ECHL Game Recap: Atlanta Gladiators vs. Savannah Ghost Pirates | 12.30.23

Photo: Taylor Trebotte for Inside the Rink

Saturday night, the Gladiators were back in action for game #2 of the three-game series with the Savannah Ghost Pirates. The Gladiators won the night prior in what felt like a much-needed victory for the team and fans alike. The feeling of satisfaction lingered both during and after the game, and heading into Game 2 of the series against Savannah, Saturday night had much of the same feeling from the start.

The Gladiators saw Dylan Vander Esch return to the lineup Saturday night. Jacob Graves, Mitch Walinski, and Nolan Burke will not suit up tonight, as they are listed on reserve. Meanwhile, Connor Casparie and Michael Marchesan remain on IR. Added to the IR list for the Gladiators, dated 12/30, was goalie Tyler Harmon.

In the net again for the Gladiators was Cole Ceci, who had a great first night last night with Atlanta, while Michael Bullion would be minding the net for the Ghost Pirates.

Period 1

At the beginning of the period, the Ghost Pirates had the Gladiators on the defensive, but the Gladiators quickly made a comeback. Jackson Pierson attempted to score, but Savannah stopped him in his tracks. The Ghost Pirates continued to push forward, but Griffin Luce was sent to the penalty box for interference. Soon after, the Ghost Pirates made another attempt to score on Atlanta, but Cole Ceci from the Gladiators made the save.

The Gladiators go on the PP as Adam Eby goes into the sin bin for tripping. Off the faceoff, the Gladiators look for the shot on goal but are unable to connect. Savvanah sends the puck toward the other end of the ice, but the Gladiators clear it and send it right back towards Savannah’s end. Fossier gets the puck and passes it to Vitelli, who shoots for the goal, but the play is disrupted by the Ghost Pirates.

Navrin Mutter seized an opportunity and, with the benefit of ample time granted by the Ghost Pirates, scored a goal that evaded Bullion, bringing the Gladiators to a 1-0 score (8:44). Jackson Pierson provided the assist on the play. Savannah received another penalty after Nolan Valleau was called for delay of the game. The Ghost Pirates successfully killed the penalty. Although the Gladiators gave them a run for their money in their zone, Savannah managed to break free and take a shot at Ceci, who swiftly cleared the puck, getting the Gladiators out of danger.

Later, Zach Yoder makes a beauty of a shot on the net, but Bullion stops it. Blake Evennou sends the Gladiators back to the PK for delay of game when his shot hit wide, sending the puck out of play. Moments later Navrin Mutter slides in front of the net, preventing Patrick Guay from getting the shot. The Gladiators successfully kill the penalty, and Cole Ceci gets the save on a shot by Savannah just as Atlanta goes back to full strength. We end the first period 1-0, Atlanta.

Shots on goal were 13-5 Savannah after one.

Period 2

The on-point defense continued for the Gladiators in front of Ceci as the Ghost Pirates came in hot at the start of the frame. Patrick Guay gets the odd man rush, but it is prevented by Dylan Carabia, stopping the drive on the net. The Ghost Pirates make another shot at Ceci, who stops the puck, but the Ghost Pirates are still looking to pounce, so Ceci drops his glove down on the puck, stopping the play.

Moments later, the Ghost Pirates answer back. On a pass from Sebastian Vidmar to Mike Ferraro, Savannah scores, tying things up 1-1 (5:23). Although Atlanta made another rush attempt on Savannah’s net, they got denied. The Gladiators were then trapped in their zone by Savannah. A brief skirmish broke out behind the net, but the referee ended the discussion between the teams without penalizing either side. Soon after, the Gladiators made another rush on the Ghost Pirates, but Reece Vitelli’s shot just missed the mark.

Cody Sylvester strikes a dead-on shot on Bullion, hits it into the basket, and scores. The Gladiators increased their lead to 2-0 (8:59).

Later in the period, Evan Doughtery loses his stick, and it breaks during the play. Doughtery puts his body in front of Ceci to help prevent the Ghost Pirates from getting a solid shot. The Gladiators then go on the PK again after a penalty Luke Prokop finds him in the box for slashing. Ceci makes a shoulder save as the Ghost Pirates look for an equalizer but are denied. Savannah’s Logan Drevitch is unhappy that the play gets shut down, and Cody Sylvester sends him onto the ice but is not called for a penalty. The Gladiators ended the former PK with no change in score.

