TOSTI: Swamp Rabbits Hot Start Melts Solar Bears Streak
Greenville tallies three first period goals and rides a defensive effort to a 4-2 victory over Orlando.
BY: Brian Tosti, Greenville Swamp Rabbits
Greenville, SC – The Greenville Swamp Rabbits (18-16-2-1), proud ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf from Pack, scored three goals in the opening period of tonight’s game against the Orlando Solar Bears (16-17-4-1). The early lead powered the Swamp Rabbits to a 4-2 win at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
The Swamp Rabbits wasted no time opening the scoring. Less than four minutes into the game, the club had a 2-0 lead over the Solar Bears. Chad Duchesne tracked the puck all the way down to the left corner of the zone with less than two minutes off the clock in the period. On a pass to the front of the net, Derek Sutliffe tapped the puck across the slot to Jack Nevins for a shot at a wide-open net. Nevin’s sixth goal of the season opened the scoring 1:57 into the contest.
Less than two minutes later, Matt Prapavessis tallied his second of the season as the puck deflected into the net. The newest Swamp Rabbits forward, Shane Walsh, stepped into the offensive zone and dropped the puck off to the defenseman in transition. The third-year pro sent a hard pass to the front of the net for Branden Troock but had his effort carom off the Solar Bears defenseman before finding the back of the net.
Later in the first period, Greenville added another tally on the power play. In the final seconds of a 5-on-3, Joe Houk fired a shot from the blue line. With Austin McKay in front of the net, the puck managed to slide behind goaltender Cal Heeter to put the Swamp Rabbits up 3-0 with five minutes left in the period. Houk’s tally went down as the game-winning goal for the Swamp Rabbits 18th victory of the season.
The Swamp Rabbits had to fend off the Solar Bears for the remainder of the game. Orlando came out with a fast-paced second period and recorded a game-high 16 shots. Joe Perry brought the Solar Bears within two on a quick shot from the slot. The forward caught Martin Dzierkals pass from behind the net to tally his fifth goal of the season.
Despite three power play chances in the game and 34 shots on net, the Solar Bears would not be able to overcome the deficit. The Swamp Rabbits defense and goaltender Ty Rimmer shut down the opportunities throughout the game, forcing a late Orlando push to tie the game. Rimmer made 32 saves to earn his 11th victory of the season.
The Solar Bears pulled Heeter for an extra skater, but Greenville eventually tallied an empty net goal to ice the contest in the final two minutes. Joe Basaraba sealed the victory with his 11th of the season. Orlando tallied a late goal as a footnote on the final score while Heeter suffered the loss with 30 saves.
Greenville will head to Duluth, Georgia tomorrow to face off with the Atlanta Gladiators at 7:05 p.m.