GREENVILLE, S.C. – Josh McKechney bookended a four-goal effort, and led by Ryan Bednard with 39 saves in net, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits took down the in-state rival South Carolina Stingrays by a 4-2 score on Friday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The win improves Greenville, leaders of the Eastern Conference to 22-9-1-0 and 45 points through 32 games in the 2023-24 season.
Greenville snuck into the locker room with a lead in an opening period that featured disjointed special teams. With 61 seconds left in the first frame, Josh McKechney threw the puck through traffic from the left circle that whizzed by Stingrays net-minder Garin Bjorklund, putting the Swamp Rabbits up 1-0 heading into the locker room (Carter Souch and Brett Kemp assisted). Ryan Bednard, manning the Greenville net, stoned all 12 shots fired his way.
The Swamp Rabbits went back to their scoring ways quickly in the second period. With just 2:49 played in the middle act, Jake Smith unleashed a howitzer from the left side that rang off the iron and past Bjorklund, doubling the Swamp Rabbits lead to 2-0 (Ethan Cap and Ben Freeman assisted). Not to be outdone, South Carolina struck back on the power play, with Josh Wilkins firing the puck through Bednard in a scramble to cut the Greenville lead to 2-1 at 5:19 of the second (Kevin O’Neil and Nick Leivermann assisted). Brannon McManus got the goal back for Greenville, again in the final two minutes of the frame, rifling a high-slot shot off the bar an in to provide a 3-1 cushion heading into the final period (Souch and Joe Leahy assisted). Despite allowing a goal, Bednard stopped all but one of 16 shots faced in the middle 20 minutes.
Connor Moore made things interesting early in the third period, bringing the Stingrays within striking distance once more. With 5:04 gone by in the third frame, Moore finished a slick transition up the ice, led by Josh Wilkins, and buried his cross-ice pass over Bednard to cut the Swamp Rabbits advantage to 3-2 (Wilkins and Patrick Harper assisted). With South Carolina pressuring late, Greenville weathered the storm and received insurance from McKechney, who’s empty-netter sealed the Swamp Rabbits 4-2 victory in the final minute.
Ryan Bednard, recently named to the 2024 ECHL All-Star Game, stopped a whopping 39 of 41 shots in the win (9-7-0-0).
The Swamp Rabbits continue their “three-in-three” this weekend tomorrow against the defending champion Florida Everblades. PUCK DROP IS 4:05 PM EST at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.