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Atlanta Gladiators Open Season with Win Over Defending Champions


The Atlanta Gladiators began the 2022-2023 season at home on Friday, Oct. 21 with a 4-2 win against the defending East Coast Hockey League champions, the Florida Everblades.

The Gladiators played three home games to kick off their 20th season. On Saturday, Oct. 22 they played the Everblades again and lost 5-3. They also played Sunday, Oct. 23 and lost 4-1 to the newest team in the league, the Savannah Ghost Pirates.

In Friday’s game, the Gladiators looked great. They started the season with three goals in the first period. Gladiator’s goalie Tyler Parks had 30 saves and only two goals against.

Gladiators Head Coach Jeff Pyle said Parks and Guertler are some of the young guys on the team who he thinks will stand out this season and fans should pay attention to them.

The game was very physical from the beginning with a combined 46 penalty minutes, which included five roughing penalties and a fight.

Photo by Cannon Crompton

The Gladiators took advantage of the Everblades penalties by scoring two powerplay goals, both of which came in the first period, one their way to a win against the defending champions.

Pyle said training camp was a bit hectic, but they are getting back in their groove as they prepared for the season.

“It’s been kind of crazy this year because of the team being sold…we didn’t know where we were headed, so it got a bit crazy for a while,” said Pyle. “All of a sudden, we got done right before camp got done. We’re still kind of chasing it a bit with the changeover…but we’re slowly getting back into our normal mode.”

Pyle is confident in the team this season, saying “It’s a good team, it’s a good group, even though we’ve been through a lot of chaos…we have a lot of guys coming back. I think we’re as good or better than we were last year.”

The focus this season is not to give away any games, said Pyle. He said they will play simple and discipled, but also tough on their opponents.

Photo by Cannon Crompton

Pyle mentioned that the veterans on the team will play a big role this season. Forwards Eric Neiley and Cody Sylvester will likely be the captains this season and leaders for the team, said Pyle. Forward Mike Pelech will also be a big leader for the team, said Pyle. Pyle said that the third captain spot will likely be rotated around: “I’d like to get a handful of guy who when they’re leading and playing well to reward them for the effort.”

Saturday and Sunday’s games were a different story than Friday’s win.

In Saturday’s loss to the Everblades, the Gladiators defense looked a step behind, allowing three goals in the first period. The Gladiators fought back with two goals in the second period, but could not gain momentum from those, with the fourth Everblades goal coming only a minute into the third period.

Despite having 30 penalty minutes and allowing two powerplay goals, the Everblades still won Saturday’s matchup.

Saturday’s game was the most attended game of the weekend with 5,632 people at the game.

With a tough loss on Saturday, the Gladiators lost again on Sunday against the Ghost Pirates.

In only their second ever game, the Ghost Pirates looked sharp and had good team chemistry. They bettered the Gladiators in every category, except shots on goal.

Photo by Cannon Crompton

Sunday’s game was less physical than the two games against the Everblades. Instead, the Ghost Pirates relied on good passing and puck possession to help them secure the win.

Despite the two early season losses, the Gladiators still have plenty of time to make up for it with 69 games still to play.

The Gladiators next game is away against the Orlando Solar Bears on Sunday, Oct. 30, then they return home to play the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at Gas South Arena in Duluth, Georgia. Tickets and more information can be found here.

Photo by Cannon Crompton

Feature Image by Cannon Crompton

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Atlanta Gladiators Open Season with Win Over Defending Champions