ECHL Game Recap: Atlanta Gladiators vs. Jacksonville Icemen | 01/07/2024

Photo: Taylor Trebotte for Inside the Rink

The Atlanta Gladiators’ record going into Sunday afternoon’s game was now 11-20-1-0 after their recent game against the South Carolina Stingrays. Although they put up a good fight and attempted a comeback rally, they unfortunately couldn’t pull off the victory. With all eyes on them during Sunday’s game, it was a make-or-break moment for the team. The Gladiators had an island theme night, which included the sounds and songs of Jimmy Buffet to entertain the crowd.

The Gladiators’ starting lineup for the upcoming game against the Jacksonville Icemen was as follows: Luke Propkop, Jack Matier, Mitch Fossier, Reece Vitelli, Micha Miller, and Brad Barone as the netminder. In the net for the Jacksonville Icemen was Michael Houser.

Period 1

Similarly, as last night, with 44 seconds into the first frame, the Icemen strike on the rebound, sending the shot home past Brad Barone. The goal was made by Jacksonville’s Chris Jandric (1-1). The Gladiators tried to even it up. However, after Luke Prokop’s goal attempt, the officials called no goal due to high sticking by Reece Vitelli.

Zach Yoder made a shot that went wide, while another attempt by Nolan Burke was blocked by Icemen goaltender Michael Houser. Although Navrin Mutter briefly intercepted the puck, Derek Loudemeir quickly regained control and remained in the Gladiators zone. Meanwhile, Jacksonville attempted a shot on the net, but Brad Barone made an impressive save, catching the puck in his glove and preventing a rebound goal for the Gladiators.

Gladiators’ Brendan Hoffman makes a drive on the net, but the shot on the net bounces off the stick of an Icemen and goes out of play. Hoffman made another shot moments later but lobbed it towards Houser, who made the easy save. Barone gets another save on the slapshot by Florida’s Logan Cockerill and gets the glove treatment. Huge hit by Jacob Graves on Dominick Mersch near the center boards. The net behind Barone goes off the moorings, and we have a stoppage of play.

A shot on goal by Mutter appeared to have made its way home, but the goal was deemed “no goal” by the official, much to the dismay of the Atlanta fans. Dylan Carabia had a chance to shoot on goal, and the shot just missed the basket. Jack Matier goes down after being hit but seemed to be okay and remains on the ice. Jacksonville gets the penalty for high sticking on that play, sending Riley Fiddler-Schultz from Jacksonville to the box, and the Gladiators are now on the PP. The Icemen successfully kill the PP chances for the Gladiators with no change in score.

Late into the period, a delayed penalty is called on Jacksonville for tripping, sending the Gladiators back on the PP. This time, Cody Sylvester, after taking advantage of the ricocheted shot by the Icemen near the net, gets the PP goal for the Gladiators. Calisti and Pierson are both credited with the assist on the play (19:29).

We end the period with a tie score of 1-1.

Period 1 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 11

Florida – 9

Period 2

Atlanta almost gets scored against after Florida catches Brad Barone just outside of the trapezoid. Barone was unable to stick away the puck without drawing the delay of game penalty, but Atlanta’s defense had their net defended until Barone could slide into position once again. We go back to full strength.

Just as we had begun the game, there was another close call for Atlanta when Jacksonville nearly scored against the Gladiators after Brad Barone, the goalkeeper, left the designated trapezoidal area to prevent the puck from going in. He avoided a delay of game penalty, and we resumed playing at full strength. Five minutes into the frame, Calisti takes a striking shot on the net, which is deftly saved by Houser’s glove. Later, Chris Grando has an opportunity to put the Icemen ahead, but his shot is stopped by Barone.

At the draw, the Icemen win the puck and maintain possession, pressing the Gladiators near their net. However, the Gladiators manage to regain control and make their way to the opposite end of the ice. Matier attempts a move toward the net, but Houser blocks the shot. Despite the Icemen’s interception of the puck, the Gladiators successfully regain possession once more. Hoffman attempts a shot on the net, but it ultimately goes out of play. Griffin Luce also tries to make a shot, but it is again blocked by Houser.

