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MacDonald magical as hat trick lifts Atlanta over Norfolk

Sunday, December 30th
MacDonald magical as hat trick lifts Atlanta over Norfolk

DULUTH, GA - The Gladiators experienced a magical night at Infinite Energy Arena Saturday night as Justin MacDonald led Atlanta to a 3-1 win on the strength of a hat trick. In front of 5,000+ eager fans on Wizard Night, MacDonald and goaltender Sean Bonar sent all the wizards and witches home happy.

Atlanta had some pep in their step from the outset, perhaps due to Norfolk’s game on Friday night while the Gladiators rested at home. Bonar made the first big play of the night to recover from a potential blunder. Roughly half way through the opening period, a puck was cleared by Atlanta and Bonar left his net to play it. Unbeknownst to him, Darik Angeli was the closest player and gathered the puck for a sure open-net goal. The Delta, BC native worked his magic, slithering back in front of the net to make a pad save and keep the game scoreless.

Out of that sequence, Norfolk’s Angeli earned a hooking minor to put Atlanta on the power play. Only :20 seconds later, John Gustafsson joined his teammate in the penalty box for the same offense. The league’s 5th best power play looked to capitalize on the two-man advantage. Justin MacDonald received the puck by way of Don Olivieri and Derek Nesbitt in the far-side corner. He skated to the center of the slot before letting go a wrist shot that beat Norfolk goaltender Ty Reichenbach and gave the Gladiators the lead with 9:43 to play in the first.

Norfolk earned a power play of their own at the 5:48 mark of the first period after a hooking penalty. Jalen Smereck fed Gustafsson, who found Luke Nogard in the crease in front of Bonar. Nogard’s breakaway, one-timer beat the Atlanta goaltender to level the game at one with 4:41 to play in the opening frame.

The next goal would inch the home team ahead, even if it was not the prettiest score. Brett McKenzie threw a puck to the front of the net. A deflection off of Vytal Cote left it for MacDonald, who shuttled a puck underneath Reichenbach to give Atlanta the lead at the 7:50 mark of the second.

MacDonald was not done, as he extended the Gladiators’ lead before the end of the middle frame. A brilliant backhand shot beat Reichenbach for the third time and gave the Newmarket, ON native his third goal of the night. It was Atlanta’s third hat trick of the season and their second against the Norfolk Admirals.

Sean Bonar stood tall, along with the rest of the Gladiators’ defense, in a chippy final period to hold on for a convincing win. The victory lifted Atlanta to 20 points on the season.

ROAD AHEAD

The Gladiators complete the final homestand of 2018 on Sunday against the Norfolk Admirals at 3:05 PM.

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