ECHL: Rapid City Rush vs. Greenville Swamp Rabbits | Three-Game Series | 02/22-24-25/2024

Photo: Jake Farmer | Inside The Rink

Game One—February 22, 2024

The Swamp Rabbits would start the first period out strong by opening up scoring at 5:38 from a goal by Anthony Beauchamp. Rapid City would outshoot the Rabbits by 5-2 shots on goal for the next five minutes, with Jacob Ingham netting for the Rabbits and Matt Radomsky in for the Rush. Around 10:46, J.D. Greenway, near the corner, would sauce the puck for Austin Saint to wrist a laser and expand his team’s lead to 2-0. Greenville would have a strong hold over the Rush, as they would stop the next few attempts upon Saints goal. Then, at 16:53, a shot from Joe Leahy would get tipped in by Ben Freeman, who was standing near the crease. And that would be it for scoring after twenty minutes.

2nd Period

The first several minutes of play would be slow for both teams. They would trade off to set something up and/or get poked away from the opposing team’s defense. But at 7:05, the Rabbits would motor down into Rapid City’s zone; at the right-wing end with some speed, Jake Stevens would hammer one in past Radomsky and give his team a four-nothing lead. The Rabbits would maintain the same level of execution and offensive zone pressure, as several minutes later, Brannon McManus would bury one to make it 5-0. The 5-nothing goal score would stomp the Rush, but there were still 28.5 minutes left for them to produce anything. At 15:52, the Rush would go on the power play, but only be able to put up one shot on Ingham as the Rabbits’ PK unit was on point. So, after 40 minutes, the Swamp Rabbits led the visiting team 5-0. Shots on goal for this period: the Rush outshot the Rabbits by 9-6.

3rd Period

The Rush would shoot 14-9 over the Rabbits during this period, as determination soaked through the team which trailed by five goals with twenty minutes to make due. Greenville was high and sparked defensively, as it seemed they didn’t want to take any chances despite leading the score. However, that’s not to say the visiting team in white and red were going to end the night without a goal. Near the final minute mark, the Rush would go on the PP at 17:26, as they would end up scoring at 19:05 with the help of Blake Bennett. Upon scoring the goal, the Rush would continue to pressure for their second goal, but Ingham had enough and denied it as his shutout dream faded. And so, after 60 minutes, the Swamp Rabbits would close out their first of three games against the Rush with a dub. Both teams would return to Bon Secours Wellness Arena a day after this one on Saturday, February 24.

Game Two—February 24, 2024

It was game two, and the fans at The Well were ready for hockey and military appreciation, as the Rabbits would host Military Appreciation Night after hosting the south college hockey Palmetto Cup. Before the puck drop at 7:05 pm, the University of South Carolina Game Cocks and Clemson Ice Tigers went head to head for state rivalry action. Thanks to the turnout of several thousand fans for the Palmetto Cup, the Swamp Rabbits would have lots of fans to say thanks to actively serving and past serving United States armed forces servicemen. With a crowd of 8455, the Swamp Rabbits would see their biggest crowd of this season. The first period would start out swell for the Rabbits, as Carter Souch would open up scoring at 4:25 from an apple by Brannon McManus. The Rabbits would have a strong hold over the Rush for the next two minutes, but after that point, the Rush would get a boost of momentum and retain the pressure for the next five minutes by posting five shots on Ingham. And then, at 13:00, both the Rush and Rabbits would bounce between zones to apply some pressure to put goals on the board. By the 16:00 mark, the Rush would deny the Rabbits from posting a shot on their respective goalie, Jason Pawloski, while the Rush would put up five shots on Ingham by the buzzer.

2nd Period

For the second slate, the Rabbits’ would hold a one goal lead over the Rush for several minutes, retaining high offensive pressure. Before 8:52, the Swamp Rabbits would post six shots on Pawloski. They made some securing forechecks in the Rushs’ zone to maintain offensive momentum; however, the Rush were peeled on the d-zone coverage, protecting their goaltender from a two goal lead for their opponent. At 8:52, the Rush made a bolting rush to the Greenville zone. Brett Gravelle would feed a pass for Alex Aleardi to wrist one through the pads of Jacob Ingham and tie it up by one. But at 9:25, Austin Saint would pass to Max Coyle, and then Coyle would feed a saucy pass to Cole Donhauser. At the right-wing end, Donhauser would shoot on a very vulnerable Pawloski and break the tie in a quick response. But that wasn’t it, the Rabbits: they would continue to pressure in the Rushs’ with more in the tank to expand their lead. At 10:21, Joe Leahy would fire the puck at Pawloski to create a rebound for Ben Freeman to tip it past the goal line and give Greenville some insurance. The insurance was needed, as Rapid City would score at 14:18 from a goal by Mason McCarty. And after 40 minutes,

