The Atlanta Gladiators returned to home ice on Wednesday night as they welcomed the Kalamazoo Wings to the Infinite Energy Arena for their final out-of-division matchup of the regular season. Unable to complete their third period comeback, the Gladiators fell by a score of 4-3.
Kalamazoo took the game’s first lead with a tally at the 18:42 mark of the opening frame. Lane Scheidl took possession of the puck at the near-side boards of his offensive zone and tapped a pass over to Kyle Blaney. The Burlington, ON native then snapped a shot towards net that redirected off the stick of a defender and floated into the net for his 10th goal of the season.
The Wings then doubled their lead to 2-0 just :54 seconds into the second period. Danny Moynihan took a shot from the near-side point that was blocked by the pad of Dan Vladar. Justin Taylor then collected the rebound to the right of the net and slipped a shot into the back of the net for his team-leading 32nd strike of the year. Tyler Biggs notched the secondary assist on the play.
Atlanta responded less than a minute later to cut the score to 2-1. Branden Troock had the puck at his defensive blue-line and sent a pass up the ice to Darby Llewellyn. The former Kitchener Ranger skated the puck into the offensive zone and slipped a pass across the zone to Todd Skirving, who tapped in his first goal as a Gladiator.
With 3:10 left to play in the second frame, Kalamazoo regained their two-goal lead and made the score 3-1. Scott Henegar was the recipient of a fortuitous bounce deep in the Atlanta zone and tucked a shot into the open net frame for his 11thgoal on the campaign.
The visitors then increased their lead to 4-1 at the 6:34 mark of the third period. Ben Wilson skated the puck around the Atlanta net and delivered a pass to Josh Pitt in the far circle. The Western Michigan University grad then one-touched a pass to Brendan Bradley at the back-door, who tapped the puck into the net for his 14th of the season.
The Gladiators then cut the score to 4-2 at the 10:30 mark of the third period. Jake Stander controlled the puck in the corner of the offensive zone and sent a pass to the slot. There, Derek Nesbitt stood open and fired a one-time shot into the net for his 15th goal of the year. Troock tallied his second assist of the night with the secondary helper.
Just :11 seconds of playing time later, Atlanta struck once again to cut their deficit to 4-3. Darby Llewellyn intercepted a clearing attempt in the Kalamazoo zone and wristed a shot past Michael Garteig for his 17th tally of the campaign.
Unable to get their third straight victory, Atlanta dropped to 31-33-2-3 but remain in fourth in the South Division with 67 points. Meanwhile, Kalamazoo improved to 33-28-4-2 and sit in fourth in the Central Division with 72 points.
Up next, Atlanta will hit the road as they travel to Estero, FL for their final away game of the regular season on Saturday night. The puck drop between the Gladiators and Everblades is scheduled for 7:00pm at the Germain Arena on March 31st.