In a city starving for competitive sports, the Savannah Ghost Pirates arrival marked the beginning of an era in professional hockey to the Hostess City of the South. A brand new arena (The Enmarket Arena) and a new excitement for the sport of hockey. It seemed that Head Coach Rick Bennett and his staff carried that excitement into the beginning of the season, going undefeated in their first four games and winning five of their first six games. The crescendo of that hot start may have been their 5-1 victory over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on November 5th. This was opening night at Enmarket Arena and the crowd was buzzing from the first drop of the puck. That excitement and thirst for competitive hockey was quenched that night. If not for a late 3rd period goal, goalie Isaiah Saville would have earned the first shutout in Enmarket Arena. It seemed the team was destined for a solid season.
By definition, fans tend to be filled with excessive excitement regarding their particular team. Cheering and supporting your team is one of the special things about being a fan. After opening night, fans of the Ghost Pirates were fill with optimism and visions of future championship games at The Enmarket Arena. Some of that optimism was lost as the Ghost Pirates lost five of their next six games. There was still hope though, as four of those losses were by a single goal. After ending November with two road victories, the Ghost Pirates lost 13 of 15 games in December. They followed it up with a January that saw only two victories in twelve contests. The winter blues had officially hit the Hostess City and the Ghost Pirates found themselves looking up at the rest of the South Division.
Part of the reality for all teams in the ECHL is that players will come and go. The nature of Minor League sports is fluidity. A successful team has successful players and those players move up to a higher level. The Ghost Pirates are not immune to this and part of their struggles came about as star players were moved up to their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights. Players such at Pat Guay, Daniel D’Amato, Peter Diliberatore, Connor Corcoran, and Brandon Estes. The constant carousel of players coming and going is not unique to the Ghost Pirates, but it does add an element to a new team with a new coach and a new organization that presents challenges. Many of the players mentioned are now back with the Ghost Pirates (for now) and we’ll see how their impact may influence the rest of the season.
With 28 games remaining on the schedule, overcoming the deficit they find themselves in makes a playoff berth a challenging endeavor at this point. The next four weekends are filled with plenty of home games, so the players will have the opportunity to feed off the home crowd energy. A strong finish to the season will certainly help the outlook for fans moving into the 2023/2024 season, but also provide a building block for Coach Bennett to add to. Many of their star players, including their lone ECHL All-Star Pat Guay, are back in the lineup from Henderson are seeing plenty of ice-time. Talent can only get you so far. We’ll have to see if this group can create some chemistry and play solid team hockey. The Ghost Pirates have two talented young goalies in Isaiah Saville and Jordan Papirny. They make many of the saves they are supposed to, but are often left to try to make the spectacular save when an errant pass or turnover takes place. Offensively, they have the individual talent to put the puck in the net. The rest of the season depends on their ability to limit turnovers and allow their goaltenders to shine. At the end of the day, the forecast still shows ECHL hockey in Savannah!