JACKSONVILLE, FL –Wacey Rabbit and Christophe Lalancette each posted a goal and an assist to propel the Jacksonville Icemen to a 4-3 victory over the Atlanta Gladiators in front of a sold-out crowd of 8,955 at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena Saturday evening. With the win and an Orlando win at South Carolina, the Icemen’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to one. A victory Sunday (3:05 p.m.) by Atlanta at South Carolina would clinch a playoff spot for the Icemen.
The Icemen got on the board first with their 17 shorthanded tally of the season. The Gladiators were on their first power play of the game, and Cameron Critchlow blocked a shot at the blue line that was picked up immediately by Jake Randolph who took off the other direction on a breakaway. Randolph snapped a shot from close range that was initially stopped by Atlanta goaltender Michael Bitzer. However, Cameron Critchlow was there on the follow-up and batted the rebound into the Atlanta net to give Jacksonville a 1-0 lead.
Another Atlanta miscue five minutes into the second period led to the Icemen’s second tally of the night. The Gladiators coughed up the puck in their offensive zone, and the Icemen took off the other direction with a 3-on-1 rush. Cody Fowlie led the rush into the Atlanta zone on the left wing side. Fowlie dropped a pass to Kris Newbury who immediately delivered the puck to Garrett Ladd on the backside of the crease. Ladd completed the tic-tac-toe play as he buried the puck into the open net to extend the Icemen lead to 2-0.
The Gladiators got on the board following a Jacksonville turnover. A mishandled puck behind the net was taken away by Nick Bligh who centered a feed to Brett McKenzie who batted a backhanded shot that clipped inside the shortside post for a goal.
Nearly five minutes later, Atlanta tied the game at two. A shot from the slot by Matt Lane was stopped by goaltender Angus Redmond. However, the rebound was picked up by Jack Stander on the left side of the crease, and Stander lifted a shot high into the net for the tying marker.
The Icemen reclaimed the lead just 41 seconds later when Christophe Lalancette gathered the puck low in the slot. Fighting off a check from a defender, Lalancette delivered a wrist shot that beat the blocker of Bitzer for the go-ahead goal to give Jacksonville a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission.
Jacksonville extended its lead on a third error by the Gladiators at the blue line. The Icemen were in the midst of killing off a penalty and a shot was blocked by the goaltender Redmond which sent the puck bouncing to the point area. Rabbit tipped the puck around the defenseman and took off a on a 2-on-0 rush with Lalancette. From the right circle, Rabbit delivered a pass across the slot to Lalancette who returned a pass back to Rabbit. Rabbit tapped the puck behind Bitzer to cap off the second shorthanded goal of the night for Jacksonville.
The Gladiators refused to go down without a fight and pulled within one on the second tally of the game by Jack Stander halfway through the third period to pull the score to 4-3.
However, the Icemen buckled down and shut down the Atlanta push to secure a 4-3 victory.
Redmond stopped 29 of 32 shots faced and recorded an assist on the game-winning goal, while Bitzer takes the loss allowing four goals on 29 shots faced.
The Icemen will close out the regular season with three road games next week. The first of those game’s is Tuesday at Orlando beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Amway Center.
Fans can now follow the team on the road on the Icemen Broadcast Network for free on Mixlr and on ECHL.TV on a subscription basis.
The 2018-19 Jacksonville Icemen Season is Presented by Community First Credit Union