NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The highly-coveted South Carolina Stingrays coaching position did not stay open long. Ryan Blair has been announced as the 10th Head Coach in Stingrays history today. There will be a virtual press conference streamed on Facebook Friday at 11 a.m. to make the announcement official.
The Stingrays moved quickly to replace outgoing head coach Steve Bergin, who accepted an assistant coaching position with Sacred Heart University. Only one week ago it was announced that Bergin would be leaving the team. Bergin was the reigning ECHL Coach of the Year and the move caught many by surprise.
Blair came in last year as the assistant under Bergin and ran an impressive defensive unit. In addition to the team finishing with a league-best 44-14-4 record, the team was first in goals against at 2.37 per game and third-best on the penalty kill, stopping 87.6% of opposing power plays.
After finishing a three-year professional career, Blair coached juniors for three years with the Boston Junior Rangers earning 2017-18 Eastern Hockey League Premier Coach of the Year honors. He served for a year at his alma mater, UMass-Lowell as the Director of Hockey Operations before joining the Stingrays staff last year.
“I am very excited and grateful to be the next head coach of the South Carolina Stingrays,” Blair said in a statement. “This is a first-class organization that I am very fortunate to be a part of. I would like to thank Steve Bergin for trusting me and for bringing me in last year as his assistant. Bergy did an unbelievable job at teaching me the way and showing me what it means to be a Stingray. I would also like to thank Rob Concannon and Todd Halloran for believing in me from day one. I am excited to get started and can’t wait for the upcoming season.”
Blair will face some obstacles coming into the uncertainty that is the 2020-21 season. In addition to the unknowns of when the hockey season will start, he will have to replace the #2 and #4 goaltenders in the league. With Logan Thompson signing with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and Parker Milner retiring, there is a definite air of uncertainty in the crease for the Stingrays. On the positive side, team Captain Andrew Cherniwchan has re-signed for the upcoming season and several other players are rumored to have already signed and are awaiting the formal announcement from the team.
Blair will be the fourth head coach in as many years for the Stingrays. Ryan Warsofsky left in 2018 and ultimately became the head coach for the Charlotte Checkers. Spiros Anastas, the first coach ever hired from outside the organization, replaced him. Anastas was let go one year into his contract and has since become the head coach for the Brampton Beast. Steve Bergin, an assistant under both Warsofsky and Anastas, took the helm last year.
While a coaching carousel may seem to be a hindrance for most clubs, the Stingrays have seemed to weather the storm nicely, finishing no lower than third in their division since the 2011-2012 season. The ability of the Stingrays to grow their own talent and have continued success outside the ECHL is evident with NHL head coach Jared Bednar (Colorado Avalanche), Washington Capitals Director of Minor League Operations Jason Fitzsimmons, AHL head coaches, Ryan Warsofsky (Charlotte Checkers), Spencer Carbery (Hershey Bears) and Cail MacLean (Stockton Heat).
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