Playing in their first postseason game since 2013, the Atlanta Gladiators traveled to Germain Arena for game one of the South Division Semifinals against the Florida Everblades on Monday night. Dan Vladar was remarkable in net for Atlanta with 45 saves but two-goals and an empty netter for the home side in the final frame made the difference as Florida took home the 4-1 victory.
After a scoreless opening frame, Florida potted a goal 7:35 into the second period to take a 1-0 lead. Mitchell Heard collected the puck at the top of the near side circle in his offensive zone and looked for an open passing lane. The former Colorado Avalanche draft pick then sent a pass that knocked off the skate of a defender and landed on the stick of Brett Bulmer, who wristed in a shot from the far-side point for his first goal of the postseason.
On their fourth power play opportunity of the contest, Atlanta converted on the special teams chance and knotted the score at 1-1 at the 18:33 mark of the middle frame. Tanner Pond received a pass at the near-side boards and moved around a defender to whip a shot towards the net. Alex Rauter stood in front of the crease and fought for the rebound until he poked the puck past Martin Ouellette for his first professional playoff goal. Taylor Stefishen was credited with the second assist on the play.
The Everblades then took a 2-1 lead 8:24 into the third period. Michael Kirkpatrick knocked the puck off a defender in the neutral zone and tapped it back to Clark Seymour. The Brockville, ON native then directed a pass across the ice to Heard, who brought the puck into the zone and fired a shot through traffic in front that caromed off a skate past the pad of Dan Vladar.
A shorthanded goal at the 14:39 mark of the final frame increased Florida’s lead to 3-1. John McCarron carried the puck into the offensive zone on the far side and lifted a pass across to Spencer Smallman. The rookie then sent a return pass to McCarron, who directed the puck into the open net for his first point of the postseason.
An empty-net goal with less than :30 seconds remaining in the game gave the Everblades the 4-1 lead. The goal from Kirkpatrick was his third point of the night and secured the win for the home side, giving Florida the 1-0 series lead.
Up next, the two teams will face off for game two of the first round tomorrow night at Germain Arena at 7:30 pm.