N. CHARLESTON, SC – The Atlanta Gladiators narrowly fell to the South Carolina Stingrays 5-4 in a shootout loss Saturday night. F Tommy Marchin registered a three-point night (1G, 2A) as the Glads gained a point against the top team in the ECHL.
Both squads looked to establish themselves as the physical aggressor early in the Saturday night contest, leading to a first period dropping of the gloves. Former Stingray and current Gladiator F Anthony Collins squared off with South Carolina D Neal Goff to get the crowd energized.
When the dust settled, it was the visiting Glads drawing first blood. Marchin helped to force a turnover in the offensive zone and found F Avery Peterson crashing towards the goal crease. The Minnesotan dished the puck back to F Scott Conway, who beat Stingrays G Parker Milner to give Atlanta the 1-0 advantage. Just :16 seconds later, Cameron Askew and Scott Davidson assisted Alex Marsh on his second score of the season to level the game after the first twenty minutes.
Early in the middle frame, the home team grabbed the lead for the first time. Askew stole the puck from an Atlanta defenseman before shuffling the puck ahead for F Tim Harrison, who buried the chance for his eighth goal of the season just over two minutes into the period. South Carolina earned a power play opportunity after the score, leading to F Andrew Cherniwchan’s team-leading 27th tally of the campaign to double the Stingrays’ lead just over three minutes into the second.
Atlanta’s power play entered the game ranked eighth in the ECHL. It was the man-advantage that helped the Gladiators get back in the game. F Thomas Frazee’s drop pass entering the offensive zone in the waning seconds of their third power play opportunity found Marchin gliding into the slot. His wristshot beat Milner from range to bring Atlanta within 3-2. Just past the halfway point of the game, Ully snagged his 11th goal of the year to regain the Rays’ two-goal advantage.
The gritty Gladiators continued to fight despite the deficit on the road. Collins found captain Derek Nesbitt before the veteran navigated to the left corner and dished a pass through the goal crease. That is where F Samuel Asselin netted his 25th goal of the season to reclaim the team lead in points (45) with 13:23 to play in regulation. On another power play, Conway grabbed the puck off of a face-off win before finding D Zach Malatesta near the blue line. His long-range blast evened the game at four with 8:24 to play. Neither team could break the tie in the third period, sending Atlanta to their ninth game beyond regulation time this year.
In the first minute of the overtime period, the Gladiators earned a penalty shot on a slashing call by the Stingrays. Asselin’s attempt was stopped by Milner before the teams resumed a high-speed overtime frame. Both teams had chances to steal the win, but failed to capitalize. For the second time this season, these two teams went to a shootout.
After the first two attempts for Atlanta resulted in no shootout goals, South Carolina’s Cherniwchan rang a shot off of one post before it bounced to the opposite post and eventually trickled out. The shot was ruled no goal. Upon review, the officials determined the puck crossed the line and gave the Stingrays a 1-0 advantage in the shootout. Milner stuffed Conway’s shootout attempt to seal the eventual win for the division leaders.
Despite the loss, the point earned helps Atlanta keep pace in the South Division playoff race. The Gladiators return to home ice Sunday afternoon when they host the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at 2:05 PM. Fans are encouraged to grab their tickets for Youth Sports Day now!