ECHL Game Recap: Atlanta Gladiators vs. South Carolina Stingrays | 01/20/2024

Photo: Karen Zehner for Inside the Rink

After a slow start in their previous night’s game with Jacksonville, the Gladiators needed to approach tonight’s game with a sense of urgency and determination. To secure the victory, it would be essential that they launch aggressive and well-planned attacks on the Stingrays’ net, as their opponents are known for their physicality.

The Atlanta Gladiator’s starting lineup included Micha Miller, Reece Vitelli, Zach Yoder, Robert Calisti, and Jack Matier. Brad Barone was back between the pipes as the Gladiators goalkeeper. Tyler Harmon remained on Injured Reserve. The South Carolina Stingrays would start Garin Bjorklund, who would be minding the net on their end of the ice.

Period 1

After a sluggish start the previous night, the Gladiators were determined to bring their identity to the forefront by starting the game at full speed. The Gladiators come out strong, with Nolan Burke taking an early shot on the net, but Bjorklund of the Stingrays makes a great save. Later on, Cody Sylvester attempts a shot, but unfortunately, the puck goes out of play. The Gladiators continue to maintain a physical presence on the ice, putting pressure on the Stingrays, leading to a penalty by Lukosevicius for High sticking, but the Stingrays manage to kill it. The Gladiators score their first goal of the game as Burke forces the puck in off of a Buke shot to Kennedy, with Zach Yoder getting the assist (7:27). Barone of the Gladiators makes a great save later on after Austin Magera of the Stingrays attempts to even the score.

The Gladiators appeared to have found their rhythm, executing precise passes and earning two interceptions, setting an impressive pace in the opening period. Despite a stick-induced delay from one of the Stingrays, no penalty was called. Nolan Burke skillfully fed Navrin Buke, whose backhanded shot slid past Bjorklund, and the Gladiators now lead 2-0 (11:00).

There is a mild skirmish by the net after the play as the tensions rise after Barone ends the scoring chance, but no penalty is called as it ends quickly. The Stingrays try to get in front but are well-defended by Yoder up front. The Gladiators head to the PK after that play for the penalty on Jacob Graves for boarding as they tried to clear the zone. The Stingrays try to make a shot on the net but are gloved down and drawn out by the Gladiators. Another shot on Barone is also well defended but is on the rebound that the Stingrays score. The goal is credited to South Carolina’s Jack Adams (16:59).

Tensions rose after Barone of the Gladiators prevented another scoring chance, resulting in another skirmish. Although no penalty was called, the Stingrays went on to attempt a shot on net which was well defended by Zach Yoder. However, the Gladiators were penalized for boarding when trying to clear their zone, forcing them to head to the penalty kill. While they were defending the Stingrays’ power play, the puck was gloved down and out by the Gladiators, but the Stingrays managed to score on the rebound at 16:59. The goal was credited to J. Adams of South Carolina.

The Gladiators keep up the pressure until the very end, keeping the Stingrays in their zone until nearly the end of the period before the Stingrays slide to the Gladiators zone but the clock shut the drive on net down. We end the period 2-1 in favor of the Gladiators.

During the “Adjustment of the Game ”, Coach Nesbitt acknowledged how much the team has appreciated the fans’ support, especially on game nights such as this, which featured the Star Wars theme, an extremely popular one among the Gladiators’ fans.

Period 1 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 11

South Carolina – 14

Period 2

In the second half of the game, Micah Miller and Luke Prokop of the Gladiators score a goal, followed by Jack Adams, who beats Barone and scores to make it 3-2 for the Stingrays at the 6:59 mark. Momentum swings to South Carolina as Josh Wilkins scores the equalizer, and the score is now tied 3-3 at 7:49.

Burke had a chance to score but was shouldered by Bjorklund. The Gladiators were trapped in their zone, but Michael Marchesan managed to clear the puck. Miller received the puck but shot it out of play as he made a move on the net. Reece Vitelli attempted to swing the puck down to the net but was caught offside.

