ECHL: Greenville Swamp Rabbits vs. Newfoundland Growlers Weekend Recap | 02/8-10/2024

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada—The Swamp Rabbits headed out to the skies as they would make a long trip to the harbor town of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, to take on the Growlers in a three consecutive game road stand. The Growlers previously finished up a three game homestand against the Indy Fuel, winning just once, as the Fuel put up a good fight against the highly competitive Kelly Cup Playoff reigning team. Greenville, too, finished up a three-game homestand against three different teams, South Carolina, Jacksonville, and Savannah, as they won two of the three games. The Swamp Rabbits have been putting up a solid record so far in the division and eastern conference standings; however, they’ve been hit with challenges against different opponents: defense has been a fluctuation of solid teamwork from that end to poor turnovers and undisciplined mistakes for coverage on net, and penalties taken.

First Game—February 8, 2024, Mary Brown Center

Greenville would start the first period out strong, as they would successfully kill an early penalty at 1:55. However, the Growlers held their feet onto the ice and carried on after the power play, posting two shots on Ingham. Then, minutes later, they would gain another power play at 10:05. But that also wouldn’t go too great for them, as Greenville’s incredibly good PK unit would put in the work and score on the one-attacker deficit. At 10:42, Ethan Somoza would get a feed from Joe Leahy and open up the scoring. Somoza has been an excellent penalty-killing forward as of late, as he’s 11-10-21 after playing 45 games. After the goal by Greenville, the Growlers would make some undisciplined plays and go on the PK twice throughout the remainder of the period. However, they would successfully deny the Swamp Rabbits another goal after four minutes of being down a man. This period was full of pandemonium as a sense of rivalry hit both teams despite them not having a meeting since 2019.

After twenty minutes, the Swamp Rabbits lead by 1-0. Now, for the second slate, the Rabbits’ would go on the PP to start out the period but get pushed over by the Growlers; the Greenville team wouldn’t put a shot on goal for over eight minutes. Meanwhile, the Growlers would tie it up at 5:26 from a goal by Jordan Escott. Several minutes later, the Rabbits would try to break the tie. After a good pressure on Cavillin, Tanner Eberle would pass some sauce to Nikita Pavlychev, who was standing near the crease, to tip one past the Growlers netminder. The 6’7 forward would record another point after playing eight straight games. Both teams had some close calls before the buzzer as they would see official video reviews on near-goal chances, but none of them would be credited. And so, Pavlychev’s goal would muscle up his team to retain that one goal lead after 40 minutes. But that one goal lead wouldn’t hold up for long as the Growlers would tie it up just 56 seconds into the period… And perhaps that killed the Rabbits’ energy, as they wouldn’t be able to break the tie before the buzzer despite them posting fourteen shots on Cavillin. The Growlers would hit some close-call shots but still be unable to muster up a tiebreaker. Therefore, the game went into overtime. The Rabbits’, before playing this game, have been successful in overtime, as they’ve won three of four overtime occurrences. Greenville would start out sudden death overtime with high speed and energy, posting three shots for the first two minutes of play. With some tired Swamp Rabbits’ legs, the Growlers’ Tate Singleton would motor down with high speed down to the Greenville zone and toe drag, release a top-shelf shot, and secure the game-winning overtime goal.

Game Two—February 9, 2024

Game two would look different for both teams. The first period would roll in for Greenville, as they had some fuel in the tank for revenge. They would outshoot the Growlers by seven shots before the ten minute mark. Then the tides shifted to the Growlers, as at 10:45, Brock Caulfield would snipe a goal from the far right-wing end and open up scoring for his team. That momentum would carry on for the Growlers to score again at 15:10 from a goal by Chase Carter. But then the Swamp Rabbits would retaliate seconds later at 15:56, as J.D. Greenway would put his team on the board. Minutes later, however, the Growlers would score again at 19:50 from a tip-in by Todd Skirving on the power play.

