The Atlanta Gladiators matched up against the Manchester Monarchs for the final time this season on Sunday at the Infinite Energy Arena. A successful special-teams outing made the difference for the Monarchs as they took the 5-2 victory.
Atlanta opened the games scoring with a 5-on-3 shorthanded goal at the 11:06 mark of the opening frame. Tanner Pond stole the puck from a defender in his own zone and then bounced the disc off the glass and out of the zone. Darby Llewellyn then skated deep into the offensive end and lifted the stick of Manchester goal Charles Williams to corral the loose puck before he used a quick wraparound to slide in his 10th goal of the season.
Manchester then tied the game at 1-1 with a 5-on-3 power play goal at 14:38 of the first period. Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman controlled the puck in the corner of the offensive zone and sent a pass to Colton Saucerman at the point. The Colorado Springs, CO native then fired a shot towards net that was deflected in by Keegan Iverson for his fourth goal of the year.
Less than a minute of playing time later, the Monarchs found the net again to take a 2-1 lead. Iverson skated the puck into the offensive zone on the near side and sailed a pass across the ice to the backdoor. There, LaVallee-Smotherman tapped the puck into the back of the net for his team-leading 30th goal of the season. Matt Marcinew picked up the secondary assist on the play.
The visitors then tallied another power play goal with just :13 seconds left in the opening frame to increase their lead to 3-1. Matt Leitner picked up his eighth goal of the campaign on the play after he tapped in a pass from Joel Lowry at the back-door. Charles Williams notched the secondary assist on the special teams goal.
Manchester took a 4-1 lead at the 9:16 mark of the second period. Matt Schmalz brought the puck into the offensive zone and fired a shot towards net that was blocked by Sean Bonar. Michael Doherty then picked up the rebound and flipped a shot into the top corner for his 13th goal of the campaign.
The Gladiators then cut the deficit to 4-2 at the 9:51 mark of the middle frame. Colin Jacobs carried the puck into the zone on a two-on-one and got the defender to bite in his direction. The Texas native then slid a pass over to Pond, who buried a shot for his 11th goal of the year. Garrett Milan notched his first point as a Gladiator with the secondary assist.
The Monarchs retook their three-goal lead and went up 5-2 at the 8:55 mark of the third period. Saucerman wound up a slap-shot from the point that hit off the pad of Bonar and redirected to Francois Beauchemin. The rookie forward then tapped the loose puck into the net for his fifth goal of the year.
Unable to stop the Monarchs high-powered attack, Atlanta dropped to 26-26-1-2 but remain in third in the South Division with 55 points. Meanwhile Manchester improved to 32-16-3-1 and increased their lead atop the North Division with 68 points.
Up next, Atlanta will make the short-trek up I-85 for a weekday divisional matchup against Greenville. The puck drop between the Gladiators and Swamp Rabbits is scheduled for 7:00 at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Tuesday night.