ECHL Three Game Recap: Greenville Swamp Rabbits vs. Orlando Solar Bears | 04/4-6/2024

Orlando, Florida — The Orlando Solar Bears returned home on Tuesday to face the Savannah Ghost Pirates, losing 2-3 in a shootout. Later that week, they would face the first place Greenville Swamp Rabbits in a heated, three-game homestand – all being back-to-back.

Game One – April 4

1st Period

The first period would be reckoned by the home team, Solar Bears, as they would put up great offensive pressure on the high-standing Swamp Rabbits. Throughout the period, the Swamp Rabbits’ d-core would make significant plays to keep the game at 0, but the Solar Bears, who have been desperate for a playoff berth, would not shy away from playing their hardest. Jacob Ingham and Evan Fitzpatrick would be starring goaltenders for both respective teams. Ingham would see a few bounces at first but manage to stop them with assistance from his linemates. Despite being shadowed by the home team, the visiting team of the Rabbits would pressure with a given a chance at 10:10. Carter Souch would feed a pass from the right-wing point to J.D. Greenway, and then Greenway would sauce it to Nick Prkusic at the center point, near the crease. Prkusic would rip one from Greenway’s assist and open up scoring at 10:20. Moments later, the Solar Bears would go on a rush and test the Swamp Rabbits. With a pass by a Solar Bear at the blue line, Jayden Dureau would body over Ingham and tuck the puck in to tie it up. However, immediately upon scoring, referee Sam Heidemann would wave it off for goalie interference, and the crowd would voice their protests of loud boos. Heidemann would review the play for goalie interference. After review, however, no goal for goaltender interference. And afterward, neither team would score, and so the game would be 1-0 Greenville. Shots on goal: 4 Greenville, 12 Orlando.

2nd Period

Orlando had a rough time in the offensive zone, as the Rabbits’ d-core was on point to clear out any attempts made. But that’s not to say the Solar Bears didn’t put up a fight, as the team put up heavy physicality against the reigning first-place Swamp Rabbits. This time, the Rabbits would show more offense and put up ten shots on goal, while the Solar Bears put up just four. However, after 40, the game would remain 1-0 Greenville.

3rd Period

After an unsuccessful and rough first and second period, the Solar Bears would show attention to upping their score status, as Aaron Luchuk would tie it up just 1:42 into the period on a power play. Now a tied game, the Solar Bears wouldn’t back down. Despite taking a penalty at 10:39, the home team would utilize their 85% kill to their advantage by only allowing a single shot on Fitzpatrick from the Rabbits’ 19% PP success. The killed penalty would only motivate the Bears even more, as minutes later, at 15:12, Spencer Keresten would break the tie short-handed. With less than five minutes remaining, the Rabbits were desperate to tie it and even take the lead, but the Solar Bears were not taking chances as their defensive core was fired up. After the tiebreaker goal, the Rabbits would only manage to put up two shots on Fitzpatrick before 18:39, with other plays being redirected or cleared by the Bears. At that mark, Jacob Ingham would get pulled for the extra attacker, as the Rabbits’ six man line were given the game plan by coach Andrew Lord on execution in the Orlando zone prior. Ryan Francis would shoot on Fitzpatrick, but after that, the Bears would clear it out or make some key blocks. And at 19:50, Marc-Andre Gaudet would get the puck in the corner and fire it down the zone to hit the empty net, making it game. The crowd at the Kia Center loved that goal as a sign of playoff berth chances rained down with the possibility of a much-needed win. At the final buzzer, the Bears would take game One of three. Total shots on goal: 19 Greenville, 23 Orlando

Game Two – April 5 – Fan Appreciation Night

1st Period

The Swamp Rabbits would start off the period with a power play at 1:47. Greenville, however, would get outworked by the Solar Bears’ 85% PK and only give up a shot on Fitzpatrick. Upon the ending of the PK, the Solar Bears would have a boost of adrenaline to open up scoring. Marc-Andre Gaudet of the Solar Bears would strike first from an apple by Luke Boka, after Bednard was blindsided in his blue paint. Then, after, the Solar Bears would be fueled up from the first goal and extend their lead, as at 6:14, Aaron Luchuk would sneak a shot past Bednard while he was being pressed up. In the final ten minutes of the first period, the Rabbits would up their forechecking and plays in the o-zone, but Orlando denied any attempt at the Swamp Rabbits scoring. So it would be 2-0 after twenty minutes. Shots on goal: 8 Greenville, 8 Orlando.

2nd Period

Having a two-goal, the Solar Bears would be in control of this period as they would chip away a couple of close chances on Bednard. The Rabbits had some dangles, but it wasn’t enough for a goal. Fatigue was set for the Rabbits, and that would go to haunt them again. At 11:15, after motoring down on the left wing end into the Swamp Rabbits zone, Spencer Keresten punched the puck past the top bar side of Bednard’s net and netted his first career goal in the ECHL. Letting in three unanswered goals, a message had to be sent to the team as Ryan Bednard would get pulled for Jacob Ingham. After Ingham was pulled with a score of 0-3, the Rabbits would have control over the momentum for several minutes. They would make good defensive plays to block the Solar Bears from making another attempt on goal. But after the second frame, both teams would head into the third period with a score of 3-0 Orlando.

