DULUTH, GA - The last Gladiators’ game at Infinite Energy Arena was an exciting affair, but the home team managed to top that performance with a shootout win over the Jacksonville Icemen in Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee. Justin MacDonald tied the game in the third and Nick Bligh netted the winner in the shootout to give Atlanta their sixth win in their last seven games.
On the heels of a long road trip, the visiting Icemen were pressured early by the streaking Gladiators. Despite the shot advantage and power play opportunity, the home team failed to capitalize in the first period. Atlanta’s defense clamped down also, holding Jacksonville to a season-low three shots in a period.
Jacksonville earned their first power play opportunity of the afternoon after a cross-checking penalty on Ben Danford. Just :07 seconds into the man advantage, Justin Woods fed Garret Cockerill skating in from the blue line. Cockerill saucered a pass to Cody Fowlie, who blasted a rocket on goal that beat Sean Bonar to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at the 16:37 mark of the second period.
Early in the final frame, Jacksonville had a prime chance to double the lead. Garet Hunt started a 2-on-1 breakaway for the Icemen with Eli Lichtenwald. The latter had a wide-open net thanks to a nifty feed from Hunt, but his tap-in skittered wide of the net to keep the deficit at one.
After continued pressure from the Gladiators, they earned another power play opportunity after a tripping penalty on Jacksonville’s Jake Randolph. Off of the initial face-off of the man advantage, it was Joe Widmar winning the puck and feeding defenseman Joel Messner at the blue line. His long-range shot was saved to the side by Berdin, but MacDonald was there on the put-back chance to finally bring Atlanta even with the Icemen.
Both teams pressed to the end of regulation, but failed to find a goal. The five-minute overtime session was one of the more exciting periods of hockey this entire season, with both teams earning great chances while Bonar and Berdin continued to make breathtaking stops.
With the result coming down to a shootout, Nick Bligh netted the first attempt on Berdin who missed on a poke-check. After that, it was all up to Atlanta’s spectacular goaltender. Bonar kept Wacey Rabbit, Randolph, and Kris Newbury out of the net to secure the thrilling win.
With the two points, Atlanta earned their fifth straight win and sixth victory in seven games. The Gladiators are lifted to 32 points on the season after the win.
They continue this homestead Saturday, January 26th at 7:35 PM on Star Wars Night when they host the Orlando Solar Bears.