GREENVILLE, S.C. — The Greenville Swamp Rabbits ran into a red-hot team in the Atlanta Gladiators, and more pressing, a red-hot goaltender. Sean Bonar made 32 saves on 33 shots fired towards him, and 52 saves on 53 shots for the weekend, completing a weekend sweep for his Gladiators over the Swamp Rabbits. The Glads narrowly defeated Greenville 2-1 on Saturday night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
Atlanta utilized scoring first in the game to their advantage, and held the Swamp Rabbits at bay once their lead doubled in the second period. They kept the Swamp Rabbits winless when leading after two periods of play this season with disciplined defensive play down the stretch.
Joseph Widmar started the scoring for Atlanta after a defensive zone turnover late in the first period. Nick Bligh jumped on the turnover and fed the puck across the crease, and Widmar deposited the puck into a wide open four-by-six to give Atlanta the decisive first tally.
Their lead doubled after the Glads narrowly missed on an opportunity moments earlier. Nolan LaPorte hit the crossbar, and the Glads grabbed the loose puck and worked it back to the point. Jake Flegel uncorked a wrist shot through traffic that evaded the blocker of Garrett Bartus and doubled the Atlanta lead, similar to the night prior.
However, unlike the night prior, the Swamp Rabbits had an answer later in the second. Johno May's shot attempt from the left circle after hard work in the offensive zone was rewarded. Bonar lunged out to try and corral the bouncing puck, but before that could happen, Brendan Harms was there to do just that, and slammed the puck into the goal for his ninth tally of the season.
Greenville outshot Atlanta 13-8 in the third period and kept most of the possession in the offensive zone. Bonar made one last goal-line stand on Austen Brassard on a nifty feed from captain Michael Pelech, and sealed away the win with that last grade-A save.
The ECHL All-Star break begins tomorrow, and forward Johno May is slated to participate in Monday's All-Star Game, as well as the hardest shot competition. The Swamp Rabbits will be back in action on Friday, January 25 against the Norfolk Admirals. Tickets are available at SwampRabbits.com.