ECHL: Greenville Swamp Rabbits Two-Game Recap | SC/ATL | 02/16-17/2024

Jake Farmer/Inside The Rink

Greenville, SC—The Greenville Swamp Rabbits returned home for a two-game homestand against the South Carolina Stingrays and Atlanta Gladiators, starting on Friday, February 16. Greenville previously came back home from a 3-0 loss in Newfoundland, as the Growlers swiftly dominated the Rabbits’ with high scoring and pandemonium. Before they faced the Stingrays, the Rabbits’ were 32-14-2 with an 81% PK and 22% PP.

The First Period would start out bad for the Rabbits as the Stingrays would open up scoring just a minute in from a goal by Jonny Evans. Evans’s goal would boost his team to push for more goals, but that wasn’t until the Rabbits’ held up the line and pressed ahead by firing five shots on Mitchell Gibson. Then, the Stingrays would make another rush and score at 10:57 by Jonny Evans again. Evans’s second of the night ushered in a row of motivation for his team to completely take over the momentum and slam the Rabbits. Several minutes later, after putting up six shots on Jacob Ingham, the Stingrays would score again from a goal by Kameron Kielly and a direct assists by Ryan Leibold. After 20 minutes, the Stingrays would have a three-o lead heading into the second slate.

And the second slate would look even better for the Stingrays as Jonny Evans would net a hatty just 46 seconds into the Period on an abbreviated power play. As a result, Jacob Ingham would call it a night and head to the bench for Luke Richardson to take his place; Richardson would see his 10th start of the season. At 7:49, the Swamp Rabbits would draw a penalty and give the opposition another scoring chance. Kameron Kiely would capitalize on the PP from an assist by Jackson Leppard. And make that a five-nothing lead for the Stingrays with less than ten minutes of play. After that goal, both teams would go back and forth to trade out shots on the goalies, but nothing would come of it. Until at the last minute, the Rabbits’ would draw another penalty. And then the Stingrays would score again at the last millisecond of play from Austin Magera. The goal would be subjected to video review but still count, according to referee Hunter Mottinger. A near millisecond of time left would favor the Stingrays and effectively give them a six-goal lead. To start off the third skate, the Rabbits’ Anthony Beauchamp would drop the mitts with Stingrays captain Garret Hunt—the crowd loved that one despite having their team trail by six goals. But wait… That six-goal trail would only expand seconds later, as Jack Adams would net his 17th of the season.

Ultimately, that would be it for both teams… The Rabbits would only post five shots on Gibson, while the Rays’ would post four on Richardson. For the majority of that Period, it was nothing but turnovers and hop-arounds between zones, with the Rays being structurally dominant in both zones.

Game Two—February 17, 2024 | Star Wars Night

It was the following day, and the Swamp Rabbits would host the Atlanta Gladiators on Star Wars Night. With a crowd of over 6k, the Swamp Rabbits would get fueled to make big changes to their game. Atlanta stood below in the standings but remained high on the penalty kill and power play and had some very physical players on their game roster.

1st Period

The first Period would start out great for the Gladiators, as Michah Miller would open up scoring for his team from an excellent top-shelf goal on a powered o-zone rush. The goal, however, wouldn’t count at first, as referee Hunter Mottinger originally waved it off, so the play continued into the Gladiators zone before Gustavs Grigals covered it up to freeze the play, and afterwards, the officials would review the goal. After a lengthy review, it was determined that Miller’s top-shelf shot on goal completely crossed the goal and warranted a good goal.

Perhaps the Gladiators owed it to the video review luxury because their one-goal lead would be short-lived, as the Rabbits’ would find a spark of motivation to pressure hard in the Atlanta zone shortly after. At 12:03, the Rabbits would draw a power play and use it to their advantage, with Max Martin, Nikita Pavlychev, Brett Kemp, Josh McKechney, and Brannon McManus manning the top unit. After several seconds into the PP, Max Martin would feed a nifty pass to Brett Kemp for him to shoot and tie it up.

Kemp, who recently returned from his AHL PTO, continues to make a name for himself as a top-scoring forward. A minute after the goal, new defenseman for the Rabbits, Jake Stevens, would drop the mitts on his first game with the Greenville team to fight for his right to party against Nolan Burke.

The crowd at Bon Secours Arena were fired up from that fight and so was Stevens and his team. Over a minute after the fight, the Rabbits would backcheck successfully to thereby gain the puck back and make a rush into Atlanta’s zone. At the blueline, Cole Donhauser would make a pass to Austin Saint to keep it on-side, and just a couple meters in the zone, Saint wasted no time lasering that puck past the glove of Grigals and securing his first pro goal in his career.

Saint, 22, would record his first professional goal on his first game played—that’s something you rarely see. In addition, Cole Donhauser, another rookie, would record his second assist in the ECHL and be the reason Saint scored the tiebreaker. The goal would only prevail the Greenville team even further, as they would have a hold over the Period from the Gladiators. And then, at 18:24, Cole Donhauser would net his first ECHL career goal. Two rookies, one game, two goals; memories that will never be forgotten. After the first Period, the Rabbits would be 3-1 heading into the second slate.

2nd Period

The second 20-minute stretch would look different as neither team would put anything on the board. Atlanta buckled down after letting in two unanswered goals by two rookies, as they would maintain good d-zone and crease/net coverage throughout the entire Period. Greenville posted 14 shots on Grigals, while Atlanta posted 12 on Richardson. Both teams took a handful of penalties, including two fighting majors and four two-minute minors. The Swamp Rabbits would actually get three power play opportunities during the Period, but Atlanta would execute finely with their 77% kill rate.

3rd Period

Atlanta would continue to pressure Greenville throughout this Period while they trailed by two goals. In the first few minutes of play, both teams displayed pandemonium amongst themselves, as you could tell that the Gladiators were desperate for a win. At 11:01, Atlanta would relentlessly pressure the Swamp Rabbits’ in their own zone; for a few minutes, they would forecheck heavily and maintain a constant presence in the offensive zone to try and muster up a goal. And it would work, as Ryan Cranford would one-time the puck at the right-wing end and score.

With minutes left, the Swamp Rabbits would have a message of urgency pinning on them, so they would poke away attempts and manage to dominate the next few minutes in the offensive zone by putting up four shots until 18:10. At that mark, the Gladiators would pull Grigals for the extra attacker and call a timeout to draw a battle plan. However, the Gladiators’ plan wouldn’t go far, as the Rabbits’ defensive unit would successfully deny any attempt other than a single shot. With good pokes and interceptions, the Rabbits had a clear opportunity to score on the empty net. It would take shot after shot and icing after icing until, eventually, Josh McKechney would capitalize on it and seal the deal for his team.

With a final score of 4-2 GVL, the Rabbits and Gladiators would head to Atlanta the following day for some early afternoon rematch hockey. For Greenville, they will return home to host the Rapid City Rush for a three-game homestand starting on February 22. Furthermore, the Rabbits will host Military Appreciation Night on February 24, and before then, they will host the Clemson Ice Tigers and South Carolina Game-Cocks for some college hockey rivalry; that matchup will be at noon Saturday, February 24.

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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