Gladiators road success leads to quick start

Starting the season with seven of their first nine games on the road has not slowed down the Atlanta Gladiators. With a sweep of a three-game series in Idaho last week, the Gladiators are 6-2-1 for 13 points, and tied for second place in the South Division, three points behind Florida.

The Gladiators opened the series in Boise with a 5-4 win on Wednesday. Atlanta started quickly, scoring three first-period goals, which included the quickest three goals combined by both teams in ECHL history. After Brock Higgs scored with 24 seconds remaining in the first period to give Atlanta a 3-0 lead, Idaho scored twice before the period ended for three combined goals in 23 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 26 seconds set by Charlotte and Greenville on Dec. 26, 1999. The Steelheads scored twice in the second period to take a 4-3 lead into the final period, but goals from Brad Navin and Derek Nesbitt in the final 20 minutes lifted Atlanta to the win.

Friday saw Atlanta take another one-goal decision with a 5-4 overtime win. Mike Merrifield scored his first goal of the season 4:02 into the extra session to give the Gladiators the win. Merrifield, who also added an assist earlier in the game, was one of four Atlanta players to tally multiple points in the win, led by Zach Yuen who assisted on three of the Gladiators’ five goals.

The Gladiators wrapped up the series with a 3-1 win on Saturday. Max Everson and Higgs staked Atlanta to a 2-0 lead early in the second period, and with a one-goal lead late in regulation, Eric Neiley scored his first pro goal into an empty net to seal the win. Kent Patterson made 30 saves, including 10 in the final period, to record the win in goal for the Gladiators.

Atlanta has been led offensively by veteran forward Nesbitt, who is tied for the ECHL lead with seven goals and is tied for fourth in the league with 11 points while Garry Nunn is tied for the league lead with nine assists.

The Gladiators, whose five road wins are tied for second in the ECHL, return to home ice for three of their four games this week. Atlanta hosts Florida on Tuesday, Adirondack on Friday and Greenville on Sunday while visiting the Swamp Rabbits on Thursday.