The Jacksonville Icemen defeated the Atlanta Gladiators, 5-4, in overtime for two huge points to close the gap in the standings. Justin Woods scored his first-ever professional game-winning goal for the Icemen's second straight win over Atlanta.
As expected, the Gladiators came out aggressive in the first period, quickly getting shots on goal. Atlanta struck first when Luke Sandler managed to find Phil Lane across the Icemen crease for the tap-in goal. That was Lane's eighth goal against Jacksonville this season and his second in the last two games. However, the Icemen would quickly respond, striking less than two minutes later. Cody Fowlie fired a shot from the right boards that deflected off Eli Lichtenwald and went right to the back of the net. Later on in the opening frame, the Gladiators were awarded their first power-play opportunity of the night. However, Tanner Eberle spoiled the man advantage with a short-handed goal to give Jacksonville its first lead of the game.
It was the Gladiators' turn to have a three-goal second period tonight after giving up three in the middle frame on Thursday. Darby Llewellyn would not be outdone by Tanner Eberle and scored a shorthanded goal of his own at 3:53 into the period. Eric Shand struck just 28 seconds later to give Atlanta its second lead of the game. In the final minute, Colin Sullivan fired a shot from the blue line that deflected off Phil Lane's stick for a late goal to put the Gladiators up 4-2 after two periods.
Prior to tonight's game, the Icemen were just 1-22-1-1 this season when trailing after two periods, but that wouldn't stop them from rallying back in the third period. Justin Woods took the puck behind the net and then placed a nice backhand pass to Elgin Pearce to pull the Icemen within a goal. Under a minute later, Brendan Collier found a charging Bobby MacIntyre right in front of the net to tie the game. Neither team would be able to break the deadlock in the final minutes of the third period, so the game would head to overtime.
Seconds into the five-minute extra period, Phil Lane had a breakaway opportunity on Austin Lotz, but Lotz shut him down with an amazing save. On the other end of the ice, Justin Woods made moves past two Atlanta defenders and beat Sean Bonar with a backhand shot for the game-winning goal. Jacksonville is now only seven points behind Atlanta with two games in hand heading into the final few weeks of the 2017-18 season, presented by Community First Credit Union.
The Icemen take on the Norfolk Admirals tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 p.m. in a very important contest. Don't miss out when the Icemen return home for their next game at Veterans Memorial Arena against the South Carolina Stingrays on Friday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. Click here to secure your tickets today!