DULUTH, Ga – The Atlanta Gladiators hosted the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at the Infinite Energy Arena for the second time in nine days and just like the earlier game before Thanksgiving, this game reached the end of regulation tied. Playing in front of the ECHL Commissioner, Ryan Crelin, the Swamp Rabbits got a winning goal from Michael Pelech one minute into the extra session for the 3-2 win.
The Gladiators started with fresh legs after a week off and it showed as they came out with an attacking mindset. Their play forced a Swamp Rabbit penalty on Thomas Ebbing and the Glads seized the opportunity with an Alex Overhardt power play goal for the early 1-0 lead. Greenville responded on a slick pass from Johno Mayo to Jon Jutzi who scored on a wrist shot from the high slot to tie the game at one all.
Brendan Harms gave the Swamp Rabbits their first lead in the second period, when he took the puck from the circle and worked towards the net to just beat Gladiator goalie Miroslav Svoboda for the goal.
The Gladiators received a bit of luck later in the second period when it appeared that Trevor Owens had scored from a long wrist that banked off top iron, but after an official review, it was declared the puck didn’t cross the line until after the whistle had ended the play, and the score remained 2-1.
The good fortune bolstered the Gladiator spirits and they closed out the period getting multiple opportunities to tie the game. They finally broke through early in the third period to draw even at two when veteran Derek Nesbitt scored on a one-timer from the circle just right of Greenville goalie Chris Nell. It was Nesbitt’s fourth goal of the season and the 119th of his Gladiator career that goes all the way back to 2005.
Early in the third period, the Gladiators went on the penalty kill after a David Mazurek slashing call. Mazurek was just added on the roster earlier in the day after being called up from the Fayetteville Marksmen of the SPHL. During the kill, a blocked shot created a short-handed breakaway opportunity by Ben Danford that Swamp Rabbit goalie Nell slammed shut with the stop.
After ending regulation tied, the Swamp Rabbits got the game winner from Pelech. Gladiator Head Coach Jeff Pyle said afterwards,
“When you play short (handed), you have to be really good as a team. We went into overtime tonight and it’s just who makes the first mistake.”
Pyle’s reference to playing short alludes to the roster that has constantly changed due to call-ups and injury in the early part of the Gladiator season so far.
On the play of goalie Svoboda, Pyle said,
“Miro is always good. We should respect that a little bit more and play smarter for him. But again, we need that from everyone. If it fails on two or three guys, it makes it difficult. All-in-all, we played hard until the end, we just need it from everybody from start to finish.”
The Gladiators will get their chance for revenge on Saturday, as they head two hours up I-85 to take on the Swamp Rabbits again Saturday night at 7pm. Pyle concluded:
“We have got to go on the road and find a way to get two points.”