It was by far the most important game of the 2017-18 season, presented by Community First Credit Union, and the Icemen didn't disappoint in a dominating 4-1 win over the Atlanta Gladiators. The victory pulls the Icemen within eight points of Atlanta with two games in hand for the final playoff position in the South Division. Icemen captain Garet Hunt skated in his 623rd career ECHL game, moving him into seventh place in all-time ECHL games played.
The three days off really helped the Icemen as they started peppering the Atlanta net immediately after the puck dropped. Within the first six minutes of the opening period, the Icemen held a 12-1 shots on goal advantage over the Gladiators. Not too long later, the home team thought they struck first on the power play, but the refs waived off the apparent goal for high sticking. Shortly after the halfway mark in the first, Kyle Bigos sent a powerful slapshot right past Dan Vladar from the point for the 1-0 Icemen lead. The goal marked Bigos' first as a member of the Icemen. Atlanta would respond when Phil Lane picked the puck out of the air next to the crease and quickly beat Austin Lotz for his 29th of the year.
Early in the second period, the Icemen added to their lead when Elgin Pearce took the puck from the blue line to the side of the net and found Matt Ustaski for his second professional goal. Minutes later, Bobby MacIntyre skated into the offensive zone uncontested and fired off a laser past Vladar for the two-goal cushion. Later in the second frame, Jimmy Lodge fed defenseman Justin Woods in the offensive zone and he beat Vladar with a quick shot for his first professional goal. Austin Lotz stopped all nine Atlanta shots in the second and Jacksonville carried a comfortable 4-1 lead into the third.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the third period, and Jacksonville earned its first-ever victory in the Infinite Energy Arena.
The Icemen are right back at it against the Gladiators on Saturday, March 17 in Atlanta for another critical game. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Saturday. 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!