The Stingrays were granted a power play opportunity after Sylvester drew a penalty for hooking. Keeping on the puck, the Gladiators defended well. A shot is made to the net, but Barone gloves it and stops the attempt. Nolan Burke won the faceoff, helping the Gladiators to end the man advantage by the Stingrays and we resumed to full strength. Barone makes a diving save after the Stingrays move on the net. Once again, after a shot by the blue line, Barone makes a solid glove save.

Three back-to-back Stingrays’ chances on net are stopped by Barone as South Carolina continued their onslaught on the Gladiator’s netminder. The Gladiators headed back to the PK after Cranford was called for tripping. The Gladiators made a shot attempt, this time by Jackson Pierson, but the Gladiators were shut down on a stick save by Bjorklund. Reece Vitelli gets the puck back after a turnover but doesn’t get a solid chance on the net. Play is sent to the other end of the ice, but the shot by the Stingrays is stopped by Barone as we finish the second frame. The buzzer sounds, signaling the end of the middle frame, with the score tied at 3-3.

Period 2 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 12

South Carolina – 19

Period 3

As we entered the third period, and twenty minutes of play left, the Gladiators needed to see the same level of aggression showcased in the first period. Play bounced between both sides of the ice, as the Gladiators continued to push the line of play to their end. There was a scuffle behind the net after Jay Powell and Jack Adams of the Stingrays each had some choice words for the other. Both players are headed to the sin bin for roughing, and we go on the 4-on-4. The draw was won by Reece Vitelli. Yet it was the Stingrays that would get the lead-up goal as Wilkins found the back of the basket. The score now stands at 4-3 (7:37).

Mutter checks Kylie with a solid hit right in front of the Gladiators bench. The Gladiators head to the PP after South Carolina gets called on Colin Swoyer for tripping. Pierson made a shot on the net, but that one goes wide. But then, the Gladiators snag the puck and make the shot attempt, but it is Ryan Cranford who gets the rebound chance and he finds the back of the net, driving it home. The Gladiators and Stingrays are tied 4-4 (7:31).

Barone makes back-to-back saves as the Stingrays keep the puck in their zone on a rebound. Barone finds the puck with his stomach as the Stingrays strike a third time. After the fourth such stop, the Gladiators and Stingrays find themselves in a scrum as Cody Sylvester gets into it with Kameron Kielly, who heads to the penalty box along with Sylvester. Again we go on the 4-on-4.

Barone, with a savage glove save as the Stingrays, pushed to get the puck past him, but he shut it down definitively. Navrin Mutter attempted a Michigan and miss, but the Stingrays got the delayed penalty for high sticking to Nolan Burke. The Gladiators pull Barone from the next to gain the extra man. Barone returns to the net, Miller and Cranford both make the chase for the goal but Bjorklund stops the play. We go on the PP with Swoyer back in the box. Pierson makes a shot from the line, but again, Bjorklund denies it.

Sylvester had a breakaway chance but, regrettably, missed the target, the puck going wide. As the final seconds of the period elapsed, Bjorklund made an impressive save, just as the buzzer sounded, indicating the end of the period. The score stood at 4 goals each, and we headed into overtime.

Period 3 – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 8

South Carolina – 11

Overtime

During one of the most enthralling sequences of the season, the Gladiators and Stingrays clashed in a fierce duel. Fans cheered as the teams battled it out, but neither could claim victory in the first five minutes of overtime. Gladiators supporters were on their feet, rooting for their team with every challenge made to the Stingrays’ net. However, the game-winning goal was scored by Stingrays’ forward Jack Adams, much to the dismay of the Gladiators faithful. Adams’ hat-trick performance secured the victory for Stingrays, with a final score of 5-4 (5:48).

OT – Shots on Goal:

Atlanta – 1

South Carolina – 8

Three Stars:
1. SC – J. Adams
2. ATL – N. Burke
3. ATL – M. Miller

Takeaways:

  • Zach Yoder was a standout during the entire game, getting an assist on the first goal by Nolan Burke, while also making some great defensive plays throughout the game for the Gladiators.
  • When the Gladiators remained aggressive and physical, with that sense of determination that we saw in the opening period, the momentum was solidly in their favor. It was when that wavered for even a short time, seen in portions of the second period, that the Stingrays were able to take advantage.
Photo: Karen Zehner, Inside the Rink
Photo: Karen Zehner, Inside the RInk

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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