DULUTH, GA – The Gladiators returned to home ice in search of their sixth straight win vs. the visiting Solar Bears. Atlanta could not hold on to the early 2-0 lead and dropped the contest 3-2 in overtime thanks to steadfast goaltending by Orlando’s Martin Ouellette. With the point however in the OT defeat, the Gladiators moved their point streak to six games.
The home team got the raucous crowd going early, thanks to a slashing penalty on Orlando’s Corey Kalk just 2:41 into the contest. Olivier Galipeau gathered the puck at the offensive blue line early in the man-advantage. He found Matt Lane at the far-side half boards, where the Rochester, NY native walked the puck into the circle before throwing a shot on goal. Orlando goaltender, Ouellette stopped Lane’s blast, but the rebound found newcomer Avery Peterson in the crease. He collected the puck and dished it past the stick side of the Quebec native to net the early Atlanta lead.
At the 10:41 mark of the opening frame, Derek Nesbitt saucered the puck around the back of the goal to Lane. He faked a shot to earn more defensive attention before a sleek pass found the Czech defenseman Filip Pyrochta in the high slot. The newcomer’s wrist shot bested Ouellette to double the Atlanta lead.
Atlanta was called for a stick holding penalty 12:08 into the middle period, putting the visiting Solar Bears on their fourth power play. Just :31 seconds into that man advantage, the visitors found the back of the net. Trevor Olsen shuffled the puck underneath Sean Bonar to bring Orlando within one, with assists from Mathieu Foget and Michael Brodzinski.
Both teams had power play opportunities down the stretch, but most were met with outstanding goaltending from Ouellette and Bonar. Atlanta gathered the puck behind Ouellette’s net before a Solar Bear forced an unfortunate turnover to the crease in front of Bonar’s goal. With no defenders around, Colby McAuley corralled the puck and deked around Bonar to find the game-tying goal with 12:42 to play in regulation.
Both team’s earned themselves great chances down the stretch but with the goaltender on the top of their games, the contest shifted to OT with both team’s being awarded a point in the standings. At the 2:13 mark of the extra session and after two game-saving saves by Ouellette, Taylor Thompson maneuvered around the Glads’ defense and potted home the game-winning tally.
The Gladiators lost their first game in over three weeks but still earned a point and tied Greenville with 33 points for seed number six. Orlando takes two points to affirm their grasp on the final playoff spot in the South Division with 45.
The homestand continues as the Gladiators return to home ice on Wednesday, January 30th against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for Wild WINsday at the Infinite Energy Arena.