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Glads' Comeback Falls Just Short as Norfolk Takes 4-3 Road Win

Sunday, December 30th
Glads' Comeback Falls Just Short as Norfolk Takes 4-3 Road Win

DULUTH, GA - Trailing by two goals twice, the Atlanta Gladiators could not muster a game-tying goal and fell 4-3 to the Norfolk Admirals in their final game of 2018. This one did not lack drama and intrigue down the stretch, with the biggest moment of the game being a fourth Atlanta goal that was not meant to be.

Both teams had equal chances early in the contest, but it was the visitors that struck first. Norfolk winger Kelly Klima gathered the puck on the half boards before skating around defenders and behind Sean Bonar’s net. From the bottom of the far-side circle, he dished a wrister on net that beat the Atlanta goaltender and snuck under the crossbar with 11:53 remaining in the first period.

Just 2:40 after their first goal, the Admirals doubled their early lead. Norfolk’s Chris Crane stole the puck in the neutral zone before feeding Taylor Cammarata in the high slot. His wrist shot beat Bonar and stunned the Glads after the home team held Norfolk to just one goal the night before.

Atlanta did not sit idly by, as they bounced back to cut the lead in half just :61 seconds later. Jared Ross softly found Brett McKenzie at neutral ice before the Ottawa, ON native skated to the top of the crease. He fed Nick Bligh in the far-side circle before the newcomer wristed a rocket past Reichenbach to get the Gladiators on the board.

The Gladiators continued to mount their comeback just :76 seconds into the middle period. Ross and Derek Nesbitt sprung a two-on-two break into the offensive zone. With the defenders focused on Atlanta’s point leader crashing towards the net, Ross saucered a pass to the trailing Kyle Chatham in the slot. The Belleville, IL native dished the puck right back to Ross, who buried the wide-open chance to tie the game. Thirteen years after initially signing with the Gladiators, the former NHLer gathered his first Glads goal.

After a slew of penalties created a four-on-four scenario, Norfolk regained the momentum. Jalen Smereck and Dark Angeli fed T.J. Melancon in the low slot where the forward beat Bonar for the goal. The power play tally regained Norfolk the lead with 13:32 to play in the second period.

The visitors established yet another two-goal lead just over four minutes after Melancon’s goal. Cammarata stole a puck that was on the way to being cleared, then fed Klima on the left side of the crease. He dished to Crane, who had his initial chance blocked by Bonar. His second chance found the back of the net to make the score 4-2.

The Gladiators continued to chip away. Atlanta sent the puck in behind Reichenbach’s net with just over a minute to play in the second period. Bligh, having already scored a goal, fought through a check to find Don Olivieri slicing to the net. The Philadelphia, PA native slipped the puck below the Norfolk goaltender with :72 seconds remaining in the period. It was the second goal of the season for Olivieri, and first since his first game with the Gladiators on November 21st.

The home side kept themselves in the contest early in the third period after Norfolk earned 30-plus seconds of 5-on-3 power play time. Desperate and determined defending kept the Admirals off the board early in the frame.

Atlanta appeared to tie the game with 1:36 to play in regulation. The puck found its way to the back of the net in the midst of a wild, late-game scrum, with the referee ruling it a good goal before waving the equalizer off. After a conference of officials, the no-goal call stood and Atlanta could never find the elusive fourth goal in the waning minutes.

ROAD AHEAD

The loss keeps Atlanta at 20 points on the year as they conclude the final homestand of 2018. The Gladiators are on the road for five games, starting Wednesday night at the Florida Everblades. Atlanta returns home on Saturday, January 12th as they host the Jacksonville Icemen for Teddy Bear Toss Night.

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