GREENVILLE, SC – Atlanta hit the road for the first time in a couple weeks as they traveled up I-85 for a South Division duel with the Swamp Rabbits. After trailing by two early, Atlanta battled back to even the game earning a point but ultimately dropped the contest in extra session to Greenville, 4-3.
Atlanta was on the wrong end of the first man-advantage of the evening on a tripping call just over three minutes into the contest. The visitors managed to keep Greenville from scoring for :49 seconds of the power play before a holding call on Greenville brought up 1:11 of 4-on-4 play. Michael Pelech found Austen Brassard in the slot, who shot on Sean Bonar, the ECHL’s January Goaltender of the Month slowed the shot, but it trickled through his crease and crossed the goal line with 14:30 to play in the first to give the Swamp Rabbits an early advantage.
With 10:03 to play in the opening frame, the home team struck again. Johno May dished the puck to Luke Ripley at the far side of the blue line. His long shot found the back of the net to double Greenville’s early lead. It was the first pro goal for the rookie D-man.
After the first intermission, the Gladiators that carried a nine-game point streak into Bon Secours Wellness Arena took to the ice with a vengeance. Atlanta pressured Greenville goaltender, Chris Nell from the first step and outshot the home team 13-5 in the middle frame. The visitors got a goal back just shy the halfway point of the period on the power play. Defenseman Olivier Galipeau fed Brett McKenzie in the corner before the forward skated behind net. He slid just outside Nell’s crease before feeding Dan Leavens at the backdoor. The Thornhill, ON product blasted a one-timer beyond the diving Nell to get Atlanta on the board.
The Gladiators capitalized on the middle period surge again just under 3:00 to play in the frame. MacDonald took the puck into the offensive zone, finding McKenzie in the center of the slot. Already sitting on one assist, the Ottawa, ON native dished the puck through the crease to Alex Overhardt and the rookie buried the chance to tie the contest with his eighth goal of the season.
In the final period, Atlanta earned another power play opportunity on a delay of game by Greenville. MacDonald and Derek Nesbitt traded the puck and positioning around the far side face-off circle during the man-advantage. Nesbitt lined up a patented blast from the top of the circle, but did not catch the puck correctly. The fluttering disc caught Greenville’s defense and Nell off guard and fluttered in to give the Gladiators the lead with 15:21 to play.
Just when it looked like Atlanta would find a way to nurse the one-goal lead to the finish, the home side refused to go down. A long-range blast by Jake Bolton skittered past the reach of Bonar to tie the contest with 3:19 to play in regulation. Both teams held on for a point to force an extra session.
The teams traded chances during the overtime period, but it was a Kamerin Nault that found the back of the net on a wrist shot that went top-shelf from the left-wing circle for the Swamp Rabbits to break the 11-game losing skid for the home team. Despite the overtime loss, Atlanta lifted their point streak to 10 games and are now within just seven points of a playoff position in the South Division.
The Gladiators host the South Carolina Stingrays Thursday at 10:35 AM and Friday at 7:35 PM. Friday’s contest is the first annual P.J. Toss, so visit atlantagladiators.com to get your tickets today!