Atlanta comes from behind to earn the 2-1 Win
Atlanta took the ice once again against their South Division rival, Florida, looking to break a lengthy losing streak against the Everblades. Atlanta comes from behind to earn the 2-1 victory over Florida, defeating the Everblades for the first time since February 11th, 2017.
For the second straight game in Estero, the Gladiators played a sound first period of defense. Goaltender Sean Bonar led the way with eight saves. Atlanta also killed three first period power play opportunities for the host Everblades, and both teams entered the first intermission scoreless.
The second period continued with the same theme: superb Atlanta defense. The Gladiators’ checking and clearing began to frustrate the division-leading Everblades to the point of some questionable plays. After forward Luke Stork’s head was on the receiving end of an elbow, Florida found themselves on a break into the Gladiators’ defensive zone. Justin Auger dished the puck to Blake Winiecki in the middle of the slot. His one-timer rippled the net with 14:43 to play in the second period, giving the home team a 1-0 lead against the run of play by the stingy Atlanta visitors.
After multiple chippy plays and a deficit to the top team in the ECHL, it seemed that this was the point in the game where Atlanta would struggle. Unfortunately for Florida, the sequence of events had the opposite effect on the young Gladiators. Joel Messner, freshly reassigned from Providence, took aim at Everblades’ goaltender, Jamie Phillips, on a power play. Dave Mazurek was there to gather a rebound and chip the puck to Nolan LaPorte, slicing to net on the back side. The Ft. Myers, FL resident labeled the puck past Phillips for the game-tying goal with 7:56 to play in the second.
Atlanta continued to pressure the home side and eventually silenced the usually-raucous Hertz Arena. After another wave of pressure by the visitors, Vytal Cote gathered the puck on the half boards and immediately earned attention from Florida defenders. Cote saucered a pass to Luke Stork who slipped to the front of the crease from behind the net. After missing multiple shifts due to an elbow finding his head earlier in the game, the Ohio State hockey alum gathered Cote’s pass and spun to beat Phillips and lift Atlanta to the lead with 4:48 to play in the middle frame.
Florida outshot Atlanta 10-3 in the third but Sean Bonar was sensational and kept the high-powered Everblades off the board and gave Atlanta the long-awaited victory over their rival Everblades.
The Gladiators are back on the ice at Hertz Arena tomorrow to conclude the three-game series with Florida at 7:00pm. Thenext home game comes on Saturday, January 12th against the Jacksonville Icemen. Puck drop is 7:35 PM, and it is the annual Teddy Bear Toss Night!