For the first matchup of Hockey Fights Cancer Weekend, the Atlanta Gladiators welcomed the Norfolk Admirals to the Infinite Energy Arena on Friday night. Five-goals in the final frame made the difference, as Norfolk came back to win 7-4.
Norfolk opened the game’s scoring just 3:50 into the first period to take an early 1-0 lead. Darik Angeli carried the puck into the offensive zone and sent a pass to TJ Melancon. The rookie defender then faked a shot and slid the puck across the slot to Grant Besse, who tapped it in at the back-door for his 17th goal of the season.
The Gladiators brought the score even at 1-1 at the 12:24 mark of the opening frame. Rick Pinkston corralled the loose puck at the near-side point and fired a shot that rebounded to the corner. Darby Llewellyn won the race to the puck and knocked it forward to Phil Lane, who then circled behind the goal and wristed a shot into the back of the net for his 23rd goal of the year.
Atlanta then took their first lead of the game under two minutes later at the 14:18 mark of the first period. Ben Danford found the puck on his stick in the neutral zone, where he forwarded a pass to Lane. The former Arizona Coyotes draft pick then skated the puck into the zone on the far side, and centered a pass to Llewellyn. The Ann Arbor, MI native then whipped a shot from the slot that beat Ty Reichenbach top-blocker to give the Gladiators the 2-1 lead.
A power play goal just 2:04 into the second period gave the home side a 3-1 lead. Luke Sandler laid a big hit on the Norfolk defender in the offensive zone and gathered the puck as a result. He tapped a pass back to Zach Malatesta at the point, who then relayed the puck to Brady Vail. The former member of the Windsor Spitfires took a few strides toward the middle of the zone and blasted a slap shot from the high point that zipped into the top corner for his 13th goal of the season.
The Gladiators then increased their lead to 4-1 at the 16:32 mark of the middle frame. Taylor Stefishen stole the puck from a Norfolk defender and circled the zone looking for an open passing lane. After he crept into the near corner, Stefishen found Colin Jacobs uncovered in front of the net. The Texas native received the pass and then tapped the puck into the open frame for his fifth of the year.
Norfolk struck back with just four seconds remaining in the second to cut the deficit to 4-2. Angeli was credited with his 14th goal of the season after he skated into the zone on the far side and propelled a shot that deflected off a defender and floated over the shoulder of Dan Vladar. Both Chase Harrison and Jordan Abt notched an assist on the play.
The Admirals then cut the deficit to just one and made the score 4-3 just 2:16 into the third period. Alex Pompeo knocked in a rebound for his fifth goal of the year after Vladar made the original save on a shot from Thomas Frazee. Patrick D’Amico picked up the secondary assist on the power play goal.
Another power play goal from Norfolk with just 4:30 left in the third tied the game at 4-4. Dominic Alberga won the faceoff in the offensive zone and sent the puck back to D’Amico. The Winnipeg, MB native then sailed a pass across the blue line to Young, who wired a shot into the back of the net for his sixth tally of the year.
Norfolk then took the 5-4 lead with 1:32 left in the third period. Chase Harrison was credited with his third goal of the season after he collected a rebound in the slot and got a shot past Vladar. Christian Horn and Besse tallied the assists.
The Admirals would add two empty net goals to secure the 7-4 win. Unable to continue the win streak, Atlanta dropped to 21-21-1-2 with the loss, but remain in third in the South Division with 45 points. Meanwhile, Norfolk improved to 16-19-5-1 with the road victory and sit in sixth in the division with 38 points.
Up next, the same two teams will face-off tomorrow at the Infinite Energy Arena for Atlanta’s annual Teddy-Bear Toss night. The puck drop between the Gladiators and Admirals is scheduled for 7:05pm on Saturday.