ECHL Game Recap: Atlanta Gladiators vs. Jacksonville Icemen | 02/28/2024

Photo Credit: Karen Zehner for Inside the Rink

After enduring a sequence of seven consecutive losses, the Atlanta Gladiators sought a surge of momentum to attempt to turn things around. As they began the game against Jacksonville, the team was bolstered by an excited and loud crowd, including numerous enthusiastic fans from local schools participating in the Atlanta Gladiators Education Day program.

The starting lineup for the Atlanta Gladiators included Luke Prokop (D), Griffin Luce (D), Mitch Walinski (F), Zach Yoder (F), and Nolan Burke (F).

Goaltenders:

ATL – Gustavs Grigals

JAX – Joe Murdaca

Period 1

The Atlanta Gladiators were granted an early powerplay opportunity when the Jacksonville Icemen’s Nadeau was penalized for tripping. In a quick play, Jackson Pierson smoothly scored for Atlanta (2:57). Luke Prokop and Robert Claisti would get the assist on the goal. The Icemen swiftly retaliated as Matheson Iacopelli netted a goal just six seconds later, evening the score to 1-1 (3:03).

Calisti passes the puck to Marchesan, who attempts a shot at Murdaca, but the goalkeeper manages to make the save. Grigals, on the other end of the rink, blocks Iacopelli’s attempts at the shot twice as the Icemen aim to increase their score. Despite Kennedy making a shot at Murdaca, it is also saved and does not make its way into the net. Moving to the opposite end of the play, Grigals impressively saves three shots, leaving the crowd in awe.

At 19:58, Jacksonville scored once more with just over two seconds left in the period. This time, it was Jacksonville’s Christopher Brown who successfully found the net, taking the score to 2-1 in favor of the Icemen.

Period 1 – Shots on Goal

Atlanta – 7

Jacksonville – 14

Period 2

Less than a minute into the second period, the Gladiators would head to the PK after Luke Prokop was called for cross-checking, but the Gladiators successfully killed that penalty and returned to full strength. Moments later, Prokop attempted to score on Murdaca but was denied by the netminder.

Following that, the spotlight shifted to Gustavs Grigals as the goalie successfully blocked numerous powerful shots from the Icemen, keeping the score unchanged. Meanwhile, Murdaca, in his own right, defended against shots from Dylan Carabia and Michael Marchesan, preventing any goals by the Gladiators.

At the end of the second period, the score remained unchanged due to exceptional goaltending displays and solid defensive efforts from both teams.

Period 2 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 11

Jacksonville – 15

Period 3

In the final period of the game, the Icemen opened the scoring as Derek Lodermeier found his way past Grigals bringing the score to 3-1, Icemen. (5:57). Now trailing by two goals, the Gladiators went on another power play. Moments later, the Gladiators witnessed Reece Vitelli, Micah Miller, and Robert Calisti execute an impressive passing sequence, with Calisti scoring to bring the team back within one goal (10:20).

Facing a goal deficit while on the penalty kill, Reece Vitelli delivered a stunning shorthanded goal, assisted by Luke Prokop and Griffin Luce, leveling the score at 3-3 (14:26).

With that, the Gladiators would shut the door on the Icemen from regaining the lead and would send the game into overtime.

Period 3 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 16

Jacksonville – 16


Overtime

Near the end of OT, there was a stunning breakaway chance by Micha Miller, who was on the end of his shift, was shut down by Murdaca. With 2:47 left, Atlanta gets another takeaway by Pierson, who sends it off to Prokop, but the play is defended and taken away by the Icemen. Harris rushed the net guarded by Grigals, who made the save on the shot delivered by Jacksonville.

Later, Walinski gets a chance to win the game, but the attempt is stripped by Ivan Chukarov of Jacksonville. Walinski helps defend the puck possessed by Harris, and Grigals gets yet another stunning save and stops the scoring attempt.

After seven minutes, the score remained tied at three between these two teams, thanks largely in part to some fantastic saves by both goaltenders.


Shootout

[Atlanta shot first for each round]

After both teams failed to score in the initial round, both Micah Miller and Matheson Iacopelli managed to score for their respective teams. As the shootout remained deadlocked in a crucial third round, Reece Vitelli skillfully maneuvered past Joe Murdaca.

Gustavs Davis Grigals sealed the Icemen’s defeat by preventing Luc Brown from equalizing in the shootout, clinching the victory and two points for Atlanta.

Breakdown of the shootout results by team/player:

Atlanta:

Score#Shooter
No19Jackson Pierson
Yes57Micah Miller
Yes20Reece Vitelli

Jacksonville:

#ShooterScore
68Olivier NadeauNo
19Matheson IacopelliYes
9Luc BrownNo

Three Stars:

1. ATL – J. Graves

2. ATL – R. Vitelli

3. JAX – M. Iacopelli


Takeaways:

  • The standout moment in this game for viewers and listeners was the remarkable saves by Goaltender Gustavs “Goose” Grigals. His stellar performance in front of the net not only helped the Gladiators tie the game and push it into overtime but also played a key role in securing the team’s victory in a shootout. While he may not have been recognized as one of the top three stars of the game on the game sheet, in my opinion, unquestionably deserved that honor for stopping 50 shot attempts on his net.
  • Both teams put on an impressive performance, yet the Gladiators stood out with an unparalleled level of determination and intensity, surpassing their previous few games. This promising momentum is hoped to continue into the upcoming weekend and beyond.

The Atlanta Gladiators are back to face the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for Thrashers Night at Gas South Arena on Saturday, March 2nd. The game will begin at 7 pm.

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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