3rd Period

Orlando would start the final frame of action with a fourth goal at 1:08 from a goal by Darik Angeli. After that, the Rabbits would chip in six shots on goal until 9:00. Around the 10:00 mark, the Rabbits felt almost defeated, dragged by fatigue and a score deficit of four. At 17:07, on the PK, Brayden Low would score the fifth of the game unassisted. Afterward, pandemonium would unfold as both teams would quite literally go insane on the ice. At 19:01, every player who was on the ice upon the whistle received a series of penalties. The most notable was J.D. Greenway dropping the mitts with Jimmy Mazza. Even Jacob Ingham wanted a piece of Evan Fitzpatrick; however, those two respective players did not receive any penalties or engage in extracurriculars. After the fights, roughing and scrums, and minutes of play management by the officials, the game would play on with many players being sent to the dressing rooms. But seconds after puck drop, both teams would repeat it all over again with more misconduct penalties being handed out. After that was situated, both teams’ benches were stacked with a mere beer league roster. Before the buzzer, while they had almost no one left on the roster, Anthony Beauchamp for the Rabbits would score to give his team a point and snuff out the Solar Bears’ chances at a shutout.

Game Three — April 6 – Final home game at the Kia Center, First Responders Night

1st Period

The first period would start out with intensity, as not even a minute into the period, players from both sides would tussle and throw hands. The heated division rivalry at the Kia Center was on full display in front of over 9k fans, and let’s just say the physicality ignited the crowd. Three minutes in, the Solar Bears would draw the first penalty. While the Swamp Rabbits have an average PP unit, the Solar Bears would only stomp on the Rabbits’ goal dreams with their 85% kill. On the kill, the Bears would be the ones to lay a shot on the opposing goaltender, Jacob Ingham. After the kill, Tyler Bird and Aaron Luchuk would go on a two-on-two. With sauce from Luchuk, Bird would bat it past Ingham and open up the scoring. After the goal, the Solar Bears would go on the PK again. This time, the Rabbits would put in more work, putting two shots on Fitzpatrick. But still, no goal. Fitzpatrick, making his third start, wouldn’t show signs of fatigue whatsoever, and would only make more incredible saves. Then at 12:13, the Solar Bears would have their first PP of the game. However, just like the Bears, the Rabbits would kill this one off. But before then, Anthony Beauchamp would poke away the puck in his zone, turn on the jets in Orlando’s end, and score a shorty. Minutes in, with a tied score, chaos would erupt as what seemed every player on the ice engaged in extracurriculars. Referee J.R. Strager would issue six penalties in total, two on Orlando and Greenville – along with one fighting major on both teams: Anthony Beauchamp and Tanner Schachle would drop the mitts. Close to the buzzer at even strength, Joe Leahy would break the tie with 25 seconds remaining in the period and give his team a 2-1 lead. Shots on goal: 12 Greenville, 8 Orlando.

2nd Period

The Rabbits would start the period by shooting on Evan Fitzpatrick three times in over three minutes. Then, they would turn off the jets and give Orlando some chances in. Later, this would haunt them, as the Rabbits would turn over the puck near their zone and give the Solar Bears a two-on-one rush, and then a saucer by Luke Boka to Gaudet would open up space for Marc-Andre Gaudet to laser top shelf. Now a tied game, the Solar Bears still had more in the tank for another goal. The Bears would go on a power play at 12:10 and pressure hard on the Rabbits’ 81% PK. Putting up just a shot on goal before the PP expired, the Solar Bears still managed to keep play in the O-zone. After a failed clear attempt, the Rabbits would let in another goal and give the Solar Bears a 3-2 lead on the PK. Jaydon Dureau would deeke it at 14:15. Shots on goal: 13 Greenville, 6 Orlando.

3rd Period

The Rabbits would go on an abbreviated 1:30 minute power play entering the third frame. However, they couldn’t capitalize on it. Throughout the first ten minutes of play, Greenville would turn on the jets and rapidly fire everything they had at Fitzpatrick’s net. After ten minutes, they had posted 13 shots on goal. The Bears had a tenacity that let them maintain the 3-2 score. Shot after shot, desperation leaning, the Rabbits were trying their hardest to score one goal but simply couldn’t; poor positioning in the offensive zone with the Bears pressing them out of the zone by the blue line had them tied down. And so at 18:30, the Rabbits would make two attempts at the empty net but fail, as they got bodied out of the o-zone from Orlando’s incredible d-core. The first attempt would get shadowed by Alex Frye, as he would score on the empty net after his team iced it twice. With time still left but trailing by two now, the Rabbits would make another run with the empty net. But again, fail as Brayden Low would shoot it down into the empty net. And that would be game. Shots on goal: 23 Greenville, 4 Orlando. Final score: 5-2 Orlando; Orlando wins three of three games.

Miraculously, the Solar Bears were outshot 18-48 after the game. The Rabbits had a rough week in Orlando, as fatigue, poor positioning, getting numbered by a team desperate for a playoff spot, and all-around acclimating to a team with some new players on the roster. Despite losing five games in a row, the Rabbits will return to home for two games, with one game centered in Savannah, to conclude the regular season. The final three games will determine the playoff standings of which teams play who. Meanwhile, Orlando will end their season at Reading, which may well decide their playoff fate.

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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