History maybe repeating itself in the Low Country.
It was this time last season, the South Carolina Stingrays were resurrecting their season with a 23-game unbeaten streak — longest in ECHL history. The streak would propel them to a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference and a trip to the Kelly Cup Finals, where they took the Allen Americans to seven games.
This year’s version of the Stingrays are on an eight-game unbeaten streak (6-0-2) which includes a 4-2 win against the league-leading Missouri Mavericks last Tuesday night in Independence, MO.
“It was a big time confidence boost,” Carbery said. “For us to come out of that game and win to start the road trip…I think it sort of snowballed and gave us a lot of confidence. It was like ‘okay, we can play with the best teams in the league, we’re right up there with them when we play our game.'”
The team got an added boost prior to their games against the Wichita Thunder, when Caleb Herbert and Derek DeBlois were returned to the Stingrays late last week, following stays in the American Hockey League. Combined with forwards David Pacan (who has points in 11 of his last 12 games,) and rookie Brett Cameron who appears to be rounding into form (currently on a six-game point streak,) the Stingrays offense is congealing at the right time. During the unbeaten streak, the Stingrays have are averaging four goals per game, and have scored more than five goals three times.
Perhaps more impressive, is that the offense is playing at this clip without players like Andrew Rowe (call-up to Bridgeport,) Brandon Magee and Jared Staal (reserve/injury). If the Stingrays add those three components prior to the start of the playoffs, this team could be very dangerous.
The Stingrays defense has been playing very well during the streak too.
In their last five games, the Stingrays have held Missouri (league-leading 164 goals,) Florida (149 goals,) Tulsa (127 goals) and Wichita (97 goals) to a combined 7 goals. In addition to the excellent defense, the Stingrays have gotten good goaltending performances from Mark Dekanich and Vitek Vanecek, who rank among the league’s goaltending leaders. South Carolina ranks third in the league with 2.35 goals-against per game. Dekanich is fourth with a .926 save percentage and seventh with a 2.13 goals-against average while Vanecek is 11th overall, and third among rookies with a 2.29 goals-against average.
If there is one area where the Stingrays could improve, Carbery believes it could come from adding a piece on the back end.
“Someone who can give us some depth from the back end,” Carbery said.
Defenseman Nick Jones has been out of the lineup for the last six weeks with an injury. If Jones is not able to come back this season, Ryan Ruikka maybe an answer if there are no other suitable candidates on the trade market. Though he is currently banged up, Ruikka has four assists and is a +11 in 17 games on the Stingrays blueline. He did log some power play time in Wichita and has decent vision with the puck, the downside is that he does tend to pinch too much on the man-advantage.
Time will tell, but the Stingrays appear to be poised to make a deep run in defense of their Eastern Conference championship from last season.