GREENVILLE, S.C. – Pioneered by a highlight reel game-winning goal by Carter Souch, a pair of assists from Nick Prkusic, and key saves from Ryan Bednard, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits defeated the Jacksonville Icemen, 3-1, on Sunday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. With the win, the Rabbits now sit atop the ECHL with 57 points, deadlocked with the Adirondack Thunder. In a spectacular performance, Bednard stoned all but one of 43 shots from the Icemen, while Jacksonville net-minder Michael Houser stopped 15 of 18 from Greenville.
While Jacksonville found early offensive success against the Swamp Rabbits the night before, both teams struggled to find the back of the net within the opening 18 minutes the following afternoon. The 0-0 deadlock remained alive until 18:31, when Tanner Eberle pushed the puck past Houser to give the Rabbits a 1-0 lead. Helping with style, Nick Prkusic spun around a defender and dished a backhand pass to Ethan Somoza, who threw the puck across the crease for an awaiting Eberle. Bednard was stellar in net in the opening 20 minutes, turning aside all 11 shots faced.
The Swamp Rabbits came out swinging in the middle period, as Carter Souch collected his first point of two in the contest: a goal to double the Swamp Rabbits lead at 4:09. Jacksonville fumbled the puck in its defensive zone, and Souch capitalized on the misplay for his 15th goal of the season. Greenville didn’t stop there; shortly after, the ‘Bits received insurance from Josh McKechney in the form of a power-play goal. After Connor Russell of the Icemen was exiled to the sin bin after taking a minor tripping penalty, Souch recovered a wide shot and sent the puck cross-ice to Brannon McManus. He promptly fed the puck between two defenders and straight to McKechney, who finished with a quick wrist shot to improve Greenville’s lead to 3-0 at 8:39 of the second. Bednard again stood tall for the Swamp Rabbits, turning aside an extra 13 shots in the second.
Jacksonville broke Bednard’s shutout in the period on their final power play of the game. With 4:20 left in the game, Oliver Nadeau redirected the puck shot by Craig Martin passed Bednard, giving the Icemen some life with a 3-1 deficit to recover from (Martin and Riley Fiddler-Schultz assisted). Jacksonville continued to push the pace, but Bednard made a few spectacular saves, including one while laying horizontal in his goal crease in the final minutes. Houser was pulled from the Jacksonville net in the final 3:30 of the game, but the extra-attacker wasn’t enough to mount a comeback, leading to a 3-1 Swamp Rabbits win, their fifth in the last six meetings against the Icemen.
The Swamp Rabbits are back in action on the road this weekend against the back-to-back defending Kelly Cup Champion Florida Everblades. Puck drop for Friday, January 26th is slated fpr 7:30 p.m., while Saturday’s is set for 7:00 p.m. at Hertz Arena.