The Atlanta Gladiators ultimately did not reach their goal of making the Kelly Cup Playoffs and giving themselves a chance to compete for a championship. The Glads finished with a respectable 35-30-6-1 record. This record would have been good enough to make the playoffs in any of the other divisions. Unfortunately for the Glads, they play in the South Division, arguably the best division in the ECHL.
The Glads season started with fresh new faces in the ownership group. On October 19th, 2022, two days before the regular season began, the team was bought by Atlanta Hockey Group LLC. Former NHL player Anson Carter was also a part of the new regime, holding a minority stake in the team. The Glads returned many key performers from the 2021-22 season, including Forward Cody Sylvester, defenseman Derek Topatigh, and forward Michael Pelech. The Glads would also see goalie Tyler Parks return, although it would be short-lived as Parks would be called up to the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners.
The Gladiators would host the defending Kelly Cup Champion Florida Everblades to kick off the season, and it would start on a good note as the Gladiators would win 4-2. Atlanta would spend most of the first half of the season battling to stay at the top of the South Division, ultimately ending 2022 in 1st place.
The good times would not last long as Atlanta fell into a five-game losing streak in mid-January. The Glads would bust the slump by winning two in a row but fell right back into a losing streak, dropping their next eight, eventually costing them a trip to the playoffs.
Although the Glads missed the playoffs, they still gave the fans plenty of reasons to cheer during the regular season. Mike Pelech reached game number 860 played in the ECHL on February 14th, which broke the record for most games played in the league. Pelech would play 24 more games in the season, bringing the record up to 884 and counting.
Atlanta started the season with two seasoned goalies, David Tendeck and Tyler Parks. While the Gladiators were in the middle of the playoff hunt, the AHL came calling for both players. This left Atlanta with the need to bring in a new goalie.
Enter Tyler Harmon.
Harmon was thrust into a starting role as soon as he arrived with the team. His best game of the season came on April 2nd when he posted his first career shutout against the Florida Everblades. The game was also special due to Cody Sylvester notching his first career hat trick.
In the final game of the season, Cody Sylvester put another line on his resume, as he became the all-time leader in goals scored for the Atlanta Gladiators when he notched his 38th goal of the season. Sylvester would also go on to be voted as an All-ECHL 2nd teamer.
Gladiator fans have much to look forward to for the upcoming season, with most of the core expected to return to the team. I expect the Gladiators to be right back in the hunt for the 2023-24 season.