Duluth, GA – The Greenville Swamp Rabbits (24-40-7-1), proud ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, powered through to a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Gladiators (32-35-2-3) to end the regular season tonight at the Infinite Energy Arena. In the wake of the tragedies in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, the Swamp Rabbits channeled an emotional performance, which included a 49-save shutout from goaltender Chris Nell.
In the first period, the Swamp Rabbits battled with the Gladiators for the opening goal, trading blows left and right. Greenville would eventually find the back of the net first as defenseman Matt Prapavessis net his sixth of the campaign. Shane Walsh went across the rink with a pass to Sean Flanagan before the defensemen exchanged on a one-timer that rang the crossbar. The effort dropped right down inside the goal line at 18:24 of the opening period.
After the intermission, the Swamp Rabbits would need some solid saves from Nell in net. The Gladiators posted 19 shots on goal in the middle period but the rookie goaltender remained perfect. The Gladiators came close to ruining his first career shutout, but had an attempted chance waived off by the referee.
The Swamp Rabbits had some chances to extend the lead but would finally bury a chance nine minutes into the period. Wade Murphy bodied up the Gladiators defense to force a turnover below the goal line and deked his way to the crease. The winger fought across the crease and tucked a shot just under the cross bar to extend the lead to 2-0 with his sixth of the season.
Johno May was the next Swamp Rabbits skater to have a chance at extending the lead. The winger came down on a shorthanded breakaway, but was hooked from behind by the Gladiators. On in insuing penalty shot, Sean Boner held his ground to keep his team in the game. The netminder finished the outing with 38 stops.
At the start of the third period, leading scorer Caleb Herbert notched a pair of goals to extend to 24 goals in the campaign. Walsh tossed a pass from the defensive zone for Herbert on a breakaway down the ice. The fourth-year skater touched the puck through the legs of Boner to extend the game to a 3-0 lead.
Herbert put himself in an spot for a rebound late in the game to net his second goal of the contest. Joe Basaraba launched a long shot from the blue line that was kicked by Boner right to his stick on the left post. He hammered the rebound into the cage for the exclamation point to end the year.
Nell’s shutout was the first of his career and the first of the year for Greenville. The Swamp Rabbits 4-0 win was also the first win in the season finale in the last three seasons. Greenville now ends the 2017-18 regular season and begins preparations for the 2018-19 campaign.
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