The Atlanta Gladiators have faced some significant challenges in their past three games. Some of these struggles have likely been influenced by player call-ups for Reece Vitelli to the Tucson Roadrunners and Luke Prokop and Gustavs Grigals to the Milwaukee Admirals. In addition to these, the team has felt the absence of Cody Sylvester, who has missed each of the last three games, though he is slated to return this week. Gustavs Grigals has also returned to Atlanta on loan from Milwaukee, with Jaxon Castor traded back to the Florida Everblades. With three straight losses, two being back-to-back against the Florida Everblades, it is certain we will see additional adjustments to the lineups until that magic of the opening of the season can once again be found. As we head into the Thanksgiving week flurry of four home games, it’s worth highlighting three players you will need to watch, beginning with tomorrow’s matchup against the Jacksonville Icemen.
Forward, Mitch Fossier
Mitch Fossier has demonstrated exceptional talent on the ice, making him one of the top scorers for the Gladiators. During the game against Allen, Fossier’s first goal in the third period proved essential in securing a 6-3 victory and earned him Second Star honors, with two goals and one assist. Additionally, during the match against Jacksonville, Fossier’s ability to score on the powerplay was on full display. Despite being a player down, Fossier scored a shorthanded goal past Michael Houser, the Icemen’s goalie, ultimately leading the team to a 5-2 win. Thus far, Fossier has tallied an impressive seven goals and 11 assists, resulting in a total of 18 points and cementing his position as one of the ECHL’s leading scorers.
Notable: Having accumulated 11 points throughout the ongoing season, comprising seven goals and four assists, Alex Whelan will need to continue to find scoring opportunities. Whelan had the sole goal for the Gladiators against the Everblades on Saturday night. He will need to continue to put himself and his line in a position to make those critical plays.
Goaltender, Gustavs Grigals
Gustavs Grigals, a notable player currently on loan to Atlanta, has exhibited exceptional talent. Nicknamed “Goose,” Grigals boasts an unbeaten record in his first four starts with Atlanta, showcasing an impressive goals-against average of 1.98 and a save percentage of .948. Furthermore, he established himself as a formidable force on the team after a remarkable 42-save performance against Allen. Even though the game ended in a loss to Florida this past Saturday, Grigals stopped 28 out of the 31 shots against him by a team that seemed to have the Gladiators number offensively.
Notable: Tyler Harmon delivered a standout performance in the game against the South Carolina Stingrays earlier this month, where he stopped an impressive 40 shots and earned the First Star of the Game recognition. He has been the sole goalie on deck for the Gladiators since November 8th until Gustavs Grigals returned to the team this past weekend.
Defenseman, Jacob Graves
During last Tuesday’s game, Jacob Graves successfully fired a shot into the net mere seconds into the first period. The Gladiators’ team captain, known for his aggressive style of play both offensively and defensively, proves to be a formidable force on the ice. His leadership will continue to be an asset to his team, and he will be critical in guiding and mentoring the team through this upcoming stretch of home games. He’s shown himself to be a team player and is always ready to defend his teammates when things get heated, and has thrown the gloves a few times to that end. On the defensive side, his contributions will be essential in addressing the recent issues encountered in the team’s previous three appearances, focusing on preventing the opposition from gaining control within the Gladiators’ territory. Moreover, Graves will continue to play a pivotal role in creating scoring opportunities whenever possible for the Gladiators.
Notable: Jack Matier, who now has five points (three goals, two assists) and has been making some key offensive and defensive plays of his own. Following the recent departure of both Luke Prokop and Aidan De La Gorgendiere, the Gladiators will most certainly require Matier to assume a more significant role.
After the last few disappointing games, the team’s ability to rise above and adapt to the challenges they faced will be intriguing to watch. The Atlanta Gladiators have undoubtedly proven themselves as a formidable opponent worth observing with the 8-0-0 start on the season. With a resurgence of offensive power, coupled with a dominant defense and solid goalkeeping, there’s no reason to doubt the team’s ability to return to their winning ways. These three skilled playmakers should be expected to make a significant contribution towards achieving that goal.