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In a 3-1 win over the South Carolina Stingrays, the 23-year-old stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced to improve to 2-1-0-1 in four appearances with the Swamp Rabbits this season; heading into Wednesday night’s showdown with the Wheeling Nailers, Bednard ranks ninth in the ECHL with a 2.42 goals-against average and 11th with a .913 save percentage.
“I thought the D zone was really structured well, and they really just kept the shots to the outside and made it simple for me so I could just cover up my rebounds and stay big back there,” Bednard told FloHockey about the game that earned him the honors. “I think our team this year is pretty strong, and it’s been great playing behind them, and I hope we can all keep it rolling here.”
In the ultra-competitive South Division, the Swamp Rabbits have gotten off to a 3-3-0-1 start thanks in large part to Bednard, a former standout at Bowling Green who has made big strides in his second professional season after splitting last year between Greenville and the American Hockey League’s Springfield Thunderbirds.
“I think experience is a huge thing for goalies, and especially for me,” Bednard said. “Knowing what I’m coming into, I just want to keep building my game and keep improving here . . . last year, that first year, you’re not sure what you’re getting into with the overall speed of the game and making sure you’re getting to your spots in time and making the reads that you need to make.”
Individually, Bednard has made big strides and it seems his team — which finished 29-30-0-5 last season — has as well in the early going.
“I think (first-year head coach) Andrew Lord has been great for us, and with this group of guys, there’s a lot of skill in the locker room,” the goalie said. “When we’re all pulling the same way, I think we can be a really dangerous team.”
Bednard, who is signed to an NHL contract with the Florida Panthers, was hopeful that he’d have a chance to once again test his mettle at the AHL level with their new affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers. However, the Checkers were one of the three franchises that opted out of the upcoming AHL season, both leaving opportunities for playing time one step up the ladder as a bit murky right now and making his development in the ECHL that much more critical.
“You’re definitely hearing all that, but right now, I’m playing for Greenville, so I’m trying to do the best I can with this team and compete with the guys I’m with,” Bednard said. “Right now, that’s my main focus.”
Of course, that’s not to say that Bednard isn’t hopeful that playing well in his second season with the Swamp Rabbits can continue to open some eyes and create some opportunities at the next level sooner rather than later. But that all comes with continuing to get better with the chances he is getting in the ECHL.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement, but it’s just going day-by-day, really,” Bednard said. “It’s improving every day in practice, stringing together some games and hopefully just doing the best I can do.”
Mike Ashmore has 17 years of experience covering professional and college sports. You can follow him on all social media channels at @mashmore98.