ECHL: Exclusive Interview With Swamp Rabbits Forwards Ryan Francis and Ben Freeman

Greenville, SC—After winning at home against the Cincinnati Cyclones yesterday (Wednesday, December 6), I got the opportunity to be able to sit down with Swamp Rabbits’ forwards Ben Freeman and Ryan Francis. Francis scored two goals, and Freeman had one assist against the Cyclones.

Interview with Ryan Francis

I asked Francis what it’s like scoring those two goals for Greenville.

“It’s good, I’m getting lots of opportunities. The coaches are letting me show my offensive side”, he said. “The game didn’t start out how we wanted it, but we brought out lots of energy, and it kind of got us going and just got a couple of lucky bounces in.”

In addition, I asked him what his time in the ECHL has been like right now and how it’s different from the AHL.

“Honestly, the way that Andrew Lord runs things down here, it’s so professional. You know the guys are pretty dialed here; there’s not a whole lot of change – it’s a big group – you don’t get this often in the ECHL. So it’s awesome to be able to come down with a big group of guys who really want to win, and if you were in the room, you would see how pumped they were.”

I also asked if his playing style has adapted and changed or had an easy transition from what he’s used to playing for the Reign.

“There’s a little bit of adjustments and a bit of a different role; I was a bottom six guy down there, and now I’m in the top six, so a little bit more freedom on the offensive side, but at the same time, I have to keep those same details in the defensive zone and make the right choices.”

Interview with Ben Freeman

I asked Freeman what it’s like to be in that leadership role for the Rabbits and how it compares to the season prior to wearing the crested A on his jersey.

“It’s an honour to wear an A for this organization, and it’s pretty easy when the team is full of leaders – everyone is chipping in as far as leadership. But I think everyone in the locker room brings some sort of leadership and a lot of passion.”

Additionally, I asked him how this season compares to the previous one in terms of scoring, leadership, and overall dedication to winning.

“I think we’ve taken a step as far as our guys stepping up in the veteran roles, and that might not mean they qualify as games. But just mindset and play on the ice, I think we’re the most deep team as far as scoring, defense, and goaltending – we have three really good goaltenders – so, I think depth is more of our strongest asset right now.”

I asked him how this game against the Cyclones set the tone of change compared to their rough performance from the game against South Carolina.

He answered: “I think it’s just a mindset thing. You know, the physical attributes we have on our team didn’t let us down against South Carolina; it was our mental game – we weren’t fully buying into the defense. You have five unanswered goals – there’s something more to that than just physical mistakes. We buttoned that down this week at practice, everyone committed back to the game the way we’ve been playing; no one felt nervous about it. We just knew that we had to take the right step forward.”

Ahead of their faceoff against the Ghost Pirates, I asked Freeman what’s going to go forward offensively and defensively prior to the matchups against the Ghost Pirates in Savannah and then back at home.

“I think in Savannah they’re a really well-coached team – they’re compact in the d-zone, so we’re gonna’ have to get to the net and score goals; they don’t make it easy on us: they’re a big, strong, physical team. And it will be a big test for us. Every game we play against them is a challenge. I think we’re gonna’ have to keep the same mindset and stay disciplined and buy into the game plan.”

And my final question was regarding the powerplay: what makes it so successful as of lately.

“Well, as of late, it’s been pretty awesome to see. We have a very dynamic first powerplay [unit], and if they don’t score, we have a great second powerplay [unit], which makes it hard on the opposing team. It’s hard to pre scout a second power play, and we have some guys that can score. If your second power play is scoring, that’s something really well – the top powerplay has been amazing, just clicking really well right now. Kyle Mountain, our assistant coach, and Coach Lord have been doing a really good job at pre-scouts and giving us a game plan against the other team – that’s probably been our biggest success; we know how to attack each penalty kill.”

Jake Farmer

I'm a photographer and writer covering the ECHL Greenville Swamp Rabbits based in Greenville, South Carolina. Twitter and Instagram: JakeCF.Hockey

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