Carrying into the second stretch, the Rabbits’ would go on their first powerplay at 6:13 and put in some work, as they posted two shots on Peksa. But, even after the power play with the Growlers at even strength, the Rabbits’ would keep the puck in Newfoundland’s zone and manage to capitalize on it, as Jordan Timmons would tip the puck past the netminder’s pads from a shot by Anthony Beauchamp. After Timmons’s goal, the two teams would take penalties after penalties and rotate between zones with no more scoring to be made. So as a consequence, they would ride into the final slate 3-2 Newfoundland. The final slate would be rather difficult for the Rabbits as good attempts would be denied, and poor defensive coverage would cost them exponentially. At 7:25, the Growlers would open up scoring – expanding their lead by four goals and forcing the visiting team to trail by two goals. However, the Greenville team would try to orchestrate something impactful. Still, it would be flushed away after an undisciplined play drew a PK at 13:23, and thereby give the Growlers another opportunity to score. Although the Swamp Rabbits had to protect their netminder Jacob Ingham for the second time in a row, they would inevitably be unsuccessful in killing the penalty, as Tyler Weiss would score and shelter a three goal lead for his team with less than six minutes left in regulation. The low amount of time left to really render something would get shadowed and stomped by the Growlers as that three goal lead would fuel their momentum to retain it. At 16:09, the Greenville team would pull Ingham for the extra attacker, but they wouldn’t be able to set anything up and only get slapped by the Growlers as they would capitalise from the empty net and expand their lead by four. After that, there was nothing left for the Rabbits’; the Newfoundland Growlers were buzzing after scoring three straight goals in one period and winning in overtime from their previous performance.

Game Three—February 10, 2024

Like game Two, the end result would look similar for the home team of the Newfoundland Growlers. However, it would look significantly different for the Swamp Rabbits. For the first period, in a similar fashion, the Swamp Rabbits would open the scoring, as Josh McKechney would net one on the power play at 3:54. After McKechney’s goal, the Rabbits’ would hold the line for the rest of the period by not letting in a single goal from the Growlers, but the Growlers did the same. After twenty minutes, the score would be 1-0 Greenville. The visiting team of Greenville posted 11 shots on Cavillin, while Newfoundland posted seven on Ingham. Yes, Ingham would see his third straight start after Ryan Bednard and Luke Richardson were out for unreleased reasons. The goaltending for the team in white and orange would play a factor in the final score. Then, after the first period, it would be all Growlers for, well, the rest of the game. For the beginning of the second stretch, the Growlers would hammer down on the Rabbits’, and it would ultimately result in a tying goal at 10:47 from Isaac Johnson. But that wasn’t all that the Growlers had in stock, as they would score again at 17:20 from a goal by former Swamp Rabbit Joe Gatenby; Tyler Weiss would record his second straight primary assist to that goal of the game. After forty minutes, the Growlers would lead by 2-1 heading into the final stretch. The third period wouldn’t look any different for the Growlers, as they would expand their lead by two at 5:05 from another goal by Isaac Johnson while he made some swift moves against Ingham. Johnson’s skilled goal would spark the momentum for the Growlers as they pressed on. The Rabbits would make some attempts in their respective opponent’s zone but would be denied by the flaming hot Growlers; they were fueled up after winning two straight games and retaining a two-goal lead. At 16:35, Andrew Lord would call for Ingham to sit on the bench and usher in the sixth man. The six-man advantage for the Rabbits would give them some motivation to score, as they posted two shots on Cavillin and tried to post more by setting up scoring chances. However, the Rabbits would later get pushed down to their zone and forced to protect the empty net. With desperation leaning on them, they were forced to ice the puck from a dump-in clear and would consequently put Ingham back into the net. This would ultimately cost them, as the Growlers would win a faceoff and sauce the puck to Isaac Johnson for him to snipe one past Ingham and give himself a hat-trick. But, despite trailing by three goals and giving the crowd at Mary Brown Center the energy, the Rabbits’ would try again with the empty net. But only Josh McKechney would manage to post a shot on the goaltender, with his team then getting swamped by the Growlers and capitalizing on the empty net. The former Swamp Rabbit of Joe Gatenby would net his second of the night and seal the deal for his team’s third straight win against his former team. After the third period, the Growlers would take this game 5-1 and win the series with three straight wins.

It was an unfortunate result for the Rabbits, as fatigue from both Jacob Ingham and their struggling d-core would put them in a difficult spot ahead of the playoffs. Greenville will return to home base on February 16th and 17th to face their division rivals, the Stingrays and Gladiators. The Growlers will head to Reading, Canada, to face the Royals in a three-game roadstand, starting on February 17th.

Jake Farmer

I'm a photographer and writer covering the ECHL Greenville Swamp Rabbits based in Greenville, South Carolina.

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