During the game, Sylvester passed the puck from the goal line to Matier, who then delivered it to Prokop. However, Houser took down the ensuing shot. Following this, Griffin Luce of the Gladiators was called out for holding. Later, Cody Sylvester attempted scoring but was unsuccessful. The Icemen managed to shoot the puck at Barone, but Ivan Chukarov’s attempt was thwarted by the goaltender.

Mutter attempted a driving shot towards the net but unfortunately missed, sending the puck wide of the basket. Despite this setback, Glads Vitelli and Miller collaborated on an odd-man rush toward the net. However, Vitelli’s shot was unsuccessful, and Miller crashed into the net, causing it to dislodge from its mooring and stopping the play. Later, Calisti made a shot that was blocked by the Icemen goaltender, Houser. Hoffmann also attempted a shot, which resulted in the same outcome. The Gladiators continued to display solid attempts at scoring, testing the Icemen goaltender throughout the game.

The Icemen took a shot on goal, with Brendan Harris delivering a powerful slapshot. Fortunately, Barone was able to block the attempt. Fossier played a noteworthy role in facilitating a 3-on-2 situation from the neutral zone, ultimately leading to Ryan Cranford’s shot, which just missed the net.

We remained with a tied score of 1-1 and ended the middle frame.

Period 2 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 11

Florida – 10

Period 3

During the early stages of the period, Fossier advanced toward the Icemen’s zone, but his progress was halted by a poke check. The Gladiators regained possession, and Matier’s shot was barely saved by Houser. A physical play ensued, resulting in Fossier being knocked down by the Icemen.

The Gladiators were penalized as Jacob Graves was sent to the box for cross-checking. Despite being shorthanded, the Gladiators successfully thwarted the Icemen’s attempts and returned to full strength. However, the momentum shifted as the Gladiators were stuck in their zone, but Jacksonville’s Garrett Van Whye was sent to the sin bin for tripping. This presented an opportunity for the Gladiators to capitalize, but the Icemen’s penalty-killing unit was up to the task, and both teams resumed to full strength.

The Gladiators remained determined and seized the advantage, culminating in a goal scored by Jack Matier with just over 11 minutes remaining in the third period. Jackson Pierson and Micah Miller are credited with the assist (8:55).

The game has been a thrilling display of skill from both teams to this point of the final frame, with no appearance of either side taking their foot off the gas. With a score of 2-1 in favor of the Gladiators, the tension is palpable. Houser makes another impressive play by catching a drive-on shot from the Gladiators before the fans hit their feet. Goaltender Houser is then pulled from the net fairly early by Jacksonville.

After that, it was the Gladiators that went off to the races, frequently driving the Icemen back into their zone and forcing them to remain on the defensive throughout the dwindling minutes of the final frame. The Gladiators’ goaltender made some impressive saves, while the Icemen managed to protect their net even without Houser. In the final seconds, Reece Vitelli, with assistance from Micah Miller and Luke Prokop, scored the empty net goal (19:40), securing the Gladiators’ victory with a regulation score of 3-1.

Period 3 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 11

Florida – 7

Three Stars of the Game:
1. ATL – J. Matier
2. ATL – B. Barone
3. ATL – J. Pierson

Takeaways of the Game:

  • A solid 60 minutes of consistent gameplay by these Gladiators, featuring only 4 minutes of penalties and persistent shots on goal each period (11 per period).
  • Total Shots on Goal: Atlanta – 33, Jacksonville – 26.

Writer’s Note: A very happy 5th birthday this week to one young hockey fan named Travis, who chatted with me quite a bit after the game, excited that the Gladiators got the win, especially for his birthday. Enjoy your special day, Travis!

The Atlanta Gladiators will have a few days off before heading to Quebec to match up against the Trois-Rivières Lions in back-to-back games starting on Friday, January 12th at 7 PM EST.

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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