Atlanta Gladiator Forward Eric Neiley returned to the lineup for the first time since February 16th as the Glads defeated the Florida Everblades Friday night from Hertz Arena in Estero, FL. The knee injury caused Neiley to miss 16 games over the nearly two-month layoff. Kaid Oliver got the scoring started early, getting the first goal just under six minutes into the game. The goal was Oliver’s 14th of the season, and he was assisted by Ian Mackey and Zach Yoder. Atlanta dominated the first period keeping the Blades to only four shots on goal while getting 11 shots of their own on Blades goalie Cam Johnson. Gladiators had the only power play of the period, and Florida killed it off.
In the 2nd period, Cody Sylvester got the scoring started early when he walked in and scored to make it 2-0 Glads just 51 seconds into the frame. The goal was Sylvester’s 37th of the season, now the new Atlanta Gladiator single-season record. Sylvester passes Colton Fretter from back in the 2006-07 season. Florida went to their first power play of the night shortly after Sylvester’s goal on a Tim Davison tripping call. Atlanta ended up with the best scoring chances while killing the penalty. Johnson made a save on a beautiful move by Atlanta Defensemen Bode Wilde. Atlanta killed the penalty off. Eighteen seconds after Atlanta killed the penalty, Florida got another chance when Brey Crowder committed a high-sticking penalty. Again, Atlanta was able to kill off another penalty. Less than a minute after the penalty expired, Florida Defensmen Olivier LeBlanc committed a hooking minor to give the Glads a chance to extend the lead. Florida was able to kill off the penalty to get back to full strength. The Gladiators continued to commit penalties in the period, with Cody Sylvester going to the sin bin at 12:13 of the period with a hooking infraction. Atlanta continued to be perfect on the kill, with Murdaca coming up big on a handful of saves during the Blades’ power play. With all the power plays, Florida controlled the shots on goal stat, outpacing the Glads 20-11 in the period. Atlanta still controlled the only stat that matters, though, the score, which was in Atlanta’s favor after 40 minutes. This is something Atlanta will have to focus on in the off-season. Too many times this year, the Gladiators have outplayed their opponents in the first period only to seemingly run out of gas in the 2nd and 3rd periods.
The Gladiators started the 3rd period the same way they ended it. Most of the action was in the Gladiator end, with Florida getting a lot of shots off at the net. Atlanta’s only defense was to try and clear the zone. Bode Wilde drew a penalty on Florida’s John McCarron for kneeing to end the Florida domination of the first five minutes of the period. Atlanta had good chances on net, including Shin trying to bang in a rebound which Johnson was able to smother to end the scoring chance. Noah Laaouan took a roughing penalty at 9:23 of the 3rd period to give Florida their 4th chance to score on a power play. With 10 seconds left in the penalty, Brey Crowder committed a tripping penalty to give Florida yet another chance. This time they finally banged one in with John McCarron ending the Murdaca shutout. The goal was McCarron’s first goal of the season. With 6:18 left in the 3rd, the Blades went back on the power play on a cross-check from Neiley. The Glads managed to kill the penalty to keep it a one-goal game with four minutes left in regulation. With 1:30 left in the period, Florida pulled Johnson to get the six-on-five advantage. Florida controlled the puck in the Gladiators’ zone and got a few quality chances, but ultimately the puck ended up on Shin’s stick, and he put the puck in the back of the net for his 30th of the season to seal the 3-1 victory. Murdaca was wonderful in net stopping 41 out of 42 Everblade shots making him the 1st star of the game. The New Gladiator single-season goal-scoring leader Cody Sylvester was the 2nd star, with McCarron taking the 3rd star for Florida.