The Atlanta Gladiators took to the ice for their second game in as many nights as they returned to the Infinite Energy Arena for an in-division matchup with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Saturday night. A first period hat-trick for Lindsay Sparks ignited the Gladiators offense as they dominated in a 6-2 victory.
Atlanta opened the game’s scoring just 3:05 into the first period. Taylor Stefishen brought the puck into the offensive zone for Atlanta and sailed a pass to Lindsay Sparks, who was breaking to the net. Sparks was able to get to the net first and knocked in the pass from Stefishen to give the Gladiators a 1-0 lead. Taylor Doherty added the secondary assist on Spark’s seventh goal of the season.
The Gladiators then doubled their lead to 2-0 at the 5:51 mark of the opening frame. Alex Carrier carried the puck into the zone and found Colin Jacobs open on the near side. The Texas native received the puck and then made a quick turn to open a passing lane to Sparks. With no one in the way, Sparks garnered the pass in the slot and fired a shot into the back of the net for his second goal of the contest.
Greenville then cut the lead to 2-1 with 12:42 left in the first period. Bretton Cameron intercepted the puck in his offensive zone and tossed a pass towards the front of the net. There, Evan Jasper collected the puck and wristed a shot past Sean Bonar for his 11th tally of the year.
The home side regained their two-goal lead with 9:40 remaining in the opening frame. Rick Pinkston corralled the puck for Atlanta and sent a lead pass to Sparks. The Oakville, ON native then sped past the Greenville defenders and came in on a breakaway, where he slid a shot past Ty Rimmer for his first period hat-trick to give the Gladiators the 3-1 lead. The hat-trick was the fastest in franchise history, as Sparks netted all three goals in a span of 7:15.
Atlanta then took a three-goal lead at the 11:10 mark of the second period. Luke Sandler stole the puck in the neutral zone and bolted into the zone on a two-on-one. The third-year-pro sent a pass across to Darby Llewellyn, who lifted a shot into the back of the net to give the Gladiators a 4-1 lead. Stephen Pierog notched the secondary assist on Llewellyn’s sixth of the year.
The Gladiators increased their lead to 5-1 with a power play goal 6:00 into the third period. Derek Nesbitt controlled the puck at the blue line of is offensive zone and sent a pass deep in the zone to Sparks. The 27-year-old forward took the puck deep in the zone and then shoveled a pass to Stefishen, who muscled a shot on net that snuck by Rimmer for his fourth goal of the year. The assist from Nesbitt on the play, gave the Atlanta captain sole possession of 2nd All-Time in points for the Gladiators with his 255th point.
Doherty then netted his fourth goal of the season at the 13:38 mark of the final frame to give Atlanta the 6-1 lead. The 6-foot-8 defender moved the puck into the offensive boards and fired a shot from the near boards that hit off a player in front of the net and trickled into the back of the net.
Greenville responded to cut the score to 6-2 with 1:22 left in the third period. Brandon Troock was credited with his 16th goal of the year on the play after he wired a shot below the crossbar to beat Bonar. Jack Nevis tallied the lone assist on the game’s final tally.
Able to get back in the win column on Saturday, Atlanta improved to 18-19-1-2 with the victory on home ice, and now jump into a tie for third in the South Division with 39 points. Meanwhile, Greenville dropped to 18-17-2-1 with the loss on the road, and are also tied for third in the division with 39 points.
Up next, Atlanta will host Florida for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game on Monday afternoon. The matchup between the Gladiators and Everblades is scheduled to start at 12:35pm at the Infinite Energy Arena on January 15th.
Gladiators Make History in 6-2 Win over Greenville
Saturday, January 13th
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