DULUTH, GA – The Atlanta Gladiators capped off a thrilling game with a game-winning tally in overtime to beat the Norfolk Admirals on the second annual Hockey Heritage Night at Infinite Energy Center on Saturday evening. F Eric Neiley notched his fourth game in a row with a goal when he pushed across Atlanta’s game-winner in the extra period.
The buzzing crowd was immediately subjected to the feisty nature of this contest. Neiley and Norfolk D Johnny Coughlin earned roughing minors just :43 seconds into the game, setting the tone for a night that saw 65 combined penalty minutes between the two squads. Matters boiled over around the nine-minute mark, when Glads F Anthony Collins and Norfolk F Jakob Reichert squared off near the red line. After landing multiple right hooks to the face of his opponent, Collins gestured to the 6,153 in attendance to get loud. The crowd obliged swiftly.
Half way through the opening frame, Norfolk captain Ben Holmstrom and an Atlanta defender went careening into G Chris Nell and his goal. The puck crossed the goal line as the net was dislodged, being ruled a goal on the ice. Upon review, the call stood and gave the visitors the early lead. With just over five minutes to play in the period, Glads D Cody Corbett’s stretch pass from the defensive zone found F Avery Peterson behind the Norfolk defense. Peterson bested Admirals’ G Danny Tirone on his glove side to tie the game.
As the crowd began to take their seats after the first goal, the gritty Gladiators gave them a reason to rise once again. F Thomas Frazee won a face-off to D Alexey Solovyev at the halfwall before the Russian defensemen put a pinpoint pass onto F Logan Nelson’s stick. From the slot, Nelson one-timed the puck beyond Tirone to give Atlanta their first lead of the night just :33 seconds after Peterson’s goal.
The choppy flow of the game, due to many penalties and stoppages, disrupted any kind of offensive rhythm for either team. Admirals D Joe Masonius eventually assisted F J.C. Campagna on the game-tying goal with 12:09 to play in the second period.
As second intermission gave way to the third period, the in-arena display embodied a tribute to the Atlanta Thrashers. The loudest crowd of the year spurned the Glads on to a tough, defensive third period that saw neither team gain the upper hand. For the third time this season, Atlanta went to overtime.
Less than a minute into the 3-on-3 session, it looked as though Norfolk would get a breakaway chance to win the game. In a stroke of luck for the Gladiators, Campagna held the stick of the final Atlanta defender attempting to recover. The breakaway chance was waved off, instead giving the Glads a 4-on-3 advantage of their own. Nelson and D Joel Messner found Eric Neiley below the face-off dot. The seasoned veteran barreled towards the net, dishing the puck beyond Tirone for a final time to give Atlanta a 3-2 victory. The Gladiators remained unbeaten in games going beyond regulation.
Atlanta hit the ice Sunday afternoon in Charleston when they square off with the South Carolina Stingrays at 2:05 PM. The Gladiators return to home ice on Thursday, January 9th when they host the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 7:05 PM. Fans can secure their tickets to Taco Thursday today!