JACKSONVILLE, FL - The Atlanta Gladiators outlasted the Jacksonville Icemen in a high-scoring affair Thursday afternoon for a 5-4 victory. Zach Malatesta's three point day (2G, 1A) was punctuated by the game-winning goal scored half way through the third period.
The "School Day" promotion led to a 10:30 AM start, and it was Malatesta getting the scoring started for Atlanta. D Chris Forney's blue line shot was redirected at the edge of the face-off circle and beat Icemen goalie Adam Carlson. The tally gave the visitors an early advantage with 13:10 to play in the opening frame. Every Atlanta goal scored was followed by an answering goal from Jacksonville, and they tied the game at one when Emerson Clark opened the scoring for the Icemen with 9:57 to play in the first. The opening period was capped off with a scrum that saw multiple major penalties, including the aforementioned Clark earning a game misconduct and ejection from the game.
When the action resumed in the middle period, the scoring continued at a rapid pace. Logan Nelson and Nick Bligh scored for Atlanta, but Jacksonville was equal to the task with scores from Garret Ross and Hayden Shaw. After forty minutes of play, the South Division rivals remained tied at three.
Four minutes into the third period, Alexey Solovyev and Tommy Marchin found a wide-open Dante Hannoun at the edge of Carlson's goal crease. His swift moves regained the lead for the Glads before Derek Barach tied the game 4-4 less than three minutes later. The defenses that could not stop much in the first two periods clamped down in the waning minutes. It was Malatesta rising to the occasion with 11:24 to play in the game. Hannoun and Marchin assisted the Boston, MA native on the go-ahead goal.
G Martin Ouellette made a number of key saves down the stretch to secure the victory. None were bigger than the final three seconds of the contest. A shot stopped by Ouellette bounced back to a scrum of Icemen forwards. A rebound was put behind the Atlanta netminder in the final second of the game, but ricocheted off the goal post and out.
Atlanta will square off with the Jacksonville Icemen once again Friday evening at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in northeast Florida. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM.
The Gladiators return to Infinite Energy Arena this Saturday and Sunday for Heroes Night and Princess & Pirates Day. Saturday features a doubleheader as the Fort Bragg and Fort Benning club hockey teams square off at 2:30 PM before the Glads host the Florida Everblades at 7:05 PM.
Kids of all ages can meet and greet with their favorite princesses and pirates at a character luncheon at 11:30 AM Sunday. The Gladiators will face the Indy Fuel later that day at 2:05 PM.