ECHL: Swamp Rabbits Win Season Opener

Ryan Bednard and Brett Kemp l Photos by: Jake Farmer (InsideTheRink)

Greenville, SC – The Greenville Swamp Rabbits opened up the new year hosting the Norfolk Admirals. In the only matchup, these two teams will play against each other in the regular season. The Admirals opened up their season on Friday night in Savannah, GA, taking on the Ghost Pirates. Norfolk spent most of that game down until the Admirals put in two goals in the final 40 seconds of regulation, sending the game to overtime. The Admirals would lose the game in a shootout 3-2. For the Swamp Rabbits, fans saw the team play in a lone preseason game a week prior against the Atlanta Gladiators. After a slow start, the Swamp Rabbits took the game 6-3. Players Jake Smith, Brett Kemp, and Tanner Eberle would look to continue the offensive firepower they displayed in the preseason game going into the regular season.  

1st Period

Ryan Bednard would start in goal for Greenville. An experienced goalie, having the chance to become the all-time Greenville shutout leader if he could have a clean sheet. For the Norfolk Admirals, Yaniv Perets would make his professional debut. To the crowd’s delight, Ben Freeman would win the first faceoff of the year. It wouldn’t take long for the Swamp Rabbits to display the offensive firepower that Coach Lord and the players have mentioned they appear to have. At 2:03, Jake Smith would drive the puck into the offensive zone, skating with Brett Kemp on a two-on-one. Smith would pass across the crease to Kemp, who would swing and miss, missing the first major chance Greenville would have in the first period. At the 5:48 mark, Greenville would go on the powerplay when Norfolk player Andrew McLean was called for hooking. Josh McKechney would give Greenville the lead early, scoring with the man advantage. Brett Kemp and Brannon McManus would get credit for the assists. 

It wouldn’t take long for Norfolk to have their first opportunity playing a man-up when Greenville newcomer Nick Prkusic would head to the penalty box. Greenville would show an improved penalty kill unit. Only allowing two opportunities to the Norfolk offense. Brett Kemp would get his goal-scoring started early on in the new year when Carter Souch would make a nice pass to a charging Kemp. Kemp stopped right in front of Perets before choosing his shot location, hitting the back of the net and putting the Swamp Rabbits up 2-0. Not long after the Kemp goal, multiple players got into a shoving match in front of the Greenville goal. Norfolk would have their second opportunity on the powerplay, this time making the most of their chance, scoring six seconds into the powerplay. Blake Murray getting the credit for the goal, assisted by Keaton Jameson. 

With just over a minute to play, top Greenville defenseman Tyler Inamoto would be called for an interference penalty. The penalty kill unit of Greenville would hold strong for the final seconds of the period. But Norfolk would go into the second period with 54 seconds left playing a man up. 

2nd Period

The Admirals would have a final 54 seconds to play up a man and try and tie up the game. The Swamp Rabbits penalty kill would stay perfect, however, not allowing any real opportunities for Norfolk. But, when both teams went back to full strength. Domenick Fensore decided now was the time to tie the game. Fensore went diving near the goal crease and put the puck past the blocker of Bednard. The goal looked like something straight out of NHL 24. Griffin Mendel would be called for roughing at the 4:40 mark after seeing Tanner Eberle lay out one of Mendel’s teammates. The advantage for the Swamp Rabbits would come and go without seeing the go-ahead goal. 

The fans of Greenville enjoy hard-hitting/physical players like Tanner Eberle and Tyler Inamoto. Nick Prkusic wanted to show the fans he also was a hard-hitting player who wasn’t afraid to lay his body out on the line for the team. That tenacity, however, led to a tripping call at the 7:16 mark. The penalty kill unit for Greenville had been perfect up to this point and, once again, would stay perfect. The Swamp Rabbit powerplay would have another opportunity in the second period, when Norfolk would be called for a bench minor, having too many men on the ice. The Swamp Rabbits continuously tried to get the puck over to Jake Smith, taking multiple one-timer shots. 

The end of the second period would end with both teams having two goals on the scoreboard. 

3rd Period

The third period would begin with the Swamp Rabbits putting consistent pressure on the Admirals defense. At the 2:41 mark, that pressure would pay off when Stepan Timofeyev would be called for tripping. Another opportunity for Greenville would leave the score unchanged as the Norfolk penalty kill unit would shut down the offensive chances of Greenville. Just under four minutes later, Greenville would once again have a man advantage. But things would swing heavily in favor of Greenville a minute into the powerplay. The Admirals would be called for another bench minor. Greenville would get 54 seconds of playing 5 on 3. With one second left on the two-man advantage, Kemp would send a bullet over to Jake Smith, sitting on the right side of Perets, finally hitting a one-timer over the blocker of the Norfolk netminder. The goal eventually turned into the game-winner. 

With just under 90 seconds to play in the game, Norfolk would pull their goalie, trying to create the magic they had from their first game. When they scored two goals with only 40 seconds to play. However, the magic would not show up. Greenville was able to shut down everything Norfolk threw at them. Bednard would seal the win in the butterfly, covering up the puck and hearing the horn sound. Greenville won the game 3-2. 

All three stars of the game would go to Greenville, Ryan Bednard (29-31), the third star, Jake Smith, the second (one goal), and Brett Kemp (one goal and two assists) being named the first star of the game. 

What’s Next

Greenville will host the Savannah Ghost Pirates on Friday, October 27.

Norfolk will return home, taking on the Worcester Railers on Wednesday, October 25. 

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
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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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