NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - The Gladiators finished their most important stretch of the season with their fourth game in five days, in three different cities, when they visited the North Charleston Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
The Stingrays opened the game’s scoring 6:59 into the first period. Cameron Askew collected the puck at center ice and skated into the offensive zone, where he wristed a shot that was blocked by Atlanta netminder Sean Bonar. However, the puck bounced off Bonar’s pad and rebounded to Patrick Gaul at the back door, who knocked it in for his 11th goal of the season.
Despite their slow offensive start to the game, Atlanta started to create some quality chances in the later stages of the opening frame. In one shift the Gladiators were able to fire off four shots in a row, however, none found the back of the net, so Atlanta still trailed 1-0 after twenty minutes of play.
Atlanta would not be held off forever though, as just seconds after the completion of their first power play, the Gladiators struck to tie the game at 1-1 at the 7:00 mark of the second period. Brett McKenzie chipped the puck off the boards in the neutral zone and found Filip Pyrochta open at center ice. The defenseman then skated the puck into the offensive zone and faked a shot before sending a drop pass to Matt Lane, who took a few strides before slotting a shot past Parker Milner for his 11th tally on the year.
The home side then retook their lead at the 16:25 mark of the middle frame. Jordan Samuels-Thomas carried the puck into his offensive zone and found Stephane Legault open in the middle of the slot. The University of Alberta product then slipped a pass to Grant Besse who lifted a shot past Bonar for his team-leading 30thgoal of the year.
Just shy of two minutes into the third period, the Gladiators struck to knot the score at 2-2. Joel Messner controlled the puck at the blue line and fired a shot wide of the net. Hugo Roy picked up the rebound behind the net and then sent a pass across the crease to Zach Magwood. The Cambridge, ON native then lifted a shot past Milner for his first goal in the ECHL.
South Carolina then capitalized on a power play at the 5:40 mark of the third to retake a 3-2 lead. Ryker Killins took a shot from the center of the slot that was deflected in front by Askew and past Bonar. Joey Leach was credited with the secondary assist on the play.
The Stingrays added an empty netter with :41 seconds left in the third to seal a 4-2 victory. After Roy was tackled from behind, sending the Gladiators into a frenzy with no penalty call, the Stingrays placed a shot into the open cage to seal the win.
Up next, Atlanta will continue the road trip as they travel back to Florida for their final matchup of the season with the Orlando Solar Bears on Thursday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 on April 4th at the Amway Center.