DULUTH, GA – The Atlanta Gladiators fell 7-3 to the Jacksonville Icemen Friday evening after Jacksonville’s Pierre-Luc Mercier registered a hat trick.
Even though the puck drop was delayed by about 25 minutes, the Gladiators’ offense showed up right on time. Clean, crisp passing got Atlanta moving in the offensive zone, and it was F Scott Conway capitalizing with 15:41 to play in the opening phrase. F Tommy Marchin and F Samuel Asselin assisted on Conway’s goal as the rookies combined to give Atlanta an early lead.
Two minutes into the second period, Atlanta point-leader Eric Neiley navigated into the offensive zone before finding captain Derek Nesbitt. The senior-most member of the squad took the puck around the back of Jacksonville G Adam Carlson’s net before gliding back to the blue line for a quick wrist shot. The shot found the back of the net to double the lead. The tally was the 298th of the veteran’s illustrious career.
In a six-minute span starting with 11:51 to play in the second, the last place Jacksonville Icemen morphed into a scoring machine. The visitors strung together five straight goals, including two from Mercier. D Dajon Mingo added a goal and an assist, along with F Chase Lang’s two assists. After the fifth goal in the sequence from Jacksonville’s Wacey Rabbit, Gladiators’ head coach Jeff Pyle pulled G Chris Nell in favor of Ben Halford.
After a lengthy discussion in the locker room during the second intermission, Atlanta brought ferocious energy to the ice at the outset of the third period. Their efforts were finally rewarded when Nesbitt and F Zach Malatesta found Neiley for his 12th goal of the campaign with 15:57 to play. Unfortunately for the Glads’ faithful in attendance, Jacksonville snagged the final two goals of the game en route to the 7-3 victory.
The Gladiators continue this homestand Sunday afternoon when they host the Brampton Beast at 2:05 PM. Fans are encouraged to snag their tickets for International Day and come celebrate the diverse cultures that make our city great!