By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
The Atlanta Gladiators head into week 16 firing on all cylinders. After five wins in a row, the Glads are full of confidence and take on the Orlando Solar Bears at home on Saturday night, in their only game of the weekend. With some new additions to the defensive core, the Gladiators will be focused on extending their streak to six games.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed that the Nashville Predators had assigned defenseman Filip Pyrochta to Atlanta from the Milwaukee Admirals. The Czech native has played in 24 games for the AHL team this season and contributed three assists. The Admirals also loaned defenseman Brian Cooper to the Gladiators. Cooper has tallied four assists in 19 games for Milwaukee this season. After an impressive return from injury, defenseman Ben Danford has signed a PTO with the Admirals. He leaves Atlanta tied for the team-lead in assists from a defenseman with nine, despite missing 14 games. It’s his second stint in the AHL, and he fully deserves the opportunity.
This week’s South Division showdown will be the fifth head to head between the Gladiators and Solar Bears this season. Orlando currently leads the series 3-1, after winning the last three contests. The Solar Bears are 5-5 in their last 10 games, compared to the Glads who are 7-3. Orlando is a very physical team and has the highest PIM in the division at 733, so Atlanta should get plenty of power-play opportunities. There’s a huge grudge between the two teams and the refs will be busy. If the Glads can keep their composure and play their natural game, they have a great chance of winning. Playing at home should give them the edge in this one.
This Week’s Gladiators To Watch:
Olivier Galipeau: As I’ve mentioned, the power play is going to be an important weapon for the Glads this week. With Danford out of the picture, the stage is set for Galipeau to step up and support the forwards. He scored a goal in the season opener against the Solar Bears and hasn’t had much offensive production lately, this is a great opportunity for the Providence Bruins to add to his season tally.
Matt Lane: The forward returned to Atlanta in style with a goal and an assist in his first game back. He’s spent a considerable amount of time in the AHL this season, and his class has shown. He has nine points (3g, 6a) in 11 games for Atlanta so far, almost a point per game. He’s a talented player, and the Glads will want to make the most of his time back with the team.
Nick Bligh: After a steady start, the forward now has 14 points (8g, 6a) in 17 games for the Gladiators. He is full of confidence after scoring the game-winner in the shootout against Jacksonville and the Solar Bears will struggle to slow him down. If he gets a chance on Friday night, expect him to bury it into the net.