DULUTH, GA – The Atlanta Gladiators fell to the Orlando Solar Bears 8-2 Saturday evening in a game that amassed 118 total penalty minutes between both squads. Orlando’s Michael Brodzinski tallied a six-point night (1G, 5A) as the Glads dropped their fifth straight contest.
Atlanta needed to bring energy to the ice from the start, and they did just that. Captain Derek Nesbitt and F Eric Neiley found F Thomas Frazee for the opening goal just :12 seconds into the contest. It was Frazee’s first point of the season after coming off the injured reserve earlier this week. The Gladiators’ defensive execution left Orlando frustrated and trailing 1-0 after one period.
The Solar Bears wasted no time getting even in the middle frame. Brodzinski and F Alexey Lipanov assisted F Jimmy Lodge on his third goal of the season just 1:32 into the second period. On the tail end of a holding minor penalty, F Logan Nelson jumped out of the penalty box to snag an errant Orlando pass and create a breakaway chance. The Rogers, MN native deked Solar Bears G Clint Windsor to put the Glads back on top with 12:19 to play in the second. Fans objected to a tripping minor called on Atlanta D Alexey Solovyev later in the period that would spark a power play scoring streak by the visitors. Lipanov, Brodzinski, and D Rich Boyd all cashed in on separate power plays in a 1:28 span late in the second period. Orlando went to the locker room with a 4-2 lead.
The Glads hung tough defensively early in the third period, but again found themselves on the penalty kill. F Chris LeBlanc netted the fifth Orlando goal of the night, drawing more frustration from the Gladiator faithful and team alike. LeBlanc seemed to interfere with G Sean Bonar before tallying his team-leading ninth goal of the season. Just over a minute later, F Tristin Langan capitalized on yet another power play goal to balloon the Solar Bears’ lead to 6-2.
With tempers already at a boiling point, a dangerous collision in the neutral zone sparked a full line melee. Only the goalies Bonar and Windsor were left to observe the chaos before even they squared off at center ice, bringing the fans to their feet. When the dust settled, both teams had lost multiple players to penalties for the night. The scrum did leave the Glads with a power play opportunity. Unfortunately, it was Orlando F Dylan Fitze snagging a pass to create a short-handed breakaway chance. He bested new G Ben Halford to give Orlando a 7-2 lead. With less than five minutes to play, F Eddie Matsushima and F Mikhail Shalagin assisted D Marcus Crawford for the eighth and final Solar Bear goal of the night.
The Gladiators will enjoy a Christmas break before hitting home ice once again on Thursday, December 26that 7:05 PM when they host the South Carolina Stingrays. Thursday is the third annual Wiener Dog Race featuring Atlanta’s quickest dachshunds in a slippery scurry across the Infinite Energy Arena ice. Fans can sign up their dogs or secure their tickets today!