By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
The Atlanta Gladiators five-game winning streak ended on Saturday night after an overtime loss against the Orlando Solar Bears. Despite the result, the Glads fought hard in front of a huge home crowd and have extended their point streak to six games. The result puts Atlanta level on points with next weeks opponent, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, with 33.
It was Star Wars night at the Infinite Energy Arena, and a season-high crowd of 10,003 fans took to their seats to watch the Gladiators take on the Dark Side (Orlando Solar Bears). Last week’s ECHL Goaltender of the Week, Sean Bonar, was given the start for Atlanta and was forced to make a save 11 seconds into the game. Both teams had early shots in an exciting couple of minutes before Orlando’s Corey Kalk was called for slashing. The Gladiators took the lead on the ensuing power play, with a goal from Avery Peterson, assisted by Matt Lane and Olivier Galipeau.
Shortly after taking the lead, the Glads were awarded another power play after Orlando’s Tayler Thompson was caught slashing. This time the Solar Bears penalty kill stood firm, preventing Atlanta from getting any shots on goal. Following the power play, Martin Ouellette made a string of good saves for Orlando. Eventually, he was beaten by Filip Pyrochta, scoring on his Gladiators debut, assisted by Matt Lane and Derek Nesbitt. Both teams had chances late in the period, but the score remained 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
It was a frantic start to the second period, the fans were treated to some 4vs4 hockey after both teams were punished for breaking the rules. Just as things were calming down, the Solar Bears were awarded another power play after Nolan LaPorte was caught holding an opponents stick. Orlando took full advantage, and Trevor Olsen scored for the visitors. After the goal, neither side created any clear cut chances and the second period ended with Atlanta leading 2-1.
The Gladiators were back on the power play shortly after the start of the third frame, Orlando’s Oleg Sosunov was called for high-sticking. The Solar Bears dug in and killed the penalty with ease. Atlanta continued to put pressure on the visiting team but was unable to restore their two-goal lead. Nine minutes into the final frame of regulation, Orlando leveled the score with a goal from Colby McCauley. As the clock ticked on, the Gladiators were left frustrated. After controlling the game and out-shooting the Solar Bears 32-21, the result would be decided by overtime.
From the moment the puck dropped, it was a frantic two minutes of overtime, with both goaltenders busy. Unfortunately for Atlanta, it was the Solar Bears that scored the winner. Tayler Thompson netted his second goal of the night, ending the game 3-2, Atlanta’s first defeat in 6 games.
While Atlanta’s win streak is over, the team has kept their point streak active and will now turn their attention towards week 17. They will be up against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Florida Everblades, and Orlando Solar Bears all at home. If the points streak continues, they’ll have a chance to move above the Swamp Rabbits in the South Division standings, which would be a huge step forward for the team that ended 2018 miles behind their rivals.