KAMLOOPS — Days after the Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs, defenseman Joe Gatenby was packing his bags for Atlanta to play for the Gladiators of the East Coast Hockey League. But he could've never imagined the pro hockey debut he experienced Thursday night.
Gatenby scored a goal and was a plus-two in Atlanta's 6-2 win over Cincinnati. The goal, which gave the Gladiators their first lead of the game 3:40 into the second period, happened to be the game-winner. Gatenby got the puck at the point and ripped it through traffic to put it in the back of the net.
"It was exciting. The guys were really happy for me, which was nice. The first pro game's an experience you'll remember for a long time. It was just a really cool moment," said Gatenby.
The 20-year-old defenseman noted it;'s been a whirlwind last week from the time his WHL career ended on Saturday in Prince George to exit meetings at the Sandman Centre on Sunday, then the trip down south.
"It was a really fast turnaround after the season to travel down here and close up the exit meetings and everything. Then I got down here for a quick practice and then got thrown in it," he said.
Gatenby was playing with a veteran, 35-year-old defenseman Ryan Lannon, who was a stabilizing force in his first game.
"I got a D partner that was probably 16 years older than me I think," said Gatenby. "I really like playing with him, though. He does a great job. It was a fun experience."
Gatenby and the Gladiators play Cincinnati again on Friday night.
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