ECHL: Greenville Finishes Strong l Series Tied 2-2

Greenville – The Greenville Swamp Rabbits and Jacksonville Icemen played Game Four on Friday night in Greenville. The Swamp Rabbits came into the game down one in the series after losing the first game on home ice 7-4. Tyler Inamoto was back in the lineup on Friday after serving his one-game suspension for a high stick in the first minute of game two. Coach Andrew Lord returned to Ryan Bednard to man the goal after a rough outing in game three. Greenville once again saw the familiar face of  Charles Williams in goal for the Icemen. Victor Hadfield was scratched from the lineup for the Icemen after playing in the previous two games of the series. Joe Leahy, Ben Freeman, and Justin Nachbaur scored for Greenville. Matt Iacopelli was the lone scorer for Jacksonville.

The first period started much different than what fans had become accustomed to seeing for the series’ first games. Even though there was a lack of shots in the first four minutes of the game, that doesn’t mean the start lacked excitement. Both teams played strong defense and got in the way of any shooting lane the teams could get, forcing an extra pass. The 5:28 mark in the period was when Greenville was able to get the first real dangerous opportunity of the game, a shot coming off the stick of Ben Freeman, but the glove of Charles Williams was prepared and made the save look easy. A minute later, a stoppage in the game would occur when one of the linesmen was involved in a check and would be thrown into the Swamp Rabbit bench. Fortunately, the linesmen would return about four minutes later. Minutes after the stop in play, Greenville would get another dangerous opportunity on a breakaway; Josh McKechney would grab the puck in the neutral zone and skate forward into the Icemen zone. Williams, once again, was there to make a big save. On the breakaway, center Brendan Harris would be called for hooking and giving the Swamp Rabbits the first powerplay of the game. The kill unit of the Icemen picked right off where they were when playing at even strength. Blocking shots, getting in the way of the shooting lanes, and clearing the puck with ease. Back at full strength, the Icemen would take advantage of a poor transition back to defense by the Swamp Rabbits when Tim Theocharidis would make a pass through the neutral zone to Matt Iacopelli, who would put the puck in the back of the net—putting the Icemen up 1-0 with just over six minutes to play in the opening period. The period would end with the Swamp Rabbits up in shots but the Icemen up where it matters most, leading 1-0. 

The second period would start with the Icemen on their first powerplay of the night when Evan Wardley was called for slashing at the 20:00 minute mark of the first period. It was now Greenvilles turn to show off their penalty kill unit. Much like in Game Two, when the unit was perfect, the kill unit limited Jacksonville’s opportunities, making life much easier for Bednard. Once the penalty was over, neither team produced dangerous opportunities. With the puck getting dumped into each other’s zones. While there were shots attempted, the defenses were blocking shots and frustrating the offenses of each team. It wasn’t until the 13:51 mark that Nikita Pavlychev started a two-on-one opportunity with Alex Ierullo trailing closely behind. Pavlychev would bring the puck to the stick side of Williams, passing to the glove side to Ierullo. Out of nowhere, Joe Leahy was crashing down toward the goal. Ierullo would see Leahy making the extra pass. Leahy scoring the first goal for the Swamp Rabbits, and tying up the game at one. 

The period would end with the score tied 1-1 going into the third period. 

The third period began with the teams playing four vs. four when Anthony Beauchamp and Travis Howe participated in extracurricular activities at the end of the second period. It wouldn’t take long in the period for the Swamp Rabbits to take the lead. Carter Souch would take a low shot rebounding off Williams towards his glove side. Ben Freeman would happen to be in the right place at the right time, putting the puck in the back of the net. While meeting with the media, Freeman would recall the goal, “Needed it, we wanted to capitalize on chances, fortunate it went in.” One minute later, Ethan Somoza would do the same shot Souch took on the opposite side. Once again, the puck bounced off the pads of Williams right to Justin Nachbaur, who would capitalize on the opportunity—putting the Swamp Rabbits up 3-1 early in the third period. At 10:55 in the period, Ethan Cap would head to the penalty box, the kill unit for the Swamp Rabbits once again not giving the Icemen any easy chances with a man advantage until the last second when Ara Nazarian found himself one on one with Bednard, going to the glove side. Bednard would make an incredible save stopping a huge opportunity for the Icemen to potentially cut the lead to one goal. The Swamp Rabbits would go on to control the rest of the game and not allow the Icemen to get back into the game. Swamp Rabbits would take the game with a final score of 3-1 and tie the series to two games apiece. 

The Swamp Rabbits will host the Icemen for one more game on Saturday to determine who goes to Jacksonville with the series lead. When asked about tonight’s crowd, Ben Freeman said, “The crowd was great, and we need it tomorrow.”

Nate Karsner

Nate covers the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for Inside the Rink. For articles, updates and more. Follow on Twitter/X @njkarsner.

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