DULUTH, GA. The Atlanta Gladiators (1-0-0-0) kicked off the 2023-24 season with a 4-2 victory over the Savannah Ghost Pirates (1-1-0-0) on Saturday night, at Gas South Arena, in Duluth, Georgia. In an impressive display, the Gladiators netted three goals in the second period to help secure the win.
First Star: Alex Whelan (ATL) - 2 goals
Second Star: Micah Miller (ATL) - 1 goal, 1 assist
Third Star: Jack Matier (ATL) - 1 goal, 1 assist
Micah Miller scored the first goal of the Gladiators season to give Atlanta the 1-0 lead at the 8:59 mark of the middle stanza. Miller entered the offensive zone with speed, used a couple of Ghost Pirates as screens, and found the back of the net from the high slot.
Less than 30 seconds later, the Gladiators would net another, as Jack Matier activated from the blue line, received a beautiful backhand feed from Reece Vitelli, and all in one motion, the 6'5 defenseman snuck his way into the left circle, and fired an absolute laser of a wrist shot past the goaltender Michael Bullion at 9:22.
The Ghost Pirates responded in short-order, as Alex Swetlikoff tipped a shot in from a-top of Atlanta's crease at 12:54. The net had come off its moorings behind Atlanta goaltender Gustavs Davis Grigals, and by the time he had put the net back into place, the puck was already past him.
Alex Whelan tallied his first goal as a Gladiator to renew the two-goal lead for the Atlanta, bringing the score to 3-1 at 15:56. Jack Matier let a shot go from the point, and traffic in front of the Savannah net resulted in a juicy rebound, that Whelan deposited into the empty cage.
Early in the final frame, Savannah would draw closer, with defenseman Joe Fleming finding twine at 5:19. Noah Caroll slapped a shot from up-high intentionally wide of the net, and the ricochet off of the back-boards came out perfectly for Fleming, who skated into the puck at the far hashmarks, and let it go past the left shoulder of Grigals.
The Gladiators increased their lead to two-goals late in the third to pull ahead for good, 4-2 at 18:47. Alex Whelan, Mitch Fossier, and Griffin Luce entered Savannah territory on a clear-cut 3-2, and Whelan tipped home Luce's side-to-side feed for his second goal of the night.
Gustavs Grigals turned aside 30 of 32 shots in the victory for the Gladiators, while Michael Bullion allowed four goals on 30 shots in the loss for the Ghost Pirates.
Check out game highlights below!