3rd Period

Starting off with the final frame of action, the Rabbits’ would go on the penalty kill as Brett Kemp was called for Slashing at 2:27. The PK was surreal for the Rabbits, as they would successfully kill it off and only allow one shot on goal. The Rush had difficulty setting things up for the majority of the man advantage while the Swamp Rabbits were standing tall on the backcheck. After the penalty was killed, there would be a several-minute pause of action – well, for shots on goal. Until 7:05, neither team would post a shot on goal – just high and wide shots and successful defensive pressure from both teams. Then at 7:10, the Rabbits’ would go on the power play. The Greenville PP squad would set up scoring chances a couple of times, but nothing would go in, as the Rush would make some crucial clears. However, with seconds left on the man advantage, Tanner Eberle would pass to Carter Souch at center to wrist one through Pawloski and score his second of the night. Now, hold on: that’s not all the Swamp Rabbits had saved up. At 9:21, Cole Donhauser would create a scramble, close-to-crease situation with Beauchamp and Saint poking the pads of Pawloski to try and tuck the loose puck in past the goal line. After a few pokes by Austin Saint, the loose puck would eventually go in, as referee Sam Heidemann would point a good goal, with the goal horn sounding shortly after. The crowd was roaring from Souch’s PP goal, but Saint’s tuck-puck goal rendered the crowd of 8400 to be even louder. After the goal, the Rabbits would control the momentum and energy to run over the Rush, and because of that, it would pay off once more. At 14:50, Anthony Beauchamp would poke away and intercept the puck at the Rushs’ blue line and motor down on a breakaway. With the crowd on their feet at that very moment, Beauchamp would snap one past Pawloski and secure a four goal lead. A poor neutral zone control would greatly punish the Rush. Greenville has a strong roster of bigger built players, some of whom are over 6’5 in height, and that played a factor in that evening’s outcome. After Beauchamp’s goal, the Rabbits had energy, drive, and motivation to keep their four goal lead and inevitably secure a back-to-back win against the Rush in the three game homestand series. However, there was still one more game to play before concluding this series.

Game Three—February 25, 2024

1st Period

The first period would look good for the Swamp Rabbits, as they would outshoot the Rush 16-4. At 10:52, the Rabbits would go on the PP and test their strength. However, the Rush had a solid execution on the PK by only allowing two shots on goal. Rapid City seemed dominant with their defensive capabilities, as a good defense would make a good offense by tearing through the PK. Perhaps that would pay off, as the Swamp Rabbits would have more in the tank to shoot more on Radomsky; they would knock in five shots on the Rushs’ netminder before drawing another PP at 17:00. However, the power play would be short-lived, as Tanner Eberle would get called for Slashing and usher in four-on-four hockey forty seconds in. Though, nothing would come from either the abbreviated power play for the Rush and four-on-four disadvantage, as both teams would shoot the biscuit high and wide. With great offensive pressure in the o-zone, the Swamp Rabbits would outshoot the Rush 16-4; however, outshooting or not, the game would be tied by 0 after twenty minutes. A change in tone was being emitted for this game.

Photo: Jake Farmer | Inside The Rink

2nd Period

A change in the tides: the second slate would resonate a different look for both teams. Just 39 seconds in, the Rabbits would draw a penalty but successfully kill it off. But, the Rush were determined to change the tone of the series as they lost two games in a row. At 4:41, a Swamp Rabbit in their own zone – around the trapezoid – would give up the puck to Jimmy Soper for him to sauce it for Alex Aleardi to rip it top shelf past Bednard from the left wing end. But that wasn’t it for the Rush, as minutes later, Brett Gravelle would net one and secure two goal insurance for his team. The goal would fuel the Rush to flame Greenville from making any sudden moves. Near the 10:33 mark, a turnover would give the Rush a two-on-one rush into the Greenville zone. Yamamoto, motoring down on the left-wing end, would quickly feed the puck to Boyko for him to tip one past Bednard in a stellar and fast fashion. Perhaps the three unanswered goals mishap would trigger the Rabbits to play more offensively, as it would be their turn to render something. With the effort, the Swamp Rabbits would eventually score at 18:07 from a goal by McManus. But after 40 minutes, the Rush would lead by 3-1.

3rd Period

The final frame would start out great for the Rush, as Keanu Yamamoto would net the fourth goal just 1:15 into the period. And just like that, Ryan Bednard’s night would be over as Jacob Ingham would take over. The goaltending change was, quite frankly, a message to the team, as the Rabbits shifted the tide of the period into their game. Throughout the remainder of the period, Greenville would post 19 shots on Radomsky, while the Rush posted just six. With desperation and determination on their shoulders, the offensive momentum would be rewarded for the Greenville team, as at 6:27, Ethan Somoza would score and relieve his team with just a two goal trail. However, after that goal, the Rush seemed to have buckled down on the Rabbits’ ambitions. But that did not halt the Swamp Rabbits from trying. At 16:15, during an already occurring offensive pressure in the Rushs’ zone, Andrew Lord would call for Jacob Ingham for the extra attacker, and just four seconds later, with an extra man, they would score. Josh McKechney would net a much-needed goal for his team as they would thus trail by a single goal to tie it up. So at 18:17, they would make another run with the empty net, but only this time be channeled out. Jimmy Soper would capitalize and score on the empty net, effectively sealing the deal for his team. Despite the loss, the Swamp Rabbits won two out of three of the series. Takeaways from the final game: Greenville must improve on turnovers; if they occur, the team must find a way to buffer it out and not get scored on. Offensively, the Swamp Rabbits are in a good spot with depth and high-scoring forwards. The addition of Austin Saint, Cole Donhauser, and Ryan Francis has definitely benefited the team significantly. Anthony Beauchamp, paired with Saint and Donhauser, has been a line that has played a serious factor in generating offensive momentum.

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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