GREENVILLE, S.C. – Here we are, gearing up for the 2020-21 season with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits after a long wait and much uncertainty surrounding live sports as a whole. With the first game scheduled for this weekend, let’s examine how the team has shaped up since last season.
Initial Schedule (Home Games in BOLD):
Dec 11 – Greenville at South Carolina
Dec 12 – Greenville at Jacksonville
Dec 18 – Florida @ GREENVILLE
Dec 19 – Florida @ GREENVILLE
Dec 26 – South Carolina @ GREENVILLE
Dec 27 – Greenville at South Carolina
Jan 1 – South Carolina @ GREENVILLE
Jan 6 – Wheeling @ GREENVILLE
Jan 8 – Greenville @ Indy
Jan 9 – Greenville @ Indy
Head Coach: Andrew Lord. This is his first year with the Swamp Rabbits, coming across the pond after coaching the Cardiff Devils Hockey Club, who under his leadership were 221-75-22 and won nine separate championship titles in six seasons.
Last Season: 29-30-5, 3rd place in the South Division
2019-20 Season Summary – Last season presented the picture of a team improving throughout the year. The offensive attack produced significant gains, placing the Rabbits as one of the top ten goal-producing teams in the ECHL and featuring eight players with over 10 goals. Special teams developed their strength, especially in the penalty kill, producing 12 shorthanded goals and giving up 29 fewer goals than the previous season.
Hot or Not?
Heading into training camp, the Swamp Rabbits have four goaltenders in the lineup, including John Lethemon, coming to Greenville from Michigan State University, where he posted a 15-15-2 record his senior year with a 2.13 GAA and .935 save percentage making him one to watch this upcoming season. They also brought on a strong scorer in Austin McIlmurray, a forward from Sacred Heart University and top scorer in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. Greenville is building a solid foundation toward success with their new additions, and joining a swath of young players are seasoned veterans such as Brendan Connolly and Garrett Thompson to provide experience and guidance. This will be a dynamic team that will be exciting to watch develop in the coming season.
- Liam Pecararo (F) – Won the ECHL Goal of the Year with a shorthanded goal against the Atlanta Gladiators and led Greenville in goals with 23.
- Brendan Connolly (F) – Returning to the Rabbits after a five-season stint playing pro hockey in Europe, he is one of the top scorers in franchise history.
- Luke Ripley (D) – Tripled his point output from the previous season and significantly decreased his penalties.
- Joe Masonius (D) – While he only played three games with the Rabbits last season, the 23-year-old has a strong background, having led the UCONN Huskies defensemen in scoring in his first two seasons, ranking second among defensemen in his junior year, and has been a part of the U.S. National Team Development Program.
- Tim Davidson (D) – A strong defenseman coming over from the South Carolina Stingrays, where he tied for 14th in the ECHL in defensive scoring in the 2018-19 season.
- Austin McIlmurray (F) – This dynamic forward achieved an Atlantic Hockey First Team All-Star selection and led the conference in scoring during the 2019-20 season.
- Frank Hora (D) – Greenville is bulking up its defense, and this two-way defenseman brings a strong presence to the ice.
What to Watch For?
With a different format this season, look for this to be a great time for team development. Andrew Lord and team have been putting together a dynamic group that should be fun to watch on the ice. It will also be interesting to see how the goaltending situation develops – with four goaltenders in the training camp and the AHL and NHL partners already full up on goaltending; this may be a battle between the pipes.
Toni Hitchcock covers the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for The Sin Bin. Follow her on Twitter @SinBinRabbits.