collected the puck in his defensive zone and sent a pass up to Darby Llewellyn. The rookie then head-manned a pass to Taylor Stefishen to get the puck out of the zone, before he then got the puck back and skated deep into the zone to bury a backhand move past Florida goalie Martin Ouellette for his fifth goal of the year.
The Everblades then regained their lead and made the score 2-1 at the 9:54 mark of the middle frame. Joe Cox chipped the loose puck out to the neutral zone, where Michael Kirkpatrick hustled to win the race to. The native of Nova Scotia then skated into the Gladiators zone with speed and wired a wrist shot that sailed over the glove of Sean Bonar for his 15th strike of the season.
To continue the back-and-forth nature of the game, the Gladiators responded and tied the game at 2-2 with 2:57 left in the second period. Phil Lane controlled the puck in the far corner of the offensive zone and found Doherty open at the point. The 6-foot-8 defender then blasted a shot that went wide and ricocheted off the boards to the stick of Rick Pinkston, who flipped the puck over Ouellette for his second goal of the campaign.
Atlanta took their first lead of the afternoon with a shorthanded goal on a penalty shot with 6:44 left in the third period. Phil Lane was awarded the opportunity after he was pulled down on a breakaway. Lane broke into the zone at an angle and skated to the near circle where he took a shoot past the pads of Ouellette to give the Gladiators the 3-2 lead.
Florida responded to tie the game at 3-3 with just :35 seconds left in the third period. Mitchell Heard was credited with his 13th goal of the season after he batted the puck in out of the air in front of the Atlanta goal. Both Matt Mackenzie and Stephen MacAulay added their name to the scoresheet with an assist on the play.
With neither team able to score in the extra period, the game headed to a shootout where Nelson Armstrong netted the game-winner for the Everblades. Unable to continue their momentum from last night, Atlanta dropped to 16-18-1-2 with the loss at home, and remain in fifth in the South Division with 35 points. Meanwhile, Florida improved to 25-6-1-2 with the victory and increased their lead atop the division with 53 points.
Up next, after a couple days off Atlanta will play host to Norfolk on Wednesday night. The puck drop between the Gladiators and Admirals is scheduled for 7:05pm at the Infinite Energy Arena on January 10th.
Atlanta Earns Point in Hard-Fought Shootout Loss to Florida
Sunday, January 7th
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