Game Recap: Atlanta Gladiators vs. South Carolina Stingrays | 12.27.23

Tyler Harmon, Gladiators
Photo: Taylor Trebotte for Inside the Rink

Atlanta’s ongoing objective has been to establish an offensive presence early on and maintain some pressure on the defensive side. In their game against South Carolina, they would be without goalie Gustavs Grigals, who was recalled to the AHL by the Milwaukee Admirals. Tyler Harmon would be the starting netminder for the Gladiators against the South Carolina Stingrays, who had Mitchell Gibson tending the goal on their end of the ice.

The Atlanta Gladiators welcomed Frankie McClendon to the team after signing him to an SPC earlier in the day. McClendon has played in 17 games this season with both the Danbury Hat Tricks and Carolina Thunderbirds of the Federal Prospects Hockey League. McClendon was also active in the SPHL, most recently with the Fayetteville Marksmen.

The Gladiators were missing several significant players this evening, however. Unfortunately, Mitch Fossier and Dylan Vander Esch were on reserve and would not play, with Connor Casparie and Michael Marceshan remaining on IR.

Period 1

At the onset of the game, Gladiators’ Tyler Harmon made an impressive save on a shot by South Carolina’s Ryan Leibold. However, shortly after, Harmon was beaten on his glove side by Jackson Leppard, who scored a goal off the faceoff at 8:41. The Stingrays took the lead 1-0.

Cody Sylvester attempted to tie the game, but his shot was met with a glove save by Gibson. The game took an aggressive turn when former Josh Thrower and Navrin Mutter engaged in a brief but feisty altercation, resulting in both players receiving a five-minute penalty for fighting, sending both on a trip to the penalty box.

Griffin Luce made an effort to score by taking a shot towards the goal, but Mitchell Gibson would make the save. Similarly, Dougherty took a shot from in front of the net, but Gibson denied the Gladiator’s attempt once again. Despite the Atlanta Gladiators putting 17 shots on goal, none of them found the back of the net. The Stingrays, on the other hand, only managed to make six shots on goal, but they were able to score off a faceoff, resulting in them leading 1-0 at the end of the period.

Period 2

Early in the middle frame, Reece Vitelli once again applied pressure on the South Carolina defense, but their goalie, Gibson, made a crucial save, denying Reece the chance to score and preserving the scoreline. Shortly after, Harmon himself made a remarkable save, stopping the puck from crossing the line after it bounced off his left skate.

The Gladiators then had a 3-on-2, with the opportunity to score, but they were unable to get the puck past the glove of Gibson. Unfortunately, South Carolina’s Patrick Harper sustained an injury shortly after when a puck hit him in the face and had to leave the ice; he would return moments later.

At 12:34, Jay Powell successfully scores his first goal as a Gladiator by outmaneuvering Gibson, leading to the equalizer goal. Reece Vitelli and Cody Sylvester are on the board for their assist on the goal by Powell. The game is now tied at 1-1. In the following moments, Harmon impressively defends the goal against several South Carolina attempts, keeping the scoreline even. Harmon would eventually get beaten by Benton Maass, who would give the Stingrays the one-goal advantage (17:11),taking the score to 2-1.

Griffin Luce was sent to the penalty box after a brief skirmish with some South Carolina players. Shortly afterward, Tyson Empey of South Carolina was also sent to the penalty box. The Gladiators managed to effectively kill their penalty off. The Stingrays still lead the game as we close out the period, but the Gladiators would have the man advantage for one minute and twenty-four seconds at the start of the third.

Period 3

South Carolina efficiently killed the remaining time on the Empey penalty, and the Gladiators failed to capitalize. The Stingrays seized the opportunity to extend their lead, with Kameron Kielly deftly navigating the puck to Jackson Leppard, who scored past Tyler Harmon’s legs, resulting in a 3-1 lead for the Stingrays at the 5:04 mark.

Mid-period, the Gladiators were largely being outshot by the Stingrays in a near-flip comparison to what we saw in the first period. The Gladiators tried to keep the puck out of their zone, but South Carolina kept them on their heels all period. The Gladiators seemed unable to get any traction offensively.

Late in the third, the Gladiators pull Harmon from their net, hoping to shift the momentum of the game. Despite their efforts, South Carolina managed to gain possession of the puck, and they attempted a shot, sending it just wide of the net. While Leppard may have had his sights set on completing a hat trick, it was Ryan Leibold who found the back of the empty net with just 21.1 seconds remaining in regulation. The Gladiators fall to the Stingrays, 4-1.

Three Stars:

1. SC – J. Leppard
2. SC – K. Kielly
3. SC – B. Maass

Takeaways from the Game:

Early in the game, the Gladiators played well and put pressure on the other team’s goalie. But in the third period, they struggled to make offensive plays, and it felt like they couldn’t get into a good rhythm.

The Atlanta Gladiators will return to their home ice this Friday, December 29th as they have back-to-back games this weekend against the Savannah Ghost Pirates. Puck drop is 7:30 PM.

Karen Zehner

Credentialed Beat Writer covering the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators. Diving into the world of slap shots, penalty kills, and the game we love. [@RunwithK] on socials.

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