( Photo Credit: Amanda Bingham / gwinnettdailypost.com )

By: Chris Greene  |  Follow me on Twitter @cgreenesports

After a successful week on the road in South Dakota, the Gladiators returned to more familiar territory in week 21, facing South Division rivals Jacksonville and Greenville. Despite the return of Derek Nesbitt, Atlanta only managed one win from three games. The Glads remain in fifth place, just one point behind South Carolina, the playoff race is still very much alive.

The week began with a trip to Jacksonville to take on the Icemen. Sean Bonar was given the start, and the Glads began their fifth-straight road game. Atlanta was awarded an early power play, but it was all Jacksonville for most of the first period. The Glads defended bravely, and the game was scoreless heading into the first intermission. Less than a minute into the second period, the Icemen took the lead with a goal from David Broll. The Gladiators managed to create some chances but were unable to find the net. With two seconds left in the second, the home team doubled their lead with a score from Everett Clark. The two-goal lead proved to be more than enough in the final frame with Atlanta unable to score. A disappointing start to the week for the Glads.

After five tough road games, Atlanta finally returned home to take on the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Sean Bonar remained the starter, and the Glads were boosted by the return of forward, Branden Troock. It was Derek Nesbitt who struck first, putting Atlanta ahead with assists from Nolan LaPorte and Joe Widmar. The Glads were in control but could not increase their lead before Jake Bolton leveled the score for the visitors. 1-1 the score at the break.

Atlanta continued to dominate in the second period, but the Swamp Rabbits hung on, somehow keeping the puck out of their net. The Glads persistence finally paid off when Avery Peterson scored the only goal of the second period, assisted by Tyson Fawcett and Justin MacDonald. Atlanta extended the lead early in the third frame, Matt Lane with the tally, assisted by Zach Magwood and Branden Troock. The Glads were cruising until the Swamp Rabbits were awarded a power play, which led to a goal from Austen Brassard, making it a one-goal game. Greenville threw everything they had at Atlanta, pulling their goalie and putting pressure on Sean Bonar and the Glads defense. After a tense few minutes, the Gladiators weathered the storm and emerged victorious, 3-2 the final score.

After the thrilling win over the Swamp Rabbits in Game Two, Atlanta traveled to Greenville for a rematch in the third and final game of the week. The Glads stuck with Sean Bonar after confident displays from him in the previous two games. The Swamp Rabbits took the lead in the 10th minute with a goal from Tyler Bird. The Gladiators leveled moments later thanks to Branden Troock, who was assisted by Olivier Galipeau and Matt Lane. Both sides had chances before Greenville was awarded a power play. The home team took full advantage, and Adam Larkin restored their lead. The frantic first period ended with Alex Overhardt scoring for Atlanta with help from Troock, 2-2 the score at the break.

Greenville took the lead for the third time half-way through the second period, with goals from Dylan Vander Esch and Austen Brassard. Atlanta was unable to respond until the final frame when Joe Widmar pulled one back thanks to assists from Derek Nesbitt and Nick Bligh. It looked like the Glads were going to level the score again before a Greenville power play goal from Stephen Pierog thwarted their hopes. 5-3 the final score.

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