ECHL: Atlanta Gladiators vs. Jacksonville Icemen | 04/03/24

Photo Credit: Karen Zehner for Inside the Rink

After a disappointing weekend in Norfolk, the Atlanta Gladiators sought to entertain their home crowd with three consecutive nights of on-ice action. The series began with the first of the three, having the Gladiators face off against the Jacksonville Icemen.

The starting lineup for the Atlanta Gladiators included Luke Prokop (D), Dylan Carabia (D), Reece Vitelli (D), Micha Miller (F), and Parker AuCoin (F). Tyler Harmon (G), Mitch Fossier (F), and Jay Powell (D) were listed on Injured Reserve for Atlanta.

Atlanta Gladiators Head Coach Derek Nesbitt Post-Game Remarks 4/3/2024

Between the Pipes:

ATLANTA – Gustavs Grigals

JACKSONVILLE – Matt Vernon

Period 1

Jacksonville took a shot that was blocked by Gustavs Grigals. The Gladiators scored first when Brendan Hoffmann maneuvered past Vernon for a wrap-around goal, putting them in the lead 1-0 (2:50) with Dylan Carabia and Navrin Mutter assisting.

The Gladiators tried another wrap-around shot but missed wide and were unable to connect with the net. However, it would be Luke Prokop’s multiple attempts to get past Matt Vernon that had finally paid off, giving the Gladiators a 2-0 lead at 5:47. The goal was assisted by Jackson Pierson and Carson Gicewicz. Nolan Burke took another shot on goal, but it went high and missed. The team kept the play in Jacksonville’s zone, maintaining solid pressure on the net.

Later, the Icemen’s Craig Martin received the puck on a pass, but his shot on Grigals went high and out of play. The Gladiators draw a penalty, sending the team on the kill, as Navrin Mutter was called for tripping. Grigals kills one shot on the net, and the Gladiators clear the play. The Icemen persisted in applying pressure near the crease, yet the Gladiators stood strong, forcing the Icemen to regroup. Grigals made another impressive save on the Icemen’s shot as the penalty kill nears its end. Shortly after returning to full strength, Parker AuCoin strikes from the left side, scoring a goal past Vernon and putting the Gladiators ahead 3-0 at 12:55.

The Icemen swap Vernon out of the net and substitute him with Joe Murdaca. In Atlanta’s end, Zach Yoder blocked a shot attempt by Jacksonville to the left of Grigals as the Gladiators attempted to clear the zone. Luke Prokop takes a shot at the net, aiming at Murdaca, but his first attempt is blocked. He tried again but unfortunately missed once more. After a penalty on Gicewicz for high sticking, the Gladiators head to the penalty kill for the second time. Reece Vitelli almost had a late shot on goal but couldn’t make the connection as the first half came to a close with Atlanta leading 3-0.

Period 1 – Shots on Goal:

ATLANTA – 7

JACKSONVILLE – 4

Period 2

The Gladiators successfully killed off the penalty at the beginning of the period. Parker AuCoin puts up goal number two for the night, putting the Gladiators up 4-0 (1:23), with Luke Prokop and Reece Vitelli assisting him on the goal. The Icemen seize an opportunity on a breakaway, with Craig Martin firing on Grigals who, dropping his glove, blocks the incoming puck.

The Gladiators received assistance from Jake Willets in defense of the net up front, but the Icemen swiftly attacked during traffic. However, Grigals managed to make a crucial stop and would secure the puck. The Icemen are caught with slashing, so Riley Fiddler-Schultz heads to the sin bin, and the Gladiators gain the man advantage. Prokop got a chance on the net, but Murdaca stopped the shot. Carson Denomie’s shot is deflected, and the later shot by the Icemen on Grigals is stopped by the netminder. Things got physical behind the net as the Icemen got a little too close to Grigals after Van Why fired on the net, and the Gladiators came to back up their goalie.

