Swamp Rabbits Top Gladiators in Preseason Opener
GREENVILLE, S.C. - After surrendering the first goal to Zach Malatesta and the Atlanta Gladiators, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits battled back with four unanswered goals- two of them in the second period- to best the Gladiators 4-3 in the first game of the 2018 preseason slate on Thursday night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
A spurt of goals in the second period paved the way for Greenville. Will Merchant scored 42 seconds into the second period on a ricochet off the end wall, where he stashed the puck past Edwin Minney, and after the Gladiators took two consecutive penalties, Chad Duchesne made them pay with a power play blast at 5-on-3 from the right point.
Chris Izmirlian put his stamp on the game immediately with the primary assist on the tying marker from defenseman Jon Jutzi at the 18:49 mark of the first period, and with another apple on Duchesne's critical tally. He ended the night with two assists, four shots on goal, and was a +1.
After Jake Bolton gave Greenville a 4-1 lead, Atlanta stormed back late. Luke Sandler converted on a cross-ice pass from Brett McKenzie to cut the Swamp Rabbits' lead in half, and with two men in the box for Greenville, goaltender Ryan De Melo was pulled for the extra attacker, and with just 0.4 seconds showing on the clock, Vytal Cote's point shot found a way through the traffic to get Atlanta within one.
Garrett Bartus made 19 saves on 20 shots in 36 minutes of action for Greenville, and Devin Buffalo followed up in relief with 12 saves on 14 opportunities. His best came in the third period, when he stonewalled Tyler Moy on a second chance opportunity, diving across the crease to keep the game at 4-1 at the time.
Atlanta's power play proved decisive on the evening, going 2-for-6 on the night after the Swamp Rabbits were flagged down for 11 infractions. Greenville went 1-for-4 on the man advantage.
The Swamp Rabbits return to action and complete the preseason slate against the South Carolina Stingrays on Friday, October 5 at 7:00. Stay tuned to social media for updates from Charleston.
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Greenville Swamp Rabbits defenseman J.C. Brassard
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