Normally, whenever I write the Atlanta Gladiators’ game recaps, I keep things strictly from a writer’s perspective. You will still get my view on what went down these last two games: what went right and what may have gone wrong. However, this time, this writer’s perception of these games will be sprinkled with a bit of tough love. As we head into a holiday of gratitude, I will write more from the heart of a hockey fan who is thankful to be able to write about a sport we love while still staying true to my purpose.
The four-game home stand kicked off with a faceoff against the Jacksonville Icemen on Tuesday night. As you may recall, the Gladiators put in a decisive performance in the first matchup of the season, securing a solid 5-3 victory, and they repeated this feat once again with a 5-2 win eight days later. These games were marked by strong forward lines, with Mitch Fossier, Reece Vitelli, and Micah Miller of the second line often setting the tone. The team also exhibited a defensive grit and determination to match their offensive effectiveness.
However, with Cody Sylvester being scratched soon after and the recent departure of Vitelli, the remarkable line that contributed to the Gladiators’ success had to be restructured to fill the gaps left by their absence. Unfortunately, the effects of this were a disruption in the balance and chemistry that had been so apparent in the first eight games of the season.
TUESDAY NIGHT – ATLANTA GLADIATORS vs. JACKSONILLE ICEMEN
Throughout the game, the Gladiators seemed to be at a significant disadvantage, with disjointed and disconnected gameplay. In the first period, the Gladiators saw Brendan Harris score early, within the first minute (1:15), followed by Craig Martin’s Powerplay goal (12:11). The Gladiators responded back with a goal by Alex Whelan later in the period, with Fossier and Gicewicz both getting in on the assist (17:39). With sound goaltending in the second keeping the score unchanged, the Icemen would later seal the game-winner with a Powerplay goal from Harris near the end of the third (18:40). The Icemen would edge out the Gladiators 3-1.
A shot comparison of the last three games between these two opponents:
- November 21 – Gladiators 17 – Icemen 22 – LOSS
- November 11 – Gladiators 33 – Icemen 24 – WIN
- November 5 – Gladiators 31 – Icemen 42 – WIN
The Gladiators were largely outskated by the Icemen for most of the first period of the game. Although the Gladiators had a Powerplay advantage, they were just unable to convert on it. The Icemen clearly were succeeding in keeping the Gladiators off their pace. The Gladiators did rally in the third and pushed themselves well until the final buzzer sounded. A positive we need and should acknowledge.
The Icemen did not technically outshoot the Gladiators on Tuesday evening when we look at the numbers, but they did maximize their opportunities far better and took advantage of the Gladiators in front of the net. Overall, the Icemen were better equipped to head off the Gladiators’ offensive play than they had been previously and forced the Gladiators to chase the puck more than they commanded it. The Gladiators’ special teams that had given them the edge on the PK resulting in some remarkable shorthanded goals, were now just trying to keep their opponent at bay.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT – ATLANTA GLADIATORS vs. GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITS
Blake Evennou would open the scoring early for the Atlanta Gladiators at 07:57 into the first. However, the Swamp Rabbits tied it back up with a shot made past the Gladiators’ net manned by Tyler Harmon, with the goal made by Wylie Wyatte near the very end of the period (19:36). In the second, the Swamp Rabbits would hit the back of the net once more; the goal credited to Carter Souch. The score was now 2-1, Swamp Rabbits. Nikita Pavlychev of the Swamp Rabbits would later add another tally to the side of Greenville (6:02) making it 3-1, forcing the Gladiators to attempt to play a game of catch-up and tie the game with roughly 14 minutes of play remaining. The Gladiators would get a much-needed Powerplay opportunity, and Carson Gicewicz makes the most of it and slides one past goalie Ryan Bednard (9:20), upping the score up 3-2. Swamp Rabbits maintain the advantage. Unfortunately for the Gladiators, their efforts were not enough to overcome the deficit and they fell to the Swamp Rabbits.
Again, a shot comparison of the last three games between these two opponents:
- November 22 – Gladiators 41 – Swamp Rabbits 29 – LOSS
- November 14 – Gladiators 27 – Swamp Rabbits 32 – LOSS
- November 2 – Gladiators 41 – Swamp Rabbits 39 – WIN
The Gladiators fared significantly better Wednesday night with getting the puck to the net compared to the previous evening’s match against the Icemen. Although they had more opportunities, the Gladiators were unable to capitalize on them. Several players got scrappy as things progressed late in the game, partly due to frustration. This included Connor Casparie’s clash with Tyler Inamoto from Greenville resulting in a sin bin visit. While it served as a morale booster for both the team and their supporters, it unfortunately did not have an impact on the final outcome.
While the Gladiators’ goaltending performance has been on point, there’s a pressing need to bolster their defense, preventing the opposing team from finding openings in front. On the offensive end, the Gladiators should aim to diversify their shooting strategy. On Tuesday, the shots on goals were far too frequent to the left shoulder of the goaltender, especially during the second period. This was less prevalent on Wednesday night, so much of what happened with the Icemen should be credited to their defensive tactics throughout the game, forcing the Gladiators to shoot mainly from that side of the ice.
“It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”Rocky Balboa (2006).
Although the initial eight games were thrilling to watch and equally enjoyable to write about, the Gladiators may need to move beyond them mentally and delve more into where they are now. The hits to the Gladiators’ morale have certainly come hard these last few games, but they need to move past them. If they continue to demonstrate the resilience and tenacity that we know they possess during each period, from the first puck drop to the very last, the Atlanta Gladiators’ should see success. By consistently disrupting their opponents’ offensive game plan, and expending their opponent’s energy while dictating the pace of the game, the Gladiators can garner and maintain a strong defensive presence.
The Atlanta Gladiators will resume their home stand on Friday night as they face Savannah Ghost Pirates with a puck drop at 7:30 PM. The Greenville Swamp Rabbits will return to Gas South Arena on Saturday at 7 PM.