Coming off a 3-0-0 at the start of the season for both teams, the Atlanta Gladiators would take on rivals the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Wednesday night. It was quite the night for both teams, with some great on-ice action for this weekday matchup.
This would be the first game as a Gladiator for defender Blake Evennou, who would get the assist on the first goal of the evening, along with Ryan Cranford, as Jackson Pierson would find a loose puck and tap it into the back of the net against Swamp Rabbit goalie, Jacob Ingham at 6:45 into the first period.
The Gladiators go on the PK after Connor Casparie heads to the penalty box for a 2-minute minor. The Gladiators are undeterred and yet again score a short-handed goal made by Mitch Fossier, with both Cody Sylvester and Luke Prokop on the assist. The Gladiators finish out the first period at 2-0. The Gladiators showed the strength of their special teams, which have been dominating the ice since the start of the season.
The Swamp Rabbits would rally at the start of the 2nd period, however. Swamp Rabbits’ forward Carter Souch gets one past Gladiators’ goalie Gustavs Grigals at just 2:15 in the period, bringing the score to 2-1. The momentum remained to favor the Swamp Rabbits for much of the 2nd period, and near the end of the frame, Greenville scored once again. This time, the scoring goal was made on the 2-on-1 after forward Nick Prukusic landed one in the net with 5:03 remaining. Moments later, the gloves dropped, landing Jacob Graves and Mark Lewis, each with a 5-minute major for fighting; both headed to the locker room for the remainder of the period.
It would look like the Swamp Rabbits would keep the momentum on their side heading into the start of the third period. Josh McKechney would strike against Grigals, giving the Swamp Rabbits the lead for the first time in the game (3-2). It was then that the Gladiators’ first line turned on the afterburners, getting the lead back after consecutive goals by Alex Whelan. The first at 3:41 had Cody Sylvester and Carson Gicewicz on the assist. The second was just a minute-plus later, with Cranford and Pierson getting the assist on that tally. The Gladiators took the lead, 4-3. The Swamp Rabbits would try to shift it back their way, with Souch getting the puck past Grigals at 5:34, tying up the game.
The Gladiators would take no more from the Swamp Rabbits and would rally once again. Luke Prokop would get a goal past Ingham, his first as an Atlanta Gladiator, after a stellar play up front of the net by both Sylvester and Gicewicz. Just 25 seconds later, Reece Vitelli would slam one home on the rebound, with Graves getting in on the action with the assist. The Gladiators take back the lead at 6:45 into the third period.
After snagging a mishandled pass moments before the end of the final frame, Carson Gicewicz scores the empty netter, and the Gladiators effectively shut down the Swamp Rabbits. Gustavs Grigals made 35 saves on 39 shots as the Atlanta Gladiators took the victory. The final tally on the night was 7-4 in favor of the Gladiators.
Mitch Fossier is currently in the top ten of ECHL scorers with 8 points (5g-3a). Reece Vitelli is not far behind Fossier – also with 8 points (2g-6a), and Alex Whelan has tallied 7 points (5g-2a). The Atlanta Gladiators now sit solely on top of the Eastern Conference with a 4-0-0 start of the season and are one of three teams that remain undefeated in the ECHL.
The Gladiators will face off against the Jacksonville Icemen on Friday night (11/03/23) at 7:30 p.m. at Gas South Arena.