The Atlanta Gladiators took to the ice for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee game as they welcomed the Florida Everblades to the Infinite Energy Arena on Monday afternoon. An offensive surge from Florida in the third period gave the visitors the 6-2 win.
The Gladiators scored the first goal of the game just 4:26 into the opening frame. Ryan Lannon corralled the puck at the blue line and sent a pass across the zone to Rick Pinkston. The Michigan native then wristed a shot towards the net that was tipped in by Taylor Stefishen. The goal was Stefishen’s fifth of the season, and gave Atlanta the early 1-0 lead.
Florida then evened the score at 1-1 at the 12:53 mark of the first period. Stephen MacAulay fought for the puck deep in the offensive zone and kicked it loose to Joe Cox behind the net. There, the former Michigan State captain lifted a pass to the crease for Steven Lorentz to tap into the net for his sixth goal of the year.
The Everblades then took a 2-1 lead at the 16:35 mark of the first. Matt Mackenzie received the puck at the point and fired a shot towards goal. Sean Bonar made the first save, but MacAulay picked up the rebound and slid the puck into the net for his 18th tally of the campaign. Both MacAulay and Cox were credited with their second point of the game on the play.
Atlanta tied the game at 2-2 just over halfway through the middle frame. Lindsay Sparks brought the puck into the offensive zone and deked his was around a Florida defender. The Oakville, ON native then centered a pass to Luke Sandler who propelled a shot towards the net that beat Callum Booth on the low-glove side for his sixth goal of the season.
The visitors then retook their lead just over a minute later at the 11:43 mark of the second period. Keegan Bruce knocked the puck through traffic at the blue line and found MacAulay breaking into the zone. The 25-year-old forward sped past the defender and fired a shot top-blocker side to give Florida the 3-2 lead. Tyler Ganly picked up the secondary assist on MacAulay’s second goal of the contest.
Florida then doubled their lead to 4-2 with 10:28 left in the third period. Cox skated the puck into the zone for the visitors and drew two players towards him on the far side. This allowed Brett Bulmer to skate into the zone uncovered, where he received the centering pass from Cox and slipped the puck into the back of the net for his eighth of the season. Nelson Armstrong added his name to the scoresheet with the secondary assist on the play.
The Everblades added two goals in the final minutes of the game to secure the 6-2 win. Unable to defeat their division foes on home ice, Atlanta dropped to 18-20-1-2 but still sit in third in the South Division. Meanwhile, Florida improved to 28-6-1-2 with the victory and increased their lead atop the division with 59 points.
Up next, the Gladiators will make the short trip up I-85 for a three-in-three set with the Swamp Rabbits next weekend. The puck drop for the first game between Atlanta and Greenville is scheduled for 7:00pm on Friday at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Florida Beats Atlanta 6-2 on MLK Day
Monday, January 15th
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