The Atlanta Gladiators are in danger of missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs with only eight regular season games remaining. The Gladiators currently sit in 5th place in the South Division. The Gladiators have 71 points heading into a season-defining game against the 4th-place Florida Everblades. Wednesday night’s game will mark the 6th time the two teams play each other this year. Florida has the edge with three wins against Atlanta’s two wins. The Everblades hold a five-point advantage over the Gladiators but have also played two fewer games overall. The good news for the Glads is that this is the first of five more matchups still to be played this season against the Blades. The Everblades come to Gas South Arena on a two-game losing streak, dropping two in a row to the Newfoundland Growlers at home. The Gladiators have gotten points in their last two games. The Glads missed a huge opportunity in their previous game to add another point when they lost a 3-0 lead in the 3rd period to the Maine Mariners at home. Atlanta salvaged one point, losing 4-3 in overtime. This has been an ongoing issue for the Gladiators, who have had their string of heartbreaking losses this season. The Glads have lost their last five games that have gone to overtime or a shootout. Their last win in extra time came back in December. The Gladiators carried leads into the 3rd period in multiple games that they went on to lose in the overtime period. The Gladiators have also had losses that made it look like they were utterly unprepared.
The Gladiators have had 12 games since January 1st, giving up 5+ goals. To no one’s surprise, the Gladiators lost all those games. In many of those games, the lack of defense led to multiple chances for their opponents; more times than not, they capitalized on them. Goalie play has not been too bad, but the Gladiators lost starting goalie Tyler Parks to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL back in January. Parks was stellar in goal with a .926 save percentage and was named ECHL goaltender of the week in November. The Gladiators were in 1st place when Parks went to Tucson and have not returned since. The Glads have also been bit by the injury bug, which has taken current starting goalie Joe Murdaca and Forward Eric Neiley. Neiley is still the 3rd leading goal scorer on the team despite not playing in the last month. The Gladiators play all division rivals in the upcoming eight games left on the schedule. The Gladiators have to play the brand of hockey that saw them get to the top of the division in January. They also have to rely on their opponents, taking some losses. The final push to the playoffs starts March 29th against Florida at Gas South Arena. Puck drop will be at 7 pm.