DULUTH, Ga. – The Atlanta Gladiators got a much-needed boost to their roster on Tuesday when Tanner Pond was reassigned from the Providence Bruins of the AHL. Against the Orlando Solar Bears on Friday, he skated onto the ice just 32 seconds into the game and had an immediate impact. He scored halfway through the first period and finished the game with three points on the night (2G, 1A), but a shaky four-minute stretch in the second period was too much to overcome as the Gladiators lost a close one, 5-4.
Pond, who played two NHL preseason games with the Boston Bruins, had a breakout year last season with the Gladiators. when he added offensive production to his tenacious, aggressive style. He jumped into the deep end of this game when he scored a short-handed goal to tie it up at 1-1. He combined with Matt Lane to get the puck into the offensive zone and Pond’s wrist shot beat Solar Bear goalie Corbin Boes. Head Coach Jeff Pyle commented on Pond’s play,
“He is good, him and Lane are same exact type of player, they work hard, good on details and have a nose for the game.”
Veteran Gladiator Derek Nesbitt gave his team the lead early in the second with a one-timer on a pass from Branden Troock, but things went south quickly midway through the second. The downward spiral began on a Yytal Cote slashing penalty, the Solar Bears started to gain offensive momentum and scored three consecutive goals, one each from Mathieu Foget, Brady Shaw and Troy Bourke to give the Solar Bears a lead they would never relinquish.
Pyle said of those fateful minutes,
“We got the lead and got in a situation to win, but we kind of find ways to not, that is the disappointing thing, we got away in the second from what we were doing pretty well I thought, and then we kind of turned it over a few times.”
While they may be a bit short at the moment, they cannot be accused of not giving maximum effort. Pyle emphasized that,
“I don’t think we have ever quit, that is the upside of this team, a lot of guys are getting some ice time they wouldn’t normally get so they have to develop and then bring us a little more. Our third line has to find a way to better and add a little more offense.”
The Gladiators twice pulled to within one, Pond scored his second goal right at the end of the second and Brett McKenzie with his fifth of the year with five minutes remaining to give them a chance, but they could never push the tying goal across. They pulled goalie Miroslav Svoboda with less than a minute, but the Solar Bear defense did enough to prevent a solid scoring opportunity as time expired.
Bourke had two goals for the Solar Bears and goalie Boes turned aside 32 of 36 shots in the victory.
As the losses mount for the Gladiators, Pyle continues to teach and lead his team,
“Lots of things are looking up, we moved the puck well, we worked well together and had a lot of shots, but we have got to defend better, and we didn’t. We are not a good high-risk team, on the power play, the one we scored on, the shorty, we ended up a shot on net, we buzzed the tower, missed the net it goes around, and we have guys back, but we have to be smarter.”
It is a busy weekend for Atlanta, Pyle and the team left immediately afterward for a home-and-home series with the South Carolina Stingrays. They play in Charleston tonight at 7:05 and then return to the Infinite Energy Center on Sunday for a 3:05 matinee.