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Heroic effort: Glads rally to top Orlando 3-2

Saturday, March 7th
Heroic effort: Glads rally to top Orlando 3-2

DULUTH, GA – The Atlanta Gladiators defeated the Orlando Solar Bears 3-2 Friday night to extend their home winning streak to nine games and tie the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for third in the ECHL South Division. Atlanta rallied from a 1-0 first intermission deficit to go above .500 for the first time since December 13th.

The short-handed Orlando Solar Bears brought the necessary attitude into Infinite Energy Arena Friday evening to get a road win. They possessed the puck in their offensive zone for a majority of the opening frame, peppering Gladiators’ G Chris Nell. Atlanta seemed to get a clearance into the neutral zone before D Eric Drapluk gathered the puck at the center of the blue line. His long-range blast was initially stopped by Nell, but the chaos in the goal crease allowed F Taylor Thompson to shuffle the puck across. Orlando took the 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the contest.

The Solar Bears continued to assault the net, forcing Nell and his defense to scramble for the remainder of the first period. The gritty Gladiators held on to only trail by a single tally at the first intermission.

The home team looked to turn that hard work in the defensive zone into a game-tying score in the second period. F Samuel Asselin won a face-off in the offensive zone before F Tommy Marchin won a puck battle in the corner. He fed F Scott Conway at the right-side halfboards before the Providence College product skated into the circle and ripped a one-time shot. He bested Orlando G Patrick Munson for his 17th goal of the season to tie the game less than three minutes into the middle frame. 

Less than three minutes after their first goal, the Glads struck again. F Luke Nogard outmuscled a Solar Bears defender in front of the Atlanta bench before feeding the puck to F Derek Nesbitt in stride. The team captain and co-leader in games played galloped to the left-side face-off dot before launching a left-handed blast beyond the reach of Munson. The veteran’s 15th tally of the campaign gave Atlanta their first lead of the night.

Just when it seemed the visiting Solar Bears had recaptured their early dominance, D Alexey Solovyev precisely navigated a pass from the defensive zone to the neutral zone. The puck landed in front of F Logan Nelson, allowing him to race around the Orlando defenders and create a breakaway scoring chance. The Rogers, MN native deked Munson before backhanding the chance into the back of the net to double Atlanta’s advantage with 5:12 to play in the middle frame.

The Solar Bears brought their first-period energy to the third. With time winding down, F Trevor Olsen found F Johno May while on the penalty kill before the former Swamp Rabbit slipped a puck below Nell and in before crashing into the Gladiators’ netminder. The 5,094 in attendance tensed up for another heart-pounding finish as the visitors pulled within one with 5:47 to play in regulation. Despite missing a few open-net opportunities in the waning minutes, the Gladiators held on for the 3-2 win. 

The victory is the team’s sixth straight overall, and ninth straight in the friendly confines of Infinite Energy Arena. Atlanta also extends their point streak to nine games, and ties them with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for third in the ECHL South Division with 61 points.  

The Gladiators hit the road Saturday night when they visit the Jacksonville Icemen at 7:00 PM. Atlanta returns to home ice on Saturday, March 28th when they host the Norfolk Admirals on Star Wars Night. Fans are encouraged to get their $19 Playoff Push tickets and VIP character experience tickets today!

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