ECHL: Atlanta’s Navrin Mutter Scores Early and Fans Let the Teddy Bears Fly

Photo: Atlanta Gladiators

On Saturday night, the Atlanta Gladiators hosted their annual Teddy Bear Toss event as part of ECHL’s league-wide initiative. Alongside four other teams that evening alone, they aimed to gather stuffed animals from fans and distribute them to children through local charities. This beloved promotion is a fan favorite, and you can learn more about it here: (LINK).

The Gladiators’ recent setbacks didn’t deter their devoted fans from turning out in force, eagerly anticipating the moment to toss their teddy bears onto the rink after the first goal. Despite the team’s recent setbacks, the fans remained enthusiastic throughout the game, passionately cheering their team on. It was a heartening sight to witness. Fans often become the “seventh man on the ice” when their team is struggling. Fans often play a vital role as the “seventh man on the ice” when their team is facing challenges. On this particular evening, both the Gladiators and their supporters embodied this truth.

FIRST PERIOD

The Gladiators started the game with an impressive start, as Navrin Mutter scored the first goal, prompting teddy bear mayhem as bears began to shower down the stands onto the ice (3:29). Mutter was assisted on the goal by Alex Whelan and Luke Propkop.

Once all of the cuddly mayhem was cleared from the ice, the Gladiators made short work of continuing the momentum, with Jackson Pierson securing another goal at 7:31 on a power-play opportunity. Alex Whelan and Cody Sylvester were both awarded assists for the play. Greenville would answer back later in the period as they narrowed the gap with Ryan Francis getting one past Gustavs Grigals (12:07). The Gladiators closed out the period leading 2-1, with Atlanta seeing 20 shots on goal to Greenville’s shots on goal standing at four.

SECOND PERIOD

The second period showcased a highly competitive game between these two teams. In under a minute, Joe Leahy of the Swamp Rabbits would score, with his shot just squeaking between the legs of Gustav Grigals, resulting in a tied game. Grigals then proved to be an impenetrable force for the Gladiators, successfully preventing the Swamp Rabbits from narrowing the score any further, and the period ended with the score remaining tied, 2-2.

THIRD PERIOD

As we started the third period, the intensity of play continued on both sides. Greenville’s Francis took the puck from teammate Nikita Pavlychev below the goal line and tucked it past Grigals for his second of the game (7:08). The Swamp Rabbits would take the lead for the first time in the night.

At 12:03 into the period, Ben Freeman of Greenville scored against the Gladiators on a power play. The Gladiators are now sitting at 4-2, with Greenville in the lead. The Gladiators, not backing down, would answer back once more at 16:22 in the period, as Alex Whelan scored his 14th goal of the season, cutting the Gladiators’ deficit in half. Evan Dogherty and Blake Evennou get credited for the assist.

During the game’s final moments, Greenville’s goaltender, Luke Richardson, made a save that underwent official review. The decision was upheld, preventing the Gladiators from making the game-tying goal. With mere seconds remaining, the Gladiators continually made every attempt to strike one past Greenville’s Richardson but, unfortunately, were not able to find the goal they needed to keep the game going.

The loss does drop Atlanta to 9-14-0-0, as the Gladiators fall for a ninth-straight game and for a sixth-straight time to the Swamp Rabbits, who remain atop the league in the standings.

Three Stars:

1. GVL – R. Francis
2. GVL – N. Pavlychev
3. ATL – N. Mutter

Takeaways:

  • The team was far more aggressive and seemed to feed off the energy of the crowd throughout the game.
  • The Gladiators made the most of their early scoring opportunities, taking full advantage of them where they could.
  • The PK unit of the Gladiators was on point, successfully shutting down all but one of Greenville’s man-advantage opportunities.
  • Atlanta had 47 shots on goal compared to Greenville’s 28.
  • Far less of the fan-dreaded dump and chase, and more offensively driven gameplay.
  • Grigals made some critical saves for the Gladiators, but there were still some goals made against him that may have benefitted from some added defensive pressure. This highlights the need for a stronger presence in front of the net to provide additional support.

The Atlanta Gladiators take the game on the road, matching up against the Swamp Rabbits once again on Wednesday, December 20th, with a puck drop at 7:05 pm. They will return to home ice the following Saturday night, December 23rd, as they match up against the Orlando Solar Bears at 7 PM.

Photo: Karen Zehner (ITR)

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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