Gladiators look lifeless in two games against fellow South Division foe South Carolina Stingrays.
The Atlanta Gladiators have just finished a two-game stretch which will go down as their worst of the season. Friday night, the Gladiators (28-23-5-1) faced off against the South Carolina Stingrays (32-16-4-1) with playoff implications on the line. The Stingrays got the party started early by scoring 4:49 into the game, and that would be just the beginning. The Stingrays added on another nine goals before it was all said and done, and they breezed to a 10-1 victory. The Gladiators were outplayed in all facets of the game. The Gladiators were outshot in all three periods, 21-10, 12-7, and 19-10, respectively, for a total of 52-27. The Stingrays, boasting the league’s best power-play unit, managed four goals on nine opportunities. The Gladiators could only muster three power play chances and scored on none. Six of the Stingray’s goals came within the first 20 minutes of play. Alex Sakellaropoulos faced 21 shots giving up six goals, and was promptly pulled before the start of the 2nd period. It was a curious decision by head coach Jeff Pyle to keep Sakellaropoulos in as long as he did. It didn’t get any better once David Tendeck took over. Tendeck gave up four goals on 31 shots over the final 40 minutes of the game. Goalie play is one thing, but when your defense is not giving any help, it becomes tough for any goalie to stop over 50 shots in a game. The team has felt the effects of the moves made by its parent club, the Arizona Coyotes, by losing key players to the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners. Before Friday’s game, Forward Reece Vitelli was called up. Vitelli has 11 goals and 26 assists in 49 games. They also sent skilled Defenseman Noah Laaouan to Tucson on March 1st. Laaouan is tied for the team lead for defensemen in goals with seven.
Saturday, the Glads looked for redemption as they took on the Stingrays again. Hopes were already dashed:30 into the game as Georgia native Connor Moore put one passed Alex Sakellaropoulos to set the pace for what turned out to be a 6-1 decision in favor of the Stingrays. Coach Pyle decided to give Alex a chance to make up for his game the night before, and the results were about the same. The game felt like a carbon copy of Friday night’s tilt, with minimal defensive help and a vital part of the team being sent up to Tucson before the start of the game. Today it was Defenseman Michal Mrazik who scored the Gladiator’s lone goal in Friday’s loss. Mrazik made it in time to suit up for the Roadrunners in their game against San Diego Gulls.
The Gladiators were outscored 16-2 over the two games and outshot 96-52. The Glads also had five power play opportunities scoring on none of them in the series, while the Stingrays had 14 power plays scoring on five of them. The Gladiators also need to get healthy as they go into the season’s stretch run. They lost Eric Neiley on February 26th to an injury late in a win against the Fort Worth Komets. Eric has played 49 games, scoring 25 goals and assisting on another 19. Goalie Joe Murdaca was placed on injured reserve on February 25th after an injury against the Jacksonville Icemen in a 3-0 win. Murdaca has played in 8 games but is arguably the Gladiator’s best goalie right now. Atlanta takes the ice again at home in the Gas South Arena against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Tuesday, March 7th.