Dominick Mersch attempted a shot, but Grigals deflected it away. The Icemen maintained high pressure on the Gladiators at this point, with slightly over 7 ½ minutes remaining in the period. Jake Willets was sent to the sin bin for delay of game, and Atlanta is on the PK once more. The Icemen fired on the net, but Grigals made the stop. Keeping that pressure on, they shot again, and the Gladiators forced it out as Atlanta returned to full strength. Matheson Iacopelli fired a shot toward Grigals, but Griffin Luce defended.

The Gladiators had an opportunity for a breakaway with Micha Miller, but unfortunately, he missed wide to the left of the net. Olivier Nadeau took a strong shot at Grigals, but it was saved by the netminder. Luke Brown attempted another forceful shot on Atlanta, only to be denied by Grigals once more. We close the period with Atlanta leading Jacksonville 4-0.

Period 2 – Shots on Goal:

ATLANTA – 11

JACKSONVILLE – 3

Period 3

The Icemen took the early shots on the Atlanta net, but Grigals made the saves. Dominick Mersch gets taken down and stays down for a moment, but no penalty is called. Off the drop Ryan Cranford snagged the puck and rushed towards the net, only for this shot to be blocked by Murdaca. Shortly after, Mutter takes his strike on goal on the goal, but once again, Murdaca made the save.

Luke Brown goes on the rush minutes later but his shot was stopped by Grigals. Then, at the other end of the ice, Griffin Luce took a shot at Murdaca’s net but missed, and the puck was deflected out. The area behind Atlanta’s net gets congested, but eventually, the puck is cleared, and Van Whye’s shot goes out of play and into the netting. Following a shot by the Icemen on Atlanta, Grigals seized the puck and ended the play.

Hoffman’s breakaway opportunity sails wide of the net and ends up out of play. The Icemen, moments later, fired a shot on net from the right side and missed, then Martin fired again from the left but missed once more. The Gladiators remained on the defense. The Gladiators push out of their own zone and fight their way into the Icemen’s zone, but Jacksonville managed to clear the puck, maintaining pressure.

Hoffman is taken down to the ice without a penalty being called. Prokop struck a shot on the net, but Murdaca made the save. Denomie and Josh Boyer position themselves in front of the net, but Burke takes the shot on goal. Unfortunately, the shot is stopped. The Gladiators now have a man advantage after Derek Lodermeier is penalized for slashing and was sent to the penalty box.

The Gladiators got another chance on the net as Willets took a shot at Murdaca, who managed to make the save. Gicewicz charged toward the net, collided with Murdaca, and was penalized. Initially assumed to be goaltender interference, the official ruling was slashing. Subsequently, he is sent to the locker room, and Denomie steps into the box to serve the penalty. The Gladiators regain full strength, but things get intense as a fight breaks out near the bench in Atlanta. Brenden Datema and Mersch engage, dropping their gloves before they each fall to the ice, and then both end up exiting the ice after the major penalty for fighting.

The Gladiators get the interception on the puck to the right of Grigals and slide it out of the zone. The Icemen kept the pressure on and drove it back to Atlanta’s zone as we fell below 2 minutes remaining in regulation. Brendan Hoffman gets taken down, and Van Whye heads to the box for the cross-check. The Gladiators fired on Murdaca time and again as time winds down. AuCoin fired on the net to try to get the hat trick, but Murdaca played the spoiler. Miller made his own slap shot to the net and was denied. However, it is the Icemen who are denied as the Gladiators win in a shutout for Gustavs Grigals, with a score of 4-0, Atlanta.

Period 3 – Shots on Goal:

ATLANTA – 10

JACKSONVILLE – 8

Three Stars of the Game:

1. ATL – P. AuCoin
2. ATL – G. Grigals
3. ATL – L. Prokop

The Atlanta Gladiators will play the Florida Everblades on Thursday at 7 pm and will be wrapping up the series on Friday night at 7:30 pm.

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Karen Zehner

Credentialed Beat Writer covering the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators. Diving into the world of slap shots, penalty kills, and the game we love. [@RunwithK] on socials

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