The final two games of Gladsgiving Week for the Atlanta Gladiators were noticeably dissimilar – not only in team performance but also in the atmosphere during the games. At puck drop, the absence of Micha Miller and Jack Matier, who were both recently called up, left some uncertainty as to whether their absence would impact the game for a team already struggling to find their footing.
Atlanta Gladiators vs. Savannah Ghost Pirates
Friday night, the fans seemed just as determined as the team to bring home a win and were loud and proud of the Gladiators as we dropped the puck against the Savannah Ghost Pirates. In the opening minutes of the game, the Gladiators dominated, scoring three goals within the first seven minutes. Mitch Walinski scored the first goal of the game, assisted by Alex Whelan, to give his team the lead (3:36). Michael Marcheson then doubled the Gladiaotors’ advantage with a goal less than two minutes later. Zach Yoder would get the assist on the goal. Whelan added a third goal at 6:37 in the period on the PowerPlay with Mitch Fossier and Jackson Pierson getting points for the assist. However, Simon Pinard of the Savannah Ghost Pirates scored a goal just two minutes later to reduce their deficit to two. The Gladiators still held onto the advantage, up 3-1 at the end of the first.
The Ghost Pirates, having pulled their starting goalie Jimmy Poreda mid-first period, would now have Kaden Fulcher in the net. Spectators engaged in lighthearted taunting of both goalies, particularly within and around the Lion’s Den (Double Attack Zone). However, the most noteworthy jeers were directed toward Fulcher after he began protecting the net for Savannah. The fans were just as determined to see the Gladiators pull out the win as their team was.
In the second period, the Ghost Pirates scored a power-play goal, bringing the score to 3-2 (3:59). Ryan Cranford would later extend the Gladiators’ lead to two, assisted by Evan Dougherty and Michael Machesan (9:32). Savannah responded with a goal by scoring their second of the period, upping the score 4-3 with the Gladiators remaining in the lead as they closed out the period.
In the third, Michael Marchesan scored his second goal of the game, giving the Gladiators a two-goal cushion. Then with just under three minutes remaining, Mitch Fossier scores the empty netter, making the score 6-3 in favor of the Gladiators. In the final minutes of the game, Carson Gicewicz scored another goal for the Gladiators, sealing their victory against the Ghost Pirates.
Atlanta Gladiators vs. Greenville Swamp Rabbits
The Atlanta Gladiators’ performance on Saturday night was not a memorable one, particularly when compared to the previous night’s game. The Gladiators faced off against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for the second time in the week and encountered a tough challenge from the start. Colton Young managed to score the first goal of the night at 9:40 in the first period, followed by Nikita Pavlychev of the Swamp Rabbits who chucked the puck past Gustavs Grigals at 14:22 in the same period. The Gladiators would head to the locker room with a 2-0 disadvantage but still in the hunt for a rebound.
During the second period, the Gladiators’ fate was sealed as Greenville’s Carter Souch scored at the 1:08 mark, followed by Ben Freeman’s goal shortly after. With a commanding 4-0 lead, Ethan Somoza of the Swamp Rabbits secured their fifth goal at 5:12 in the period, leaving the Gladiators with a daunting five-goal deficit as the second period elapsed.
To Gustavs Grigals’ credit, he managed to prevent the Swamp Rabbits from scoring in the later half of the second and also for the entirety of the third period. However, Ryan Bednard of Greenville had done the same, essentially shutting down every goal attempt made by the Gladiators. Despite showing promise in the first and early second periods, the Atlanta Gladiators were unable to match the Swamp Rabbits’ offensive strength. Once the Swamp Rabbits gained a significant lead, the Gladiators were unable to recover and would end the game with a loss of 5-0. Unlike the previous night, the Gladiators struggled to establish a cohesive game plan, both offensively and defensively. They were also unable to provide adequate support for Grigals in front of the net. Saturday’s game would mark the first shutout that the Gladiators have been on the receiving end of so far this season.
The success of the Gladiators on Friday night is proof that the skills are there, as is the fire to win. Nonetheless, they must figure out how to better utilize their talents, find a way to use them to their advantage, and do so consistently. The Gladiators are exhausting themselves early on by playing a never-ending game of catch-up, especially as they try to get goals to the net and score after falling behind. Instead, it’s essential for the Gladiators to set the pace and maintain control of the puck whenever possible.
The Atlanta Gladiators have a few days to regroup and recover from their recent string of losses. They need to find their way past the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and soon, as they face them again on the road this Friday, December 1st at Bon Secours Wellness Arena at 7:05 PM. The Gladiators are slated to return to their home ice the following evening at 7 PM (12/2) to face off against the Savannah Ghost Pirates.