It’s been a roller coaster of a year in the world of sports, and minor league hockey was certainly hit hard. The 2019-20 ECHL season was cut short just as the Swamp Rabbits were improving their game, ending the season third in the South Division and fighting their way to the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Nearing the end of what seems to be an endless year, Greenville Swamp Rabbits are gearing up for a new season after solidifying their alignment with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL and their NHL affiliate, the Florida Panthers.
We’ll be seeing some familiar faces in the lineup this year. Forwards Kamerin Nault, Brendan Connolly, and Karl El-Mir, along with defensemen Luke Ripley, Brien Diffley, and Joe Masonius have all officially resigned with Greenville. Goaltender Hayden Hawkey returns after finishing the 2019-20 season with the Rabbits, having been claimed off of waivers March 7th. Forward Liam Pecararo comes back for his second professional season with the Rabbits after finishing third in total scoring on the team with 44 points (23 goals, 21 assists) in 39 games which led the team in goals.
The Swamp Rabbits have brought on board some new goaltending talent including John Lethemon from Michigan State University where he held a 2.13 GAA (Goals Against Average) and a .935 save percentage, becoming one of ten semifinalists for the Mike Richter Award in the 2019-20 season for the nation’s top NCAA goaltender. He will be joined by Evan Weninger, a solid presence with a 2.73 GAA and .922 save percentage in his 15 ECHL games. Weninger also became only the 10th goaltender in NCAA history to score a goal himself.
Additionally, some of the new faces that will be coming to Greenville are Matt Bradley, a 2019 Kelly Cup Champion with the Newfoundland Growlers, 2019-20 top Atlantic Hockey Conference scorer Austin McIlmurray, and strong two-way defenseman Frank Hora, winner of the Herchenrader Family Trophy for best defensive ability.
A team relies on its coaching staff to guide it to victory, and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits are being led this year by head coach Andrew Lord and assistant coach Phillip Barski. Lord found significant success coaching the Cardiff Devils hockey club in Wales, who under his leadership won nine championship titles in six seasons and held a record of 221-75-22. Barski comes to Greenville after being the head coach for Podhale Nowy Targ in the top hockey league in Poland, the Polska Hokej Liga, the team finishing third in the league in the 2019-20 season and qualifying for the Polish Cup.
Before officially kicking off the season, the Swamp Rabbits will meet the South Carolina Stingrays for the only ECHL pre-season game on December 5th at Bon Secours Arena at 7:00 PM, with all seats only $10 and proceeds from ticket sales to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They will then begin the 2020-21 season December 11th in North Charleston, S.C. on the Stingrays’ home ice. The next day they head down to Jacksonville, Florida to face the Jacksonville Icemen.
The season home opener will be Friday, December 18th against the Florida Everblades during their “Heroes of the Upstate” night, a back-to-back as they play the Everblades again on their “Holiday Hockey & Hope” night. Keeping the action going for the holidays, Greenville will host the South Carolina Stingrays on December 26, 2020 and January 1st, 2021 where they will ring in the new year with a special 2:00 PM puck drop for “Tailgate on the Terrace.”
Bon Secours Arena is taking safety very serious during the time of Covid-19 by instituting policies including mandatory face coverings, markers for social distancing, readily available hand sanitizer throughout, and “pod seating” keeping all groups of ticket holders separated by six feet.
Check out swamprabbits.com for the Swamp Rabbits’ full schedule and to order your tickets for this upcoming season!
Hop on and Happy Holidays!
Toni Hitchcock Writer (Greenville Swamp Rabbits) Twitter: @SinBinRabbits
Hockey has always been on the periphery of Toni’s life having lived in or near major hockey cities, but it wasn’t until……fairly recently that she became totally obsessed. She started her journalistic endeavors writing for the Queen City Nerve in Charlotte, NC before taking on the opportunity to write for The Sin Bin covering the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. In her daily life, Toni is a professional artist, devoted wife, and secretly aspires to be a mascot.
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