DULUTH, GA – The Atlanta Gladiators topped the Orlando Solar Bears in thrilling fashion when they earned a 5-4 overtime victory on the back of F Samuel Asselin’s hat trick and four-point night.
The Gladiators’ defensive energy in the opening minutes Friday evening was in direct contrast to how they finished Wednesday’s contest. The home team contested every Orlando shot, and stood tall against their division rivals. Their efforts were eventually rewarded with 5:48 to play in the first period. The line of Providence Bruins’ forwards teamed up when F Scott Conway and F Samuel Asselin fed 2020 ECHL All-Star Tommy Marchin near the halfboards. The Algonac, MI native ripped a shot by Orlando G Zach Fucale to give the Glads an early advantage.
In the second frame, Atlanta’s struggling power play started to click. F Logan Nelson found D Zach Malatesta at the blue line where the Boston, MA native launched one of his patented long-range blasts. The shot was initially saved by Fucale before Asselin’s backhand rebound finish. The French Canadian’s 13th goal of the season double Atlanta’s lead less than five minutes into the period.
The visitors found their footing in the second, as former Greenville Swamp Rabbit Johno May netted an unassisted goal with 12:09 to play in the frame. Next for Orlando, it was newcomer Taylor Cammarata snagging his first goal for the Solar Bears to tie the game. F Jake Coughler snagged his second goal in as many games in Atlanta to give Orlando their first lead of the night, sending the Gladiators to the second intermission with a one-goal deficit.
Less than three minutes into the third period, D Robbie Hall found F Eric Neiley in the offensive zone before the team’s point leader had a shot saved by Fucale. The rebound was cleaned up by team captain Derek Nesbitt to tie the game 3-3. The tally was the veteran’s 299th ECHL goal. Just over five minutes into the frame, the rookie sensation Asselin struck again. His unassisted wrist shot rippled the back of the net to bring the raucous crowd to its feet and regain the lead.
Atlanta’s defense hustled to outlast the stingy Solar Bears, but the visitors found a game-tying goal with 6:28 to play in regulation when F Peter Abbandonato and F Trevor Olson assisted D Blake Kessel on his third goal of the season. Neither team found a winner in the allotted sixty minutes, sending the contest to overtime.
Just :68 seconds into the overtime frame, Malatesta and D Joel Messner weaved around Orlando’s defense to find Asselin once again. The night’s biggest star navigated to the slot before ripping the game-winning score beyond Fucale to give Atlanta the 5-4 victory. Asselin’s hat trick was his second of the season, following another three-goal performance in the November 3rd win over Greenville.
Atlanta hits the road Saturday evening when they visit the South Carolina Stingrays in North Charleston at 6:05 PM. The Gladiators return home Monday afternoon for a 12:35 PM tilt against the rival Greenville Swamp Rabbits in an MLK Day Matinee presented by Northside Hospital. Fans can secure their tickets today!