DULUTH, Ga. – If the ECHL postseason were to be set by overall conference standings, the postseason fate of the Atlanta Gladiators would be on solid ground, with Atlanta having the seventh-best record among teams in the Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately for the Gladiators, that’s not the case. Rather, the Kelly Cup Playoffs set the field by the standings of each division. With a 32-25-6 record and seven points, Atlanta goes into Friday fifth in the South Division, six points behind Florida, Jacksonville, and Greenville, all of whom are tied for second.
With nine games to go in the season, the climb to return to the postseason is no doubt an uphill one for the Gladiators. Still, it’s a goal within reach for Atlanta, even as it has three more games in hand than Florida and two more than Greenville and Jacksonville.
Here’s how Atlanta can bring postseason hockey to Gas South Arena – provided, of course, the ice is not in use by other scheduled events in Duluth.
Take Advantage Of Maine’s Road Trip
Atlanta hosts Maine on Friday. It’ll be the Mariners’ second of four games in five games on the road, all against South Division teams. With Maine on the road, there is always the possibility of a team being road weary and worn down, and the Gladiators need to take advantage if the Mariners start slow in the matchup between the two teams.
Keep Sylvester Going
Cody Sylvester may not be a lamp-lighter with multiple goals each night, but he plays a big role in ensuring it happens for Atlanta’s scoring lines. His 74 points place him fourth in the ECHL, and he has an assist in his last seven games in a row. If he can keep moving the puck, Atlanta has a good chance of success.
Gain The Upper Hand Against Florida and Jacksonville
It’s pretty simple. Atlanta needs to pick up points. All but two of Atlanta’s games to wrap up the regular season are against teams in front of the Gladiators. Atlanta needs to do more than break even; it needs to win a majority of its games. By all accounts, the Gladiators need to sweep the Icemen to catch them and win a majority of the five remaining games against Florida since it’s six points behind the Everblades.
Good things have happened for the Gladiators when they have been able to get on the board first. How well? Atlanta’s 57 points gained in contests when they score the game’s first goal rates them fourth in the ECHL. In addition, the Gladiators are 22-4-3 when leading after a period and 22-1-3 when leading after two periods. Clearly, going up on the opposition early will be key.
Win On Special Teams
The Gladiators have been rather good on the power play, converting 23 percent of their chances. That’s good for seventh in the league. The penalty kill? That’s another story, as Atlanta is midpack, 18th overall with a percentage of 78.3. It’s a worn-out cliche, but it rings true – big games come down to special teams, and Atlanta needs to be sharp in that regard.
Harmon’s Play In Net
Tyler Harmon has been steady in goal since joining the Gladiators, posting a 3-2 record and 3.45 GAA. Atlanta does not necessarily need Harmon to take over multiple games, though that would not hurt. Moreso, they will need him to put them in a position to win in the game’s final 20 minutes.
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