GREENVILLE, S.C. - Joe Leahy and Colton Young gave some life to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the final 40 minutes of play, but the Jacksonville Icemen rode a hot start via a three-goal first period to claim an eventual 5-2 win on "NASCAR Night" at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday.
The Icemen jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Damien Giroux, who ended the night with three points, earned his first on a backdoor tap in that beat Swamp Rabbits net-minder Luke Richardson on the glove side, giving the visitors an early 1-0 lead at 2:17 of the first (Ivan Chukarov and Derek Lodermeier assisted). Moments later, Garret Cockerill snuck behind the defense and, uncontested, maneuvered by Richardson to double the Icemen lead at 8:57 of period one (Jerry D'Amigo had the lone assist). Olivier Nadeau ended the scoring run in the first on the second Jacksonville power play of the game, redirecting a Riley Fiddler-Schultz attempt over Richardson's shoulder to triple the advantage with 2:31 left in the frame (Fiddler-Schultz and Christopher Brown assisted). Richardson was subbed out by Ryan Bednard in the Swamp Rabbits net after 20 minutes, stopping 10 of 13 shots.
Colton Young provided a spark for the Swamp Rabbits, but it was answered late in the second period. Young broke through the power play of the Icemen and went coast-to-coast up the ice, slipping the puck by Icemen goalie Matt Vernon to get the Swamp Rabbits on the board, trailing 3-1 with 3:30 to play in the second (the goal was unassisted). However, Garrett Van Whye capitalzied on a puck that bounced actively off the kick plate and right to his blade, sneaking it past Bednard to pull Jacksonville ahead 4-1 with 27.5 seconds remaining (Christopher Brown and Damien Giroux assisted).
Joe Leahy again cut the deficit to a pair for the Swamp Rabbits early in the third, but the Icemen weathered the storm. Just 4:34 into the final frame, Leahy strolled right down "Broadway" off the blue line and rifled a Nick Prkusic pass by the outstretched glove of Vernon, bringing the Swamp Rabbits closer down 4-2 (Prkusic and Jordan Timmons assisted). Vernon and Bednard traded major saves throughout the course of the final minutes, leading Damien Giroux to his third point, an empty-netter to seal Jacksonville's win at 5-2.
Luke Richardson suffered the first regulation loss of his ECHL career, stopping 10 of 13 shots in the opening 20 minutes (4-1-1-0). Ryan Bednard played 39:14 of relief in net for Greenville, stopping 16 of 17.
The Swamp Rabbits and Icemen close out their weekends tomorrow afternoon. Puck drop is slated for 3:05 p.m. EST at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.