NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays enter the week last in the South Division after dropping all three games this past week, leading them to a 9-12-2-0 record and sub-.500 win percentage for the first time this season. The Rays find themselves in a similiar situation to last season’s team where they missed a lot of players to injuries and call ups, but as players started to make their return, the team couldn’t be stopped down the stretch. The compete factor was at a season high this weekend despite the losses. South Carolina still finds themselves only four points out of the final playoff spot for the South Division.
The Stingrays were missing some key pieces this past weekend, including six players on AHL contracts and a couple of banged up players to start the week. Tariq Hammond was a late scratch before Friday’s game and Victor Hadfield went down in the first period, leaving the Stingrays with only four defensemen, two of which were signed out of the SPHL earlier in the week. This forced the coaching staff to make a decision and send Nate Pionk back as a blueline reinforcement for rest of the weekend.
Despite playing with only five defensemen all weekend, the team buckled down and competed in each contest. Facing off against the top team in the Central Division, and the top offensive team in the league, the Stingrays only allowed one goal late in each of the second and third periods in a 2-1 loss behind 39 saves from Hunter Shepard. Cédrick Andrée continued the great goaltender performances in net, making 28 saves on Saturday in a 3-1 loss to the Jacksonville Icemen before a wild Sunday matinee gave Jacksonville the weekend sweep by a final score of 5-2.
This week, the Stingrays get a chance to relax, regroup, and get healthy as they will be off for the holiday break until practice later this week. The lone game this weekend takes place on Sunday when the Stingrays welcome back the Icemen for the third straight contest at the North Charleston Coliseum. This will also be the third of four straight against Jacksonville where the teams see each other for six in a seven game span. The Icemen come in as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 12 of their last 14 and are currently on a six-game win-streak that has propelled them to the top of the South Division.
STINGRAYS RECORD:9-12-2-0LAST WEEK: 0-3-0-0
FRIDAY: TOLEDO WALLEYE 2, SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 1(North Charleston Coliseum - North Charleston, SC)
The Stingrays saw the top scoring offense in the league come to town on Friday night for the only matchup with the Central Division leader this season. A defensive battle ensued throughout the game, but the Walleye offense took advantage of a couple misplays late in the second and late in the third, scoring the game-winner with 13 seconds remaining. Jake Coleman netted his first career goal and Hunter Shepard made 39 saves in the loss.
SATURDAY: JACKSONVILLE ICEMEN 3, SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 1(North Charleston Coliseum - North Charleston, SC)The Icemen took advantage early in the opening period as Jake Elmer used a burst of speed to get by the defense and give Jacksonville the 1-0 lead. They added one more midway through the first before Carter Cowlthorp cleaned up a rebound for the lone Stingrays goal of the night. Cédrick Andrée made 28 saves before being pulled for the extra attacker late in the game.
SUNDAY: JACKSONVILLE ICEMEN 5, SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 2(North Charleston Coliseum - North Charleston, SC)Once again, Jacksonville found themselves leading early in the game, but Andrew Cherniwchan’s power play goal tied the game before the first period completed. Jacksonville would score four more goals before all was said and done, sandwiching Jake Coleman’s second tally of the weekend.
Sunday, December 26: vs. Jacksonville Icemen, 3:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum) – What You Didn’t Get for ChristmasSTINGRAYS LEADERSGoals: 10 – Andrew Cherniwchan Assists: 12 – Patrick HolwayPoints: 17 – Andrew CherniwchanPlus/Minus: Plus-2 – Jake MassiePenalty Minutes: 42 – Alex BrinkShots On Goal: 82 – Justin FlorekWins: 5 – Ryan BednardGoals Against Average: 2.44 – Ryan BednardSave Percentage: 0.922 – Ryan Bednard
THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES
The Stingrays blueline has been decimated by the combination of call ups and injuries this season, with the epitome coming this weekend. Jake Massie was joined by Jordan Subban in Hershey this past Friday. Patrick Holway signed his first AHL deal of the season two weeks ago with the San Jose Barracuda and Chaz Reddekopp joined the Tucson Roadrunners as well. In response, the Rays signed Bryce Martin on last Tuesday before Ben Boukal was a late addition before Friday night’s contest. Tariq Hammond was a late scratch before Friday’s game and Victor Hadfield went down in the first period the same night, forcing Nate Pionk to play back as a fifth defensemen where he stayed for the remainder of the weekend.
PLAY THE BEST TO BE THE BEST
The Stingrays six most recent contests have all been against top teams in three different divisions who are clicking at the right time. It began in Boise against the Idaho Steelheads who lead the Mountain Division and are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games. Last Friday, the Stingrays took on the top scoring offense in the league (4.00 goals per game) in the Toledo Walleye who sit atop the Central Division and are 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 contests. Then the Jacksonville Icemen, who have won 12 of their last 14 games, came to town for a pair of games. In all contests, it never seemed the Stingrays were too far outmatched, and competed every minute on the ice. This bodes well for the future when the team returns to full strength.
A SEASON OF STREAKS
This Stingrays season has been a bit of a see saw with a lot of wins and losses coming in clumps. South Carolina won three straight games early in the season before finding themselves pointless in five straight. Coming out of that streak, the Stingrays picked up points in six straight games, collecting 10 of 12 points before their current six game losing streak. If all goes according to plan, the Stingrays are due for a couple wins in a row coming out of the holiday break.
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