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"MARK" MY WORDS - January 24th

Wednesday, January 24th
"MARK" MY WORDS - January 24th

Hey Swamp Rabbits fans! Mark Binetti here, hope you’re enjoying the season so far. It’s been quite the crazy month in the Upstate, but I can’t begin to express how thrilled I am to be a part of the Swamp Rabbits organization. I look forward to meeting all of you as the season progresses, and hope we go as deep as possible into June.

“‘Mark’ My Words” is a weekly sharing of my thoughts and observations in the world of hockey, sports, and…well, sometimes even the world itself! It also is an opportunity for YOU, the fans, to write in and ask questions about any of the above to be featured in the weekly column, or maybe even on air on the Swamp Rabbits Radio Network during one of our intermissions.

So, with that said, let’s begin!

  1. First and foremost, I want to thank all of you for your hospitality as I’ve acclimated to Greenville and the community. For the fans I haven’t met yet, I can’t wait to get to know you, and to the fans I have, I LOVE your passion for this team. It has been a privilege to watch this team grow since Spire Sports + Entertainment acquired it back in 2020. I’m excited for what’s to come this year and look forward to coninue telling the story of this team, its players, and staff as we all march on to our goal of a Kelly Cup Championship.
  2. It’s no secret that this is one of the best teams assembled in Greenville’s hockey history, with the squad boasting a record of 28-11-1-0 and 57 points as we close out January’s games this weekend. The 57 points in the standings are tied only with the Adirondack Thunder atop the entire ECHL. Let’s keep in mind, there is still much work to be done, but Coach Lord and company are playing the right way and finding ways to win in arguably the toughest division in the league.
  3. You know, it’s funny I say that this is the toughest division in the ECHL. In my final years in Rapid City, I would’ve bet everything I owned that the Mountain Division was the toughest. For quite some time, it was: they won three consecutive Kelly Cup Championships from 2016 to 2018, with the Allen Americans winning the first, and the Colorado Eagles winning the last two back-to-back. If you want to go even further, Allen won in 2015 in their first year in the league, and the former Alaska Aces won the year prior, but both teams were in the Central and Pacific divisions, respectively, before jumping into the newly formed Mountain Division in the 2015-16 season. Part of what made that division so tough is what I see now out of the South: all seven teams can score, most have solid goaltending depth, and all have zero hesitation to hit you in the mouth. It makes for entertaining, and incredibly tough, hockey every night. 
  4. I can’t tell you how excited I was for “NASCAR Night” last Saturday. It was a party! From an orange carpet entrance to the electric driver intros, cars on the ice, and more, it was great to see it all come together for our fans. Special thanks to our game night title sponsor, Alloy Employer Services, as well as MonsterBeast, Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet, Jiffy Lube, and Darlington Raceway for their support in making our outstanding night come to life.
  5. For me personally, one of the best parts of “NASCAR Night” is seeing our parent company, Spire Sports + Entertainment, and for that matter Spire Motorsports, come out to the event in massive numbers. Last year, I was on the SS+E staff and got to assist in the game day, including emceeing the Crew Chief Q+A, and occasionally I’d pop up to the suite to see our ownership and staff having the time of their lives. It’s always so special to see Spire come together in that manner, because at the end of the day, a night like that is a true celebration for our organization, from ownership at the top to the Swamp Rabbits, and that adds another sentimental element for our staff.
  6. One of my favorite stats to track, out of the vast multitude of quantifiable metrics this sport, or any sport, has to offer, is a team’s record within a certain goal differential. Specifically for the Swamp Rabbits, their record in games decided by one goal is an astonishing, and league-leading,  17-2-1-0. Add in the team’s 5-2-0-0 record in two-goal games, and that means 22 of the team’s 28 wins have come within the tightest of margins. The point here is, if the Swamp Rabbits can win the tough, close games now in the league’s toughest division, they’ll be conditioned to win them when it matters even more down the line through April and June.
  7. Colton Young has been real fun to watch this year, his first full season as a pro. Young was a little snakebitten coming into the New Year, at one point goal-less in seven straight games, but he was still contributing with assists on a regular basis. He ended his scoring skid with goals in back-to-back games on January 12th in the overtime win against Orlando, and January 13th at Jacksonville prior to the All-Star Break, and in three of four, adding a shorthanded goal last Saturday against Jacksonville at home. The first two goals in that stretch served as the game-winner, including the overtime strike against the Solar Bears. Young can do it all: he plays solid five-on-five minutes, has a power play role, and is a factor on the penalty kill, now with two shorthanded markers on the year. Overall, Young has 6 points in 9 games in January (3g-6ast) with two remaining in the month against Florida this week.
  8. Last Friday, it was announced that Ben Freeman was named the new Captain of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, an honor and recognition well-deserved and properly awarded by the coaching staff. “Freeze”, as he’s affectionately called in the dressing room, has been in the Upstate for three of his four professional seasons, playing in 165 games with all of his career ECHL points coming in a Swamp Rabbits sweater (30g-50ast-80pts). When asked about appointing him to the captaincy, Head Coach Andrew Lord couldn’t stop stressing how much of a community-first individual Ben is. Regardless of what level of the game you work or play at, there is an inherent understanding that you operate as a community partner before you operate as strictly a hockey team. It’s clearly this selfless characteristic, among other hockey related intangibles, that drives home how much of a homerun this selection was. Well deserved, Ben.
  9. The world of hockey was rocked with quite the unique sequence of events two nights ago, with the Pittsburgh Penguins scoring…on themselves…while shorthanded...let me explain:
    With 4:10 gone by in the third, trailing 3-2, Arizona was on a power play and subsequently committed a penalty, giving the Penguins a chance to pull the goalie for an extra skater to level the playing field before skating in 4-on-4. Teams pull the goalie because there’s no threat of the opposition scoring (once they possess the puck, play is dead, so it's a no-brainer). HOWEVER, there’s nothing saying you can’t accidentally put the puck in your own net…which is exactly what happened when Kris Letang hinged back to Evgeni Malkin and the puck rolled off his backhand and over the line. It put Arizona up 4-2, en route to an eventual 5-2 victory. I’ve never seen that happen in person, but there have been some near misses over the years. The moral of the story? Pay attention and never take even the “easiest” sequences of the game for granted, otherwise you go viral and will be mocked on just about every late night show.
  10. This weekend sees the Swamp Rabbits square off against the back-to-back defending Kelly Cup Champion Florida Everblades on the road, with these games serving as the final two out of nine head-to-head this season. It’s hard to think this season’s rivalry is almost over, with the next possible point to meet on the ice marking the 2024 Kelly Cup Playoffs. It’s been a series through seven games that’s showcased quite the offensive flair. For starters, 15 players in this series have amassed four points or more in the seven games played, with Florida’s Logan Lambdin and Greenville’s Carter Souch averaging a point-per-game or better. Both teams are a combined 9/46 on the power play (19.6%), and only two goaltenders between both teams (Evan Cormier of Florida, Luke Richardson of Greenville) has a GAA less than 3.00. As obvious as it sounds under normal conditions, defense is the key to defeating the reigning champs this weekend.

If you have any questions on hockey, sports, or any subject under the sun that you think I can answer, make sure to shoot an email to the Swamp Rabbits at info@swamprabbits.com, with the subject line: “Mark” My Words. I’ll do my best to answer any compelling questions that come our way, and maybe even air them on our broadcasts throughout the season. 

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