ECHL Game Recap: Jacksonville Icemen vs. Greenville Swamp Rabbits | 01/13/2024

Photo Credit: Andrew Fielder for Inside The Rink

The Jacksonville Lizard Kings were back on the ice Saturday evening for a showdown with the South division-leading Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Saturday was the second and final night of the season for the Lizard Kings annual revival, the Icemen once again donning the sleek black and green retro look for hockey night in Jacksonville.

The weekend showcase was the second in a run of three consecutive games for the team. On Friday, the Lizard Kings picked up their first win on home turf in the new year and finally posted a victory over the South Carolina Stingrays this season.

The contest with the Greenville squad came with big implications for the Icemen. Jacksonville has struggled to win games against the Swamp Rabbits this season, going 0-3 in the meetings prior, with two of those losses happening on home ice. Greenville, not only the team at the top of the division but also the team at the top of the conference, was without star goaltender Ryan Bednard for Saturday’s game. The game was also the sixth game in eight nights for the Swamp Rabbits. 

Sensing an opportunity to take advantage of a tired and short-staffed Greenville team, the Lizard Kings looked to put on a show for the 11,035 folks in attendance Saturday evening.

Scoring Recap:

P1– It was a gritty first period of hockey in Saturday’s contest, with the Swamp Rabbits getting more luck with the puck offensively. Greenville largely controlled the tempo of the game, outmatching the Lizard Kings in puck possession. The effort paid off in the form of a powerplay goal from Swamp Rabbit defenseman Nikita Pavlychev 8:45 into the period to give Greenville the one-goal lead. Shot totals reflected the offensive mismatch, with Greenville posting ten shots to Jacksonville’s seven.

P2– Just over one minute into the second period of play, the Lizard Kings got on the scoreboard. Jacksonville began the middle frame on the man advantage after a late too many men call against Greenville at the end of the first period. Defenseman Jacob Panetta netted his fourth goal of the season on the powerplay opportunity, tying things up at one a side. 

With a renewed effort, the Lizard Kings found ways to make space and get more traffic to the net. Narrowing the shot gap, Jacksonville ended the period with 11 shots to Greenville’s 12. The added pressure made it challenging for the Swamp Rabbits to control the game’s pace, but it still wouldn’t be enough to stop the second shot of the night getting past Lizard Kings goalie Michael Houser. Swamp Rabbits forward Carter Souch scored the 2-1 goal and subsequent game-winner with 9:10 remaining in the second period of play.

Hard knock life:

Saturday’s match with the fourth-place team in the league may not have ended the way the Jacksonville Icemen, err, Jacksonville Lizard Kings, wanted, but it’s not an effort that can be dismissed. Like in Friday’s game against the other team from the Palmetto State, things didn’t exactly get going the way they would have liked them to.

That lackluster start wasn’t a deterrent, though. Instead, as Jacksonville has done for most of the season, the team responded well. Resiliently, the team doubled down on their defensive efforts and found ways to get pucks on net. By the third period, the team was largely in control of the game’s pace. Much like in the game the night prior, the team’s competitive level increased every period. By end of the game, the Lizard Kings had outshot the Swamp Rabbits 33-29, with 15 of those scoring chances coming in the last 20 minutes.

What ends up being the ultimate momentum killer for Jacksonville are the scoring opportunities the team leaves on the table. In the third period, Swamp Rabbits blueliner Nikita Pavlychev took a four-minute high-sticking double minor call. The chance gave the Lizard Kings four minutes to work with the extra skater, still seven minutes and change left to play. Completely in control of the game’s tempo by that point, the Lizard Kings had a chance to swing the pendulum back in their favor and topple the top team of the South for the first time all season.

The powerplay has been an area of the Icemen’s game that’s been inconsistent. Furthermore, the lack of a finishing touch has been the bane of the team’s efforts. The Icemen have got to be less hesitant about pulling the trigger in those potentially game changing moments. 

Saturday’s game was nothing to be upset about. Greenville is 14-4 when scoring first, and Jacksonville kept things competitive enough that, had they pushed a gassed Swamp Rabbits team to OT, the Lizard Kings might have gone 2-0 at home this weekend. 

After briefly visiting the third-place spot in the division standings, the Icemen are now tied for fourth in the South with the Florida Everblades. The team will visit South Carolina tomorrow for a Sunday afternoon game against the Stingrays before the four-day all-star break.

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is a freelance hockey reporter covering the ECHL's Jacksonville Icemen for Inside The Rink and the Vancouver Canucks for The Canuck Way. His work has been featured on Hockey of Tomorrow and The Daily Faceoff, and can be found on Twitter/X @FromTheDrewLine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rapid City Rush Goaltender Announces His Retirement

Rapid City Rush goaltender Jason Pawloski announced via Instagram that he is retiring from hockey. Junior Career Jason Pawloski started his junior career in the 2012-13 season when he signed with the Austin Bruins in the NAHL. He played in 24 games, with a save percentage of .919 and a goals against average of 2.52. […]

Read More

ECHL: Swamp Rabbits’ Forward Ethan Somoza To Play Overseas

Greenville, S.C. — As the ECHL 2024 season is less than 100 days away, players are making moves as to where they will play next season. Lately, the league has seen an influx of players signing overseas for teams in Europe. Today, July 19, it was announced that Ethan Somoza of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits […]

Read More

ECHL: Allen Americans Re-Sign Goaltender

The Allen Americans have re-signed goaltender Marco Costantini for the 2024-25 season. Costantini began the 2023-24 season in the SPHL with the Knoxville Ice Bears before making a quick stop with the Idaho Steelheads, where he made three saves in his first career ECHL, stopping three shots against the Allen Americans before heading back to […]

Read More