By: Chris Greene | Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports
The playoff race is really heating up in the South Division, and the Atlanta Gladiators are in the hunt for a spot. Just two points separate South Carolina, Atlanta, and Norfolk. After an impressive week on the road, Atlanta has a chance to boost its playoff hopes with three games against divisional opponents. The week starts with a trip to Jacksonville to face the Icemen before the Glads take on the Greenville Swamp Rabbits both at home and on the road.
The Gladiators announced two big moves on Tuesday. Forward Tyson Fawcett joined Atlanta from the Reading Royals, in exchange for cash considerations. The experienced center has only managed five points (4g, 1a) in 35 games this year, but has scored 118 points (52g, 66a) in 278 ECHL games. He will bring experience to the Gladiators forward core and has a chance to feature against his former team, the Jacksonville Icemen, this week. After an impressive spell in Atlanta, defenseman Filip Pyrochta was recalled to the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. He notched two goals and three assists in his time with the Glads. In other news, the Admirals reassigned forward Zach Magwood to Atlanta. The first-year pro earned an assist in three games for the Glads earlier in the season. Defenseman Kevin Montgomery has been activated from reserve after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and Mr. Gladiator, Derek Nesbitt, returns to the lineup after missing out on the Rapid City road trip.
The matchup against Jacksonville will be Atlanta’s fifth consecutive game on the road. After taking four points from a possible six last week, the Glads will be hoping to end the road trip in style. The Icemen are 5-3-1-1 in their last 10 games and third place in the South Division standings, six points ahead of Atlanta. The Gladiators have won the last two games against Jacksonville and the Icemen will be looking over their shoulders as the playoff race heats up, this will certainly be a fun game to watch.
Game two of the week marks the return of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, who are no strangers to the Infinite Energy Arena. After replacing Atlanta at the bottom of the South Division standings, the Swamp Rabbits have been able to win some games and have improved to 5-5 in their last 10. It is always difficult to call when these two teams play, but with home advantage, the Glads should win comfortably.
Atlanta finished off the week with a trip to Greenville, hopefully on the back of a positive result from game two. The Glads will be the favorites for the rematch, but the Swamp Rabbits should not be underestimated. As long as Coach Pyle’s men respect their opponent, Atalanta will take the win.
This Week’s Gladiators To Watch:
Sean Bonar: After the game, we don’t talk about (8-2 loss to Newfoundland) Bonar has bounced back in great form. He recorded a shutout win last week and only conceded one goal in two starts. He also replaced Michael Bitzer for two periods and kept his net empty. It’s safe to say he’s back to his best, definitely one to watch this week.
Zach Malatesta: The hard-hitting defenseman has been one of Atlanta’s unsung heroes this season. He scored a game-winner against Rapid City last week and has consistently been a key part of the Glads defensive core. He is very dangerous when he gets the opportunity to attack and deserves to be highlighted this week.
Derek Nesbitt: Mr. Gladiator returns to the lineup after missing out against Rapid City. He will be raring to go as the Glads are on fire offensively. He leads the Gladiators against the Icemen this season with eight points (3g, 5a) and should be on your radar this week.