SAVANNAH, Ga. – Four games into their inaugural season, the Savannah Ghost Pirates are undefeated heading into Friday’s road game at Greenville prior to Saturday’s home opener against the Swamp Rabbits.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the ECHL’s newest franchise.
On paper alone, that 4-0 looks stellar, and some fans may not have believed you prior to the season if you told them that this team would win its first four games. That is not a dig at this squad, either. Simply put, new teams typically take time to gel together and form chemistry with each other. With Savannah being a brand new team, first skating with each other earlier in October, that alone would have given one pause to doubt the above statement. Add in the fact that Savannah is the second-youngest team by average age in the ECHL at 24.15, only edging out the Nailers (23.68), and you can begin to see where a theory of a slow start for this team came from.
But there’s more to glean beyond that. In its current structure, this team has a wealth of talent. With its prospect pool alone, Savannah currently has four players down from the Henderson Silver Knights who are NHL-signed prospects to the Vegas Golden Knights. On top of that, Savannah has also been assigned seven other Henderson players; most notable being Patrick Guay (a Vegas Golden Knights 5th-round draft pick from the 2022-23 class).
From this team’s first four games, there are two noticeable trends.
1. The Ghost Pirates have led by at least one goal in the third period of every single game they have played (in three out of four games, that third-period lead has been by two goals or more).
2. The Ghost Pirates have played an overtime game in three out of the four games they have played so far.
The easy assessment from those trends is that Savannah does not know how to cleanly finish a game. Towards the final eight minutes of the third period; the quality of hockey played plummets through the floor. In every game (even the 4 -1 defeat of Atlanta) there have been mental breakdowns that either lead to bad penalties taken, needless icings, or nasty turnovers in the defensive zone. Adding onto that; Savannah also allows a lot of shots on goal taken by opposing squads.
As you can see in most games so far; Savannah has allowed the opposing team to outshoot them. Fortunately, they have been able to lean back on the very impressive net minding of Darion Hanson & Jordan Papirny for the early goings. Hanson earlier this week signed a professional tryout agreement (PTO) with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL. That cannot be a recipe for future success. Even with both goalies showing strong outings; hanging your netminder out to dry too often can lead to brutal goals.
In their final game of October, this appeared to be a team that had taken some steps forward. For the better part of two periods, Savannah controlled Fort Wayne. Outside of the final four minutes of the first period, Savannah was playing some of its best hockey of the season. Because of that; they found themselves sitting 1:35 into the third with a comfortable 5-3 lead over the Fort Wayne Komets.
Old habits die hard, however, as Savannah lost control of the game in the third period once more and allowed two goals by Fort Wayne.
The flip side of this shows that Savannah is a group of fighters. Not many teams can give away the momentum of a game in the third just to bounce back and win it in overtime or a shootout. This team seems to play period to period, and whatever mistakes are made in previous periods are left there. They are a chippy, rambunctious group who will not allow themselves to be brought down by a swing in momentum.
What October showed is that this is a squad that does not give up on each other. In this team, one can see individual skills, ever-building chemistry, and potential greatness. Once they fully gel together and learn how to cleanly play an entire 60 minutes of regulation; they could be a Kelly Cup contender. A feat not many expansion teams could even dream of.
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