DULUTH, GA - The Atlanta Gladiators’ first venture into play outside the South Division did not go as planned. The visiting Newfoundland Growlers travelled over 2,500 miles to play at Infinite Energy Arena, but their travel woes did not slow their scoring. The Gladiators’ historic point streak came to an end in the 8-2 defeat.
The early energy from the visiting Growlers culminated with a tally at the 13:43 mark of the opening period. Giorgio Estephan gathered a puck saved initially by Sean Bonar. His second-chance wrister found the roof of the net and gave Newfoundland a 1-0 lead. Matters went from bad to worse on the ensuing faceoff. The Growlers gathered the puck and gave Brady Ferguson another great chance in the slot. His shot beat Bonar to double the Newfoundland lead just :08 seconds after the opening goal.
Another loss on a face-off by Atlanta gave the Growlers another chance to strike. Hudson Elynuik twirled the puck to J.J. Piccinich before his blast found the back of the net with 9:55 remaining in the first. Less than a minute later, another Newfoundland face-off win led to a quick shot by Josh Kestner. The Huntsville, AL native’s strike made it a 4-0 lead for the visitors with 8:59 to play in the opening frame.
The second period brought more of the same, as a former Gladiator found the back of the cage against his former team. James Melindy’s tally less than three minutes into the middle frame ballooned the Newfoundland lead to 5-0. Coach Pyle switched goaltenders to try to slow the onslaught, but a turnover in front of Bitzer’s net gave Ferguson another chance and he capitalized with 14:50 remaining in the second.
Atlanta continued to fight despite the deficit, and it was Jack Stander and Matt Lane sparking the first positive of the night. Their passes produced a scrum in front of Eamon McAdam’s net before Dan Leavens poked a puck over the goal line to break up the shutout with 14:22 to play in the middle frame.
Only a minute after conceding their first goal of the night, the visitors from Canada regained the six-goal advantage after Estephan tallied another goal. The assist for Kestner gave him his third point of the night.
The Gladiators continued to fight and showed promise in their offensive zone, but to no avail. The next tally belonged to Newfoundland again as Derian Plouffe’s shot bested Bitzer with 12:41 to play in the contest.
Atlanta gathered another goal from the Lane-Stork-Leavens line in the closing minutes. Leavens, already sitting on a point from the first Gladiators’ goal, gathered the puck on a back check before dishing to Lane in the slot. The one-timer from the Rochester, NY native beat McAdam to light the lamp for the second time. That wrapped up the furious night of scoring as Newfoundland cruised to their 33rd victory of the season.
Atlanta will look to rebound on Friday night as they host South Division rival Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 7:35 PM. Get your tickets for Zombie Night at atlantagladiators.com!