DULUTH, G.A. – Luke Richardson made 44 saves in his season debut, as the Greenville Swamp Rabbits overcame a 2-0 deficit to top the Atlanta Gladiators 4-3 on Saturday night at Gas South Arena.
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Atlanta wasted little time entertaining the fans with the teddy bear toss goal, as Navrin Mutter scored from a rebound at 3:29, bringing about a lengthy delay for the cleanup of the stuffed animals. After the restart, Atlanta added a second goal, a power-play tally by Jackson Pierson at 7:31. At 12:07, Greenville stopped the Atlanta surge as LA Grissom played the puck to the crease and found Ryan Francis who scored his fifth of the season to cut the Gladiators lead in half. Greenville, despite trailing by only one goal, headed to the intermission being outshot 20-4.
Out of the intermission, Greenville tied the game just 45 seconds in, as Joe Leahy scored his third of the season after his contested shot trickled between the legs of Atlanta's Gustav Grigals. The Swamp Rabbits used multiple power-plays to generate scoring chances and nearly quadrupled their shot total from the first period, shooting 14 times to the 15 chances for Atlanta.
Before the midway point of the third period, Francis took the puck from teammate Nikita Pavlychev below the goal line and tucked it past Grigals for his second of the game and the first Swamp Rabbits lead of the night. Nearly five minutes later, at 12:03, Ben Freeman scored his fifth of the season, a power-play tally, for the 4-2 Greenville lead. Atlanta answered back at 16:22, as Alex Whelan scored his 14th of the season, cutting the Gladiators' deficit in half. In the dying moments of the game, Greenville's goaltender Luke Richardson made a save that went to official review and was upheld to keep the Gladiators off the board for the tying goal.
At the final horn, Richardson, who made his first start of the season and third-ever regular season appearance for the Swamp Rabbits, denied 44 of 47 Atlanta shots to earn the win and Greenville's 19th victory of the season.
With the win, the Swamp Rabbits improve to an Eastern Conference best 19-5-0-0 and are off to the best start in franchise history, through 24 games, with 38 points. The loss drops Atlanta to 9-14-0-0, as the Gladiators fall for a ninth-straight game and for a sixth-straight time to the Swamp Rabbits.
The Swamp Rabbits conclude their three-city-in-three-days road trip on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m, as the Travel to Enmarket Arena in Savannah, Georgia for a meeting with the Savannah Ghost Pirates.
Swamp Rabbits Single-Game tickets, Full Season, and Half Season Tickets for the 2023-24 season are on sale now at SwampRabbits.com or by calling (864) 674-7825.