By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
2019 has been a success for the Atlanta Gladiators so far. For the first time in a long time, the Glads are on a win streak, after two wins in two games last week. They still sit at the bottom of the South Division by seven points, but they’re starting to close the gap. Two games on the road at the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and a home game against the Jacksonville Icemen this week gives Atlanta a great chance to catch up on their rivals.
Head coach and GM, Jeff Pyle, has been busy with more changes to the roster. On Wednesday, the Glads announced the acquisition of forward Avery Peterson, who joins from the Indy Fuel in exchange for future considerations. Peterson has seven points (1g, 6a) in 15 games this season. Forward Matt Lane also returns to Atlanta after he was reassigned by the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. He has seven points (2g, 5a) for the Gladiators this season. Defenseman Ben Danford has been activated from injured reserve, while Brandon Troock has been placed on IR, effective Dec 20. Forward Dave Mazurek and Defenseman Vytal Cote have also been placed on reserve. The Gladiators confirmed that forward Tyler Deresky and defenseman Brandon McMartin had been released from the team.
The Gladiators head to Greenville for back to back road games against the Swamp Rabbits on Friday and Saturday night. The Glads charge into the weekend on the back of two wins last week and five wins in their last 10 games. The Swamp Rabbits meanwhile have lost their last four games. Although momentum is on Atlanta’s side, Greenville leads the head to head series this year 4-2 and have the advantage of playing at home. Whatever happens, this will be a physical game, expect big hits and probably a few punches to be thrown. Both sides are capable of winning, but I think Atlanta has a good chance to come away with points.
On Monday night, the Glads return home to face the Jacksonville Icemen. Last week’s game between to the two teams was a memorable one for Atlanta. The biggest home crowd of the season, Derek Nesbitt made his record-breaking 358th appearance for the franchise, and Nick Bligh scored four goals in the first period. It was a great performance from Atlanta and will be difficult to replicate, but the Glads are more than capable of winning. The Icemen will be out for revenge which makes this game an intriguing one.
This Week’s Gladiators To Watch:
Nick Bligh: Six points in two games last week, Bligh was on fire. He scored the overtime winner against the Stingrays and then bagged four, yes four goals, against the Icemen in the first quarter of the game. It’s hard to put his contributions into words, but if the forward can find just half of that production this week, the Glads are going to be in with a good chance to win games.
Joseph Widmar: His contributions last week were over looked by many, but the second-year forward made three assists in the game against the Icemen. He has bags of potential and if he can continue to serve up helpers like that he’ll be a great asset to this Gladiators team. I’m excited to see what else he can do this season, he’s definitely one to watch.
Derek Nesbitt: The Gladiators all-time leading goals scorer now has more appearances for the team than anyone. He scored five points (3g, 2a) last week and is so important to this Atlanta team. He’s performed well all season and has been integral at keeping the team focused when results haven’t been going well. A true leader, you can’t take your eyes off him on while he’s on the ice.