By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
Winless in their last six games, the Atlanta Gladiators head into what could arguably be the toughest week of their season so far. Three back-to-back road games against strong divisional rivals is never easy, especially when you’re bottom of the division by nine points. The Glads have managed just five wins in 21 games so far, with an underwhelming record of 5-12-4. At this stage of the season, they’re playing for pride.
Last weekend the team were buoyed by the return of forward Tanner Pond, who had spent the start of the season in the AHL with the Providence Bruins. He contributed right away, scoring twice in his first game back and adding five assists in the three games he spent with his old team. He barely had time to unpack before he was recalled to Providence, a big blow to Atlanta. The team confirmed on Tuesday that defenseman Ben Danford had been placed on Injury Reserve, it’s unclear how long he will be out for. The Glads also lost forward Matt Lane who was recalled to Milwaukee. On a more positive note, the team acquired forward Nick Bligh in exchange for future considerations. The Boston, MA native has accumulated nine points in 19 games with the Worcester Railers so far this season, though he only managed one point (an assist) in his last six games with them. In other news, forward Branden Troock was placed on reserve and defenseman Vytal Cote was added to the active roster.
The first of three games on the road takes place on Wednesday night, the Gladiators will travel to the North Charleston Coliseum to take on the South Carolina Stingrays. It will be the third game in a row between the two teams. Atlanta came agonizingly close in the first two contests of this mini-series, hopefully they can wrap it up with a win. On Friday night the Glads head to Jacksonville to take on the Icemen. Atlanta have only played one game against the Icemen so far this season, a 3-2 defeat in overtime. The boys will close out the road trip with a visit to the Orlando Solar Bears, desperate to avenge the most recent 5-4 loss against them. Although the offense is putting up good numbers, the Gladiators need to tighten up defensively in order to start winning games. Coach Pyle admitted that the team needed to defend better after last weeks loss to the Solar Bears before adding “I don’t think we’ve ever quit, that’s the upside of the team.” One thing is for sure, the Gladiators wont go down without a fight.
This Week’s Gladiators To Watch:
Brett McKenzie: Four points in his last three games, the center is in solid form. With the departures of Matt Lane and Tanner Pond, he will have an increased responsibility in the coming weeks so he will need to maintain his offensive production. While he has big boots to fill, the potential is there for him to step up for the team.
Zach Malatesta: The hard-hitting defenseman continued to add to his points tally last weekend with three assists against the Stingrays. He’s been a lot more aggressive moving the puck into the offensive zone and it’s paid off. With Danford on Injury Reserve, the Gladiators will need him to step up on the power play. He’s shown his capability of setting up the forwards, he will be an important player this week.
Nolan LaPorte: What else needs to be said after a stunning hat-trick put the team in prime position for a win against South Carolina? The third-year forward seems to be finding momentum now, with 13 points in 14 games. After a quiet spell he was on fire last weekend. If he can carry that form into next week then he’s certain to add to that tally.