(GREENVILLE, SC) – Ben Freeman’s ninth tally of the season gave the Greenville Swamp Rabbits a lead that was sustained for the majority of regulation, but the Savannah Ghost Pirates found two answers in the third period to eventually steal a 2-1 win at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday night. Despite the Swamp Rabbits defeat, the team’s magic number to clinch a 2023 Kelly Cup Playoff spot is now 3, thanks to an Atlanta Gladiators regulation loss to the Florida Everblades earlier this evening.
The Ghost Pirates jumped all over the Swamp Rabbits in the early stages of the first period, outshooting their hosts 11-1 at the first media timeout. Following the automatic break, the Swamp Rabbits kicked it into high gear and outshot the Ghost Pirates 8-0 to end the frame, and notched the first goal of the contest as well. On their first power play of the game with 1:49 left in the first, Bobby Russell and Brannon McManus completed a passing sequence over to Ben Freeman on the left wing wall. Without hesitation, Freeman unloaded a cannon that whizzed past Ghost Pirates netminder Michael Bullion and in, giving the Swamp Rabbits a 1-0 lead.
Both goaltenders went through the second frame unscathed, but Savannah found life in the final frame to eventually overtake their South Division rivals. At 4:17 of the third period, Carter Long, in just his second professional game, rifled a shot from about a stride inside the blue line past Swamp Rabbits goaltender David Hrenak, squaring the game at 1-1 (Matt Brassard earned his first pro point with an assist, while Pat Guay added the second helper). Moments later, on a faceoff to Hrenak’s blocker side, Alex Swetlikoff found himself with the puck open down the middle lane off the draw. Swetlikoff nailed his chance down Broadway past Hrenak, pushing the Ghost Pirates ahead 2-1 with 7:46 remaining in regulation (Troy Lajeunesse and Matt Brassard assisted). Looking for extra attacker magic for a second night in a row, Hrenak was pulled from his net to provide the Swamp Rabbits with a late man-power advantage, which almost paid off. With just over 10 seconds remaining in regulation, Alex Ierullo found Carter Souch open in the high slot for a chance to tie the game, but was denied by two inches of hollow iron. Souch’s chance hit the crossbar, Savannah cleared the zone, and the Ghost Pirates escaped with a 2-1 victory.
David Hrenak suffered the loss for Greenville in net, stopping 28 of 30 thrown towards his crease (20-12-4-1). Even though the Swamp Rabbits lost, the Florida Everblades victory over the Atlanta Gladiators knocked the team’s magic number to clinch a 2023 Kelly Cup Playoff spot to 3 heading into Sunday.
The Swamp Rabbits conclude their “three-in-three” in a rematch against the Ghost Pirates tomorrow afternoon. Puck drop at Enmarket Arena to finish the home-and-home set is slated for 3:05 p.m. EDT.