The Atlanta Gladiators started 2018 on a winning note cursing to 6-2 victory in Jacksonville on Wednesday night. Phil Lane led the way with a hat trick while Lindsay Sparks, Colin Jacobs, Joonas Lyytinen and Taylor Doherty all earned multi-point nights in the Glads’ offensive explosion.
Atlanta opened the scoring early with the game’s first goal :52 seconds into the contest. Colin Jacobs picked off an Icemen clearing attempt and moved down the wall in his offensive zone. The former Buffalo Sabres draft pick then found Phil Lane all-alone in front. The team’s goal leader increased that total to 16 with a shot high over the blocker of Jacksonville goalie, Jamie Phillips.
The Icemen evened the game at the 5:14 mark of period one. Everett Clark blocked a shot in his own end and led a shorthanded two-on-one rush into the Gladiators’ zone. The rookie slid a pass across to the streaking Jensen Harkins who deaked around Atlanta netminder, Dan Vladar and scored his first goal in his first game in the ECHL.
Atlanta regained the lead just over two minutes later with a four-on-four tally. Joonas Lyytinen snapped a wrist shot wide of the goal from the right circle. The Finland native hustled to his own rebound off the end-wall and chipped the puck in past Phillips for his fourth tally of the year and first as a Glad. Derek Nesbitt and Taylor Doherty registered the assists on the Nashville Predators product’s go-ahead goal.
The Gladiators used the momentum from an Alex Carrier fight to notch their third mark of the contest. Lane received a long stretch pass from Lyytinen and sprung in behind the Icemen defense. The Rochester, NY native stick-handled around Phillips and put in a back-hand shot to earn his team-leading fifth multi-goal game of the season and give the Gladiators a 3-1 lead.
The Glads picked up where they left off to start the middle frame and increased their lead to four just :57 seconds into the period. Lindsay Sparks collected a loose puck in his own end after a Vladar save propelled the puck to the neutral-zone. The Oakville, ON native skated into Icemen territory one-on-three and blasted a wrist shot from the top of the circle that went off both posts and into the goal. The 20-year-old Czech goalie earned his first career point on Sparks’ fourth mark of the season.
The Gladiators continued the onslaught with their fifth goal of the night at the 7:47 mark of the middle frame. Doherty sent a slap shot from the point on goal. Phillips made the save but left the rebound in the crease for Taylor Stefishen who slammed home his first goal of the season and with the Gladiators. Stephen Pierog also earned a helper on the tally that would end Phillips night as Jacksonville made a goalie change.
Atlanta scored on their first shot against new goaltender, Colten Phinney to advance the lead to five goals at 8:46 of the second period. Lane completed a tick-tac-toe passing play off the rush with Sparks and Jacobs to earn the first Gladiators’ hat trick since March 18th of 2016. The fifth-year-pro’s 18th tally of the season gave Atlanta a 6-1 lead heading into the third period.
Jacksonville managed a third period goal on a power play and peppered Vladar with 16 shots in the final session but the second-year goalie shut down the Icemen comeback attempt and ended the night with 36 saves and the win in net.
With the dominating 6-2 road victory, Atlanta improved their record to 15-17-1-1 and 32 points to jump over Orlando for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division. Jacksonville fell to 9-16-3-2 and remained at 23 points and stayed put at last in the division.
Up next, Atlanta hosts their I-85 rivals the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Friday, January 5th. Puck drop in the big divisional game is scheduled for 7:35pm at the Infinite Energy Arena.
Lane Leads Way with Hat Trick in 6-2 Rout of Icemen
Wednesday, January 3rd
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