By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
The Atlanta Gladiators are on their best run this season. Three victories this week extend their winning streak to five games. The Glads have now won seven of their last 10 games and closed the gap on the Greenville Swamp Rabbits to just one point. This is by far the Gladiators best spell of the season, and they are finally starting to lift themselves off the bottom of the standings.
The weekend began with two back to back road games against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The Gladiators started Sean Bonar between the pipes for game one and set about closing the gap on their South Division rivals. Greenville had far more shots in the first period, but Atlanta weathered the storm, and the game remained scoreless heading into the first intermission.
Matt Lane opened the scoring for Atlanta eight minutes into the second period. He was assisted by Luke Stork and Alex Overhardt. The Glads continued to attack, and it wasn’t long before Stork doubled Atlanta’s lead with a goal of his own, assisted by Lane and Zach Malatesta. 2-0 the score at the end of the second.
The Swamp Rabbits started the third period well, but once again Atlanta stood firm. Halfway through the third, forward Brett McKenzie carried the puck into Greenville’s zone and rifled a shot into the net to seal the game for the Gladiators. Bonar finished with 30 saves and a shutout. It was a good team performance and a well deserved 3-0 win for Atlanta.
The stage was set nicely for game two of the weekend, a rematch against the same opponents. Bonar was given the start again after his strong showing the night before. After an even start to the game, Joseph Widmar gave Atlanta the lead in the closing stages of the first period with his first ECHL goal, assisted by Nick Bligh.
As the second period got underway, the Gladiators continued to torment the Swamp Rabbits and doubled their lead with a goal from defenseman Jake Flegal, assisted by McKenzie and Nolan LaPorte. Despite the Glads two-goal lead, the game was far from over. Brendan Harms managed to pull one back for the hosts late in the second, giving them momentum heading into the third period. Greenville gave everything in the final frame, but the Gladiators defended well and were able to hold on for a 2-1 win.
After grabbing two wins on the road, the Gladiators returned home to face the Jacksonville Icemen for the third and final game of the week. After giving up just one goal in the two games against Greenville, Bonar was given remained in net Atlanta. The Gladiators created a lot more chances than the Icemen in the opening frame but were unable to find the net. Despite their best efforts, the first period ended scoreless.
As the second period began, the Gladiators continued to out-shoot their opponents, but it was the visitors that took the lead with a power-play goal from Cody Fowlie. The Glads had to dig deep and eventually tied the game with a power-play goal of their own. Justin MacDonald, the scorer, assisted by Widmar and Joel Messner. The score remained 1-1 until the end of regulation, taking the game to overtime.
Both teams had chances in overtime, but neither side could find the winning goal, taking the game to a shootout. Forward Nick Bligh stepped up and slotted home for the Gladiators with a neat finish. Then it was over to Bonar who made three great saves to secure the win, much to the relief of the fans.
After a string of outstanding games for Atlanta, Sean Bonar was named the ECHL Goaltender of the Week. He made 80 saves in his last three games, earned a shutout and stopped all three shots in the shootout against the Icemen. He’s in incredible form and fully deserves the award.