Mitch Fossier makes a driving slap shot on Bullion, but the shot goes out of play. The Ghost Pirates wrap around the net, but Ceci dives on the puck and denies Savannah another scoring opportunity.

Once more, the Gladiators find themselves heading back to the sin bin as Dylan Carabia gets the call for tripping, sending the Gladiators back on the PK. The Gladiators’ goaltender Ceci makes two back-to-back stunning saves as Pinard drives on, with Evennou helping to clear the net. However, the Ghost Pirates found an opportunity with a low shot on goal made by Jordan Kaplan just as the PP ended, and we returned to even strength. The game was tied up, 2-2 (16:10).

The Ghost Pirates make shot after shot on Ceci, but the Gladiators can end it but ice the puck and cannot get a much-needed line change. The Gladiators pull their goalie with a minute remaining but are unable to make any shots connect against the Ghost Pirates. Savannah’s Vidmar gets a penalty for hooking, and the Gladiators head to the PP. However, Bullion ends the Gladiators’ several chances on the net, including two solid efforts by both Prokop and Sylvester. We close the middle frame, standing at two goals apiece.

Shots on goal by Savannah stand at 21 to Atlanta’s eight.

Period 3

Atlanta had just over a minute remaining on their PP. Mitch Fossier hands off the puck from behind him, but no one from Atlanta was there ready to snag it. The PP for Atlanta ends with no change in score. Shortly after, Estes makes a go-ahead goal, but Ceci shuts it down. Sebastian Vidmar takes advantage of a risky Atlanta pass, resulting in a goal by Savannah, and we have a 3-2 game in favor of the Ghost Pirates (2:47). Ceci stops the rebound shot moments later with a stick save, ending the play on the net by Savannah. The Gladiators get back on the offensive, and Blake Evennou attempts the shot on Savnnah’s net, but Bullion gloves it.

Sebastian Vidmar scores on Cole Ceci after the latter drops down on one shot only to have Vidmar find the back of the net on the rebound (2:47). The Ghost Pirates keep the Gladiators on the defensive, and both goalies make several saves to keep the score unchanged.

Savannah will score again moments later as the Ghost Pirates’ Brandon Estes charges the net and slides one past Ceci. Savannah now leads 5-2 (6:58). Time is not in favor of the Gladiators, who have not been able to make many solid shots on the net, and those who have been sent on the net have been solidly denied by Savannah’s netminder.

In the third period of the game, Brandon Estes, Simon Pinard, and Patrick Guay of the Ghost Pirates skillfully charged the Gladiators’ net and scored a goal past Ceci at the 6:58 mark. As a result, Savannah has now established a commanding lead, with the scoreboard reading 5-2. Unfortunately, time is not in favor of the Gladiators, as they have struggled to make effective shots on the net in the final frame. Moreover, the shots they did make were skillfully blocked by Savannah’s netminder.

Shortly after, Navrin Mutter takes a calculated risk with a pass in front of the Gladiators goal in an attempt to clear, but Savannah redirects and nearly gets the goal. Despite this, the Gladiators managed to regain possession and finally exit their zone. Jay Powell follows up with a shot on Bullion, which gets blocked. However, Griffin Luce receives a penalty for interference, and both he and the fans are displeased with the call. Expressing his disagreement, Luce taps the glass of the penalty box with his stick to let the referees know his feelings on that penalty call.

Unfortunately, by this time, the damage had been done, and after four unanswered goals by Savannah, the Gladiators fell to the Ghost Pirates with a final score of 5-2.

Shots on goal by Savannah stand at 14 to Atlanta’s six.

Three Stars of the Game:

1. SAV – S. Vidmar
2. SAV – M. Ferraro
3. SAV – B. Estes


Throughout the season, Atlanta has struggled to consistently generate shots on goal. During Saturday night’s game, Atlanta only produced 19 shots on goal, while Savannah had 48 shots.

During the game against Savannah, the Gladiators spent a total of 10 minutes in the sin bin, further contributing to their ongoing penalty issues. While the team was able to successfully kill all power plays for Savannah, the Ghost Pirates had five chances in total, putting the Gladiators on the defensive throughout the game.

The final game of the series with Savannah will have the Gladiators on the road. They will face off again for game three on Sunday, December 31st, at 5 PM at Enmarket Arena.

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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