DULUTH, GA - The Atlanta Gladiators fell 3-2 to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits Friday evening despite a season-high 58 shots on goal. Greenville G Jeremy Helvig stood tall for the visitors, racking up 56 saves in the road win.
The Swamp Rabbits followed the plan of the Norfolk Admirals just two nights prior: jump on Atlanta early. Rookie sensation Liam Pecararo nabbed the opening score with 8:19 to play in the first. After assisting on the Pecararo tally, F Matt Marcinew gathered a puck in G Martin Ouellette's crease and roofed a shot in to double the lead.
Atlanta began to swirl offensively in the second period, pushing the Greenville defense to its limit. In one instance, the Glads controlled the puck in the offensive zone for roughly :90 seconds without a whistle or a clearance. Despite the zone time, the home team could not break through. The Rabbits were forced to burn their timeout to allow the team to gather their breath. On the ensuing faceoff, D Alexey Solovyev and F Eric Neiley found F Tommy Marchin for a one-time shot that finally bested Helvig.
The Gladiators continued to push after cutting the deficit to one. F Anthony Collins sent a blast from the blue line in transition, catching Helvig by surprise. The shot appeared to hit the roof of the netting and hop back out, being ruled a goal. In the first use of instant replay at Infinite Energy Arena this season, the score was waved off after it was determined the puck ricocheted off of the goal post. Despite the overturn, Atlanta kept pressing. F Avery Peterson and captain Derek Nesbitt found F Luke Nogard on the power play. Nogard feathered a soft shot past the Greenville goalie, bouncing it off the far goal post and over the goal line. The Glads entered the second break all level at two.
In a game that seemed destined to go to overtime, the Swamp Rabbits got a golden opportunity late after a tripping call put Atlanta on the penalty kill. The Glads had killed 17 straight penalties going into this crucial juncture, but F Nathan Perkovich and D Adam Larkin found Pecararo for the decisive goal with less than two minutes to play. The Glads could not find the equalizing score, and fell for the first time since November 16th.
The Gladiators return to Infinite Energy Arena on Wednesday, December 4th when they host the South Carolina Stingrays at 7:05 PM. This is a "Glads Win, You Win" Wednesday, so every fan in attendance receives a voucher for a free ticket to the next Wednesday game if the Glads pull out the victory. Fans can still get tickets today!