ECHL: Mike Pelech Moves to 3rd All-Time in ECHL Points. Atlanta Gladiators Lose Finale to Florida Everblades

Photo Credit: Atlanta Gladiators

The Atlanta Gladiators took on the Florida Everblades in the season finale Saturday night in Estero at the Hertz Arena. The Gladiators will finish with the season 12th out of 28 teams, meaning four teams with worse records will have a chance to win the Kelly Cup. Unfortunately, the Gladiators play in the toughest division in the ECHL, which is why they will be watching the playoffs from home.

The Blades took the early lead on a Nolan Kneen blast that Goalie Tyler Harmon did not see. This was Kneen’s fifth goal of the campaign. The time of the goal was 4:33 in the first period. Florida continued to pressure the Glads, outshooting them again, this time 6-2, almost halfway through the period. The Everblades found the back of the net again with 10:33 left in the period. Joe Pendenza scored the goal with his 23rd of the season. This gave the Blades a 2-0 lead. The Gladiators are used to seeing Cam Johnson in net for the Blades, but Florida gave the start to Evan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick came into the game with a 10-3 record with a beautiful 2.33 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. Pendenza took a pretty pass from Logan Lambdin with 5:11 left in the period and put it home to give the Blades a 3-0 lead. The defensive pairing of Noah Laaouan and Dylan Carabia was on the ice for all three of the Blades’ goals in the period. Finding strong defensive pairings has to be high on the to-do list of the Gladiators in the offseason. The period finished with Florida outshooting Atlanta 19-9. You cannot expect to have your goalie tested like that and come out with a victory.

The early portions of the 2nd period were broken up by a lot of stops in play: multiple icings, shots out of play, and coverages by goalies. Neither team got into much of a rhythm in the first quarter of the period. Zach Yoder committed a tripping penalty 4:43 into the period. This was the first power play for either team in the game. The Gladiators had an odd-man rush while shorthanded, but nothing came of it. Florida was able to corral the puck and lead a rush of their own, but Harmon answered the bell and made multiple saves to keep it a 3-0 game early in the 2nd period. With 11:44 left in the period, Billy Constantinou skated in as part of a 2-1 and seemed to score, but after a quick video review, it was ruled the puck hit the crossbar but did not cross the line. The Glads did get their first power play of the night on an Olivier LeBlanc tripping call. Glads had a few chances to put one in, including a quick shot on a Laaouan one-timer that Fitzpatrick saved. Cody Sylvester finally broke through for Atlanta scoring a goal with 52 seconds left in the period on a nice spin move in front of the goal. Mike Pelech moved into 3rd all-time for points scored in the ECHL by assisting on the goal. It was his 686th all-time point. The goal was Sylvester’s 38th of the season as he continues to add to his season record for goals scored by a Gladiator. The Glads and the Blades tied at 12 shots a piece over the 2nd period. The first line of Sylvester, Pelech, and Sanghoon Shin continues to be the reason that the Gladiators find themselves in a lot of the games.

Early in the 3rd period, Constantinou had another chance on a backhand that Fitzpatrick saved. Constantinou with multiple chances during the game, but nothing went into the net for him. Atlanta, with much of the offensive play early in the 3rd period, but no goals coming from it. Yoder was called for a slashing penalty with 12:12 left in the 3rd period to put them back on the penalty kill. Shin and Sylvester skated in on an odd-man rush during the kill, but too much passing led to no shot getting put on the net, but they did kill their 2nd penalty of the game. Florida was playing to not lose this lead, as opposed to going to get a goal that could put the game away. The Glads pulled Harmon with less than 3 minutes remaining to set up the extra attacker. Fitzpatrick tried to get himself a goal and sent the puck down there but missed wide to set up an icing. The Blades did end up recovering the puck with 1:20 left and scored on the empty net to make it a 4-1 game. The goal came from Ashton Calder, his first of the season. The game would end with that score, with Florida leading the total shots on goal 38-29. Atlanta did win the season series 5-4-1 against Florida. The Glads finished the season 35-30-6-1 with 77 points.

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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