Returning to home ice after a midweek road trip to Jacksonville, Head Coach Andrew Lord’s Swamp Rabbits (9-10-1-1) play host to the Central Division leading Toledo Walleye (13-6-0-1) on Saturday at 7:05pm and Sunday at 3:05pm.
The weekend series contains the only two games between the Swamp Rabbits and Walleye this season. Toledo brings a high scoring offense to Greenville, outscoring opponents 80-56 so far this season.
Here are five things to watch when the Swamp Rabbits take on the Walleye:
2021 BUNNY TOSS PRESENTED BY SWAMP RABBIT MOVING
On Saturday, the Swamp Rabbits will host the Bunny Toss; a classic teddy bear toss with a special Greenville spin. Bring your stuffed animals along with you to the game and get ready to launch them onto the ice when the Bits score their first goal.
The Bunny toss will benefit many local organizations and with your help can provide stuffed animals to children in need. The organizations benefiting from the Bunny Toss are:
- Leo Santa of Greenville County
- Habitat For Humanity - Greenville County
- Phillis Wheatley Community Center
- The Salvation Army
- Boys & Girls Clubs
- A Child’s Haven
- Fire Pit Ranch
RABBITS PENALTY KILL
The Swamp Rabbits and Walleye have nearly identical penalty kill percentages: Swamp Rabbits 82%, Walleye 84%. While the numbers are similar the Swamp Rabbits have faced 26 more penalties than the Walleye.
Toledo has seen more success on their power play than Greenville has and, given the tendency to take more penalties, it is pivotal that the Swamp Rabbits do not allow any early power play goals. TJ Hensick and Marcus Vela are both the most productive goal scorers on the team and also are tied for most power play goals with five each. Hensick’s last PPG came on 12/4 and he has not scored another goal since. Vela had two games with two power play goals on 12/4 and 12/5.
If the Swamp Rabbits want to control the ice while on the penalty kill, it starts by knowing where Hensick and Vela are and limiting their scoring chances. The two forwards have scored a combined 10/19 power play goals for Toledo and are clearly leading the charge with a man advantage. In the defensive zone on the penalty kill, Greenville needs to stay contained and shut down any passing lanes to keep the puck away from Vela in tight.
Two of the leading scorers for the Swamp Rabbits were noticeably absent from Wednesday night’s game and will not be in the building this weekend either, as Zimmer and Pecararo will continue their stint with the Charlotte Checkers. It’s no wonder the pair was called up to the AHL level; Pecararo recorded seven goals in the last six games with Greenville, while Zimmer has four in the same time frame. It’s not just goals that the Swamp Rabbits miss out on, Zimmer and Pecararo have a combined ten assists in eight games as well.
All is not lost, though. Diego Cuglietta has been electric since joining the Greenville squad, tacking on 18 points in 14 games. Ben Freeman has consistently found teammates in scoring position with seven assists, and Jackson Leef has begun to show his value, recording seven points (2G, 5A) in December.
Many of these assists have been to the pair of missing players and everyone will have to look to some new faces for goals against the Walleye. Given the opportunity to play together Wednesday and practice before hosting the Walleye, you can expect better chemistry between the Swamp Rabbit lines as they look to new sticks for goals this weekend.
CONSISTENT 60 MINUTES
The Swamp Rabbits have struggled to maintain first period leads in recent games. In all three games last weekend, the Swamp Rabbits had the lead at the end of the first period before seeing it slip away as the game went on. Only once, against Atlanta on Sunday, did the Swamp Rabbits come back to win the game. The other two games ended with a score of 6-4 thanks to strings of unanswered goals in the second and third period by Atlanta and Jacksonville.
Scoring early is exactly what the Swamp Rabbits need to do against the Walleye this weekend. Greenville is 6-4 when leading after one period, with all six wins coming at home. With the home crowd this weekend, expect the Rabbits to maintain consistent energy across all three periods.
OUTSHOOT THE WALLEYE
Two goaltenders have seen the most action in Toledo, Kaden Fulcher holds a 4-3 record and Billy Christopopouls has an impressive 7-2-0-1 record.
Greenville holds a 3-1-1 record at home when outshooting opponents. In order to capitalize on two solid goaltenders, the Swamp Rabbits need to outshoot their opponent in both games this weekend. Fulcher has not seen a high volume of shots this season, facing only 170 in eight games compared to Christopolous’ 286.