DULUTH, GA – The Atlanta Gladiators overcame a two-goal deficit and got an overtime winner from Don Olivieri in his first game as a Gladiator for the 4-3 pre-Thanksgiving victory against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for Atlanta as they continue to mesh a retooled roster.
The Gladiators opened the game with energy and a flurry of shots against Greenville goalie Garrett Bartus, they held a 23-6 advantage in shots on goal in the first period alone. However, the Swamp Rabbits took the lead in the initial frame courtesy of a goal by their captain, Michael Pelech, who scored off a rebound. They added to their lead in the second when Johno May converted a wraparound goal as the momentum slowly evaporated from the Gladiator bench.
Atlanta Head Coach Jeff Pyle said,“You get frustrated sometimes and you start trying to do more, then we made a few turnovers and we are down 2-0.”
The Gladiators were at a crossroads in the game, and they quickly responded less than a minute later when Matt Lane finally got the puck past Bartus on a breakaway goal assisted by Jake Flegel. Lane had just returned to the team after an eight-game stint with the Milwaukee Admirals in the AHL, he arrived at the arena just a few hours before game time.
Pyle said of Lane, “He is a true professional, that’s what I like about him, he plays hard every shift, he is really smart, he is great offensively and defensively, you can see the poise and confidence and that goes through the lineup when he is in there.”
With their confidence building, the Gladiators scored the tying goal shortly before the end of the second period on a Garret Ross goal that bounced off the back wall behind the net and he promptly placed it past Bartus.
In the critical final minutes of the contest, Swamp Rabbit defender Chad Duchesne committed two costly penalties and the Gladiators converted on both power play opportunities. They took their first lead of the night on a Zach Malatesta goal from the point. However, with seconds clicking down, the Swamp Rabbits pulled their goalie and Austen Brassard scored the tying goal with just 40 seconds remaining.
Pyle said,“We came back hard and tied it late, when we scored the third one, I would have liked to have seen us carry it through and get the win in regulation”
However, Duchesne committed his second penalty, which included a game misconduct when he shattered his stick against the penalty box. That set up the game-winner on the 4-on-3 goal in overtime by Olivieri to send the crowd home victorious to start Thanksgiving preparations. Olivieri, who had been called up from Quad City of the SPHL, said of the game-winning goal:
“I kind of second guessed myself at first, but I just decided the throw it to the net and see what happens.”
Pyle shared afterward that he is pleased with how the roster is coming together.
“You need everyone chipping in, I thought (Gladiator goalie) Miroslav Svoboda played well too, he made the saves he needed to make, and we should have helped him defensively a little bit more but we are learning and with all the new guys coming and couple of guys back, we will have a good day tomorrow and a nice little practice, and then have our Thanksgiving.”
After a comeback win like Wednesday night, the turkey always tastes better. The Gladiators return to action on Friday night at home against the South Carolina Stingrays.