DULUTH, GA - For the second straight night, the Gladiators hosted the Icemen of Jacksonville. However, they could not maintain the great momentum of Thursday’s night 4-0 victory as the visitors came from behind twice to defeat Atlanta 4-3 on Friday Night.
Atlanta entered their third home game in as many nights with more confidence than most, just 24 hours off of a dominant effort against this same Jacksonville squad. The stakes were tightened as the game was featured by the ECHL and ECHL.tv as a showcase game broadcasted on Facebook Live.
Despite being outshot 18-12 in the first period, Atlanta managed to score first when they capitalized on only their second shot on goal. Nolan LaPorte won a puck battle at central ice and dished to Brett McKenzie at full speed into the Glads’ offensive zone. The Ottawa native and Vancouver Canucks draft pick dished a backhand pass to Justin MacDonald. He faked out a Jacksonville defender and goaltender, Tanner Jaillet to find a wide-open, back-side goal at the 9:19 mark of the first period.
The Icemen continued their offensive pressure and earned the game-tying tally in the waning seconds of the opening stanza. Nikita Korostelev received a pass around the back of the net and quickly sauced the puck to the front of the goal. Proverbial Gladiator slayer, Kris Newbury was on the receiving end, redirected the puck past Bonar to level the game with just :09 seconds left in the first period.
The visitors struck again, just :35 seconds in the middle period and :44 seconds after their first score. Wacey Rabbit fed Maxime Fortier on the half boards. He found Garrett Ladd at the top of the crease for an open look at the net. His shot was deflected by Bonar, but found the back of the cage to give Jacksonville the lead.
Atlanta did not yield with their offensive pressure, eventually striking gold in efficient fashion. MacDonald and McKenzie, already sitting on a point apiece from the opening goal, combined on the far-side wall to find Jesse Gabrielle on a backdoor feed. His wrister beat Jaillet to tie the game with 17:14 to play in the second with a power play mark.
The home team did not stop there, continuing to pressure Jacksonville after the drop of the puck. The most veteran assist tandem on the team, and maybe in the ECHL, combined to find the go-ahead goal. Jared Ross found Derek Nesbitt in the near-side corner before the Seaforth, ON native slid a pass to Nick Bligh for a one-timer at a tough angle for Jaillet. Bligh snuck the puck past the Jacksonville goaltender just :14 seconds after the game-tying goal to take the 3-2 lead for the Glads.
The Icemen, as expected, did not yield either. Newbury found the back of the net for the second time in the game, thanks to a pass from Randolph with 10:30 to play in the second period. With just 1:02 remaining, Rabbit sent the disc to Fortier from his position behind Bonar’s net. The Quebec native’s one-timer barely slipped inside the far-side goal post to give Jacksonville the 4-3 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Both teams shored up in their defensive zones in the final period, and Atlanta could not find the game-tying goal to string together back to back wins and Jacksonville secured revenge against their South Division rival to earn the 4-3 victory.
Atlanta now has five days off for the holiday break before hosting the Florida Everblades on Thursday, December 27th at 7:35 PM at the Infinite Energy Arena.