ECHL South Division Series Preview: (1) Greenville Swamp Rabbits vs (4) Orlando Solar Bears

Rebecca DaSilva/InsideTheRink

The Kelly Cup Playoffs are finally here for two of the South Division teams as the top-seeded Greenville Swamp Rabbits take on the fourth-seeded Orlando Solar Bears. The Solar Bears come into the first round of the playoffs after clinching a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season. Greenville is in the playoffs for the fourth season in a row, however this season, they won the South Division marking the first time since 2010-2011 when they have clinched the division. The Solar Bears are making their first postseason appearance since 2019. Matt Carkner is in his second season as Orlando’s head coach, having a record of 68-57-16 in two seasons. On the other side, Greenville’s head coach, Andrew Lord, is 155-94-39 in the regular season and 8-12 in the playoffs, this year he led Greenville to a 44-23-5 record, as well as earning the Coach of the Year award for the ECHL.

SCHEDULE: Home teams in BOLD, *= If Necessary

  • Game 1: Sunday, April 21, 2024; Orlando at GREENVILLE; 3:05 pm EDT
  • Game 2: Monday, April 22, 2024; Orlando at GREENVILLE; 7:05 pm EDT
  • Game 3: Friday, April 26, 2024; Greenville at ORLANDO; 7pm EDT
  • Game 4: Saturday, April 27, 2024; Greenville at ORLANDO; 9pm EDT
  • Game 5: Sunday, April 28, 2024; Greenville at ORLANDO; 7pm EDT*
  • Game 6: Tuesday, April 30, 2024; Orlando at GREENVILLE; 7:05pm EDT*
  • Game 7: Wednesday, May 1, 2024; Orlando at GREENVILLE; 7:05pm EDT*

For those that are curious on why game four will start at 9pm instead of 7pm, it is due to the Solar Bears sharing the arena with the NBA’s Orlando Magic, and the Magic have a home playoff game that same day at 1pm. That is the reason for the late start.

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

Orlando Solar Bears: It was an up-and-down season for the Orlando Solar Bears, who, as mentioned above, didn’t clinch the playoffs until the very last game. Goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick was a brick wall down the stretch as he started 16 of Orlando’s final games. The Bears got a really nice run at the end of the season, going 9-2-2 in the final 13 games, which included a three-game sweep over Greenville at the Kia Center on April 4-6, 2024. Orlando clinched the playoffs on April 13h as Alex Frye scored the game-winner with 27.3 seconds left in regulation to send the Bears to the playoffs

The Solar Bears will continue to ride the hot hand as Evan Fitzpatrick will likely start every game, barring injury. The Solar Bears went 5-1-1 against the Swamp Rabbits throughout the regular season, as Aaron Luchuk scored seven goals in the seven games against Greenville. Orlando has a good chance of beating the Swamp Rabbits as they have shown their skill off, however, for that to happen, Fitzpatrick will have to stay hot, as well as getting contributions from everyone on the team.

Greenville Swamp Rabbits: The Swamp Rabbits had a pretty consistent year as they went 44-23-5 this year; Carter Souch was one of the biggest playmakers not only on the team but also in the league, as he got 26 goals and 34 assists which was good for 60 points. Goaltender Jacob Ingham played pretty well throughout the season as he went 17-10-3 this year in 34 games played, earning a 2.57 goals-against-average and a .916 save percentage, as well as one shutout.

The Swamp Rabbits went 2-5 against Orlando this year, getting a few contributions in the seven games. Anthony Beauchamp, Brannon McManus, and Souch all shared the scoring lead with one goal and two assists. If Greenville wants to win, they will have to be more physical on the puck and get contributions from all around the team.

WHO TO WATCH FOR:

Both teams have very capable squads, however with these types of squads, anyone can be a breakout hero. For Greenville, they need Tanner Eberle to become a postseason hero, as he scored 17 goals, adding 27 assists for 44 points in 64 games played. Before coming to Greenville last season, Eberle played some time in the EIHL with the Sheffield Steelers, while his best season came in 2019-2020, as he racked up 44 points in just 49 games played. Another player that we might have to watch for is Brett Kemp, as he was one of the players that couldn’t get much in that last series against Orlando, despite all the pressure he brought.

For the Orlando Solar Bears, with the way the Bears played down the stretch, you could say anyone on this squad is dangerous, as well as all having the potential of going on a rampage. Despite that, I think Tyler Bird or Alex Frye will be the breakout heroes for Orlando in these playoffs, as both those players had a great end to the regular season.

Despite the seeding, these two teams were only seven points apart, as Greenville finished with 93 and Orlando finished with 86. This shows how competitive the South Division was and the potential for a great best-of-seven series. I think this series will come down to who can get the most energy, whether it’s due to home-ice-advantage or momentum on goal scoring. Regardless of who wins this series, I predict it will finish in six games.

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Elijah Webb

I am Elijah. Hockey is my biggest passion, however I have love for all sports. I got into hockey from day one of my life. I currently am the writer for the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, and one day, I hope to become a broadcaster

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