ECHL: Gladiators Cool Down the Solar Bears, Inch Closer to Playoff Line

Source: Orlando Solar Bears Hockey

Orlando, FL. — The Atlanta Gladiators (30-23-5-1) won their second consecutive game against a South Division opponent, this time beating the Orlando Solar Bears (28-24-6-1) by a score of 6-4 on Friday night. Big defensemen Bode Wilde started the Gladiators’ scoring late in the first period with a wrister past Solar Bear goalie Jack LaFontaine. LaFontaine looked to be screened by Gladiator forward Josh Thrower, which allowed the shot to beat LaFontaine low on his glove side.

Bode Wilde scores his 3rd of the season and 1st since returning from an injury!

Even though the Gladiators ended the 1st period with a 1-0 lead, they still managed to get off to a slow start. These are the kinds of things they cannot afford to do against some of the opponents they have coming up, which will determine whether or not they make it to the Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Gladiators were heavily outshot until the second half of the first period. The barrage at the end of the period made the shots a little closer, with Orlando holding the edge 15-11. The Gladiators also took two penalties in the period, while the Solar Bears had a clean sheet. The second penalty of the period was a delay of game on the goal scorer Bode Wilde when he shot the puck over the glass while attempting to clear it. The penalty was given at 19:52 of the 1st period, which carried over to the start of the 2nd period. The Solar Bears made them pay for it when Forward Grant Mismash picked up a loose puck from the side of the goal and put it in a wide-open net, beating Tyler Harmon. The powerplay goal scored just 53 seconds into the 2nd period was Mismash’s 5th of the season.

Grant Mismash ties the game at 1 all early in the 2nd period.

Orlando would continue to dominate for most of the period outshooting Atlanta at one point 8-1 more than halfway through the 2nd. Bode Wilde broke through and got his 2nd goal of the night after picking up his rebound and beating LaFontaine to make it 2-1 Gladiators with 3:21 left in the period. Bode was assisted by Carlos Fornaris and also Mitch Walinski, who was playing in his first professional game. The Gladiators were not done scoring in the 2nd period yet. Just 1:05 seconds later, leading goal getter for the Gladiators, Cody Sylvester, picked up a puck from defenseman Malcolm Hayes and put a quick wrist shot past LaFontaine for his 29th goal of the season. For good measure, the Gladiators added one more goal with just eight seconds left in the period when Sanghoon Shin took a beautiful pass from Derek Topatigh and beat LaFontaine almost exactly in the same spot where Sylvester did just 1:58 earlier. The Glads played a clean period allowing no penalties and went into the locker room with a 4-1 lead.

Shin’s 21st lamp lighter of the season

Orlando came out with a new netminder in goal for the start of the 3rd period after LaFontaine gave up four goals on 20 shots. Garret Sparks took over and played well for the first half of the period as Atlanta sent several shots at the former Toronto Maple Leaf to try and put the game away for good. Things went exactly as planned for the Gladiators when Forward Tyson Empey tipped one past Sparks on a great setup from Fornaris to make the score 5-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game.

Tyler Empey’s 3rd of the year on a beautiful redirect

Orlando would add two relatively quick goals in the next 5:30 of the game to pull a little closer. Solar Bear leading goal scorer Ross Olsson would pick up his 26th of the season on the power play to make the score 5-3. Shin would add an empty netter to make it 6-3 with only 1:31 left in the game, but Atlanta would take a hooking penalty shortly after on Topatigh, and Olsson would make them pay for it by adding his 27th of the season to finish the scoring. Harmon looked good in his 2nd professional game stopping 35 of 39 Solar Bear shots. He improves to 2-0 on the season. Atlanta’s penalty kill still has a lot of work to do, as they gave up three powerplay goals in the contest. The top line for Atlanta, consisting of Sylvester, Mike Pelech, and Shin, continue to impress. They accounted for three goals and a +8 rating for the game. Atlanta is off until Tuesday, March 14th, as they host The Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Greenville currently sits in 3rd place in the South Division but only five points ahead of the 5th place Gladiators.

Phil Wilds

Atlanta Gladiators writer for Inside The Rink. Patiently waiting for the 3rd Atlanta NHL team! Follow me on Twitter @PWilds121 for awful takes that you will most certainly disagree with!

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