SUMMERVILLE, SC – Hockey seasons, much like hockey games, have an inevitable ebb and flow to them.
The Stingrays started off on their hottest start in over a decade. Then suddenly found themselves losing the tight games that they had been winning in October and early November. A rough patch in late November and early December saw them go 3-3-3-1 which was capped off by a disappointing overtime loss at home to Greenville on December 3rd. In that game the ‘Rays squandered two two-goal leads, allowing a tying goal with 70 seconds left and losing 14 seconds into overtime.
Then suddenly, the Stingrays put all the pieces together and drubbed the Swamp Rabbits 8-2 on the road. That win kicked off their current four-game win streak as they head into the first of three matchups against their South Division-leading foes, the Florida Everblades on Wednesday night. The ‘Rays have started slowly in three of their four wins but have played well after the initial period to dominate the rest of the games. Stingrays Head Coach Ryan Warsofsky sat down with The Sin Bin to talk about the upcoming series with Florida, the season so far and what he sees on and off the ice.
The Stingrays will be facing the Everblades for the first time this year. There usually isn’t any love lost between the two teams when they play. Look for a physical, hard-hitting series that will renew the rivalry between these two teams.
In last year’s regular season series, the Stingrays went 5-5. That effort ultimately led to the ‘Rays bouncing the Everblades in the second round 4-1, which included two double overtime wins. While Coach Warsofsky likes to keep his team focused on the foe at hand, he says it’s possible some have had this matchup circled on the calendar.
“I think so, they’re a good team. They’ve always been a good team. They are fast, big. From watching them, they’re a heavy team, similar to us, so it’ll be a good match up.”
With an odd schedule that saw a flurry of games and lots of back and forth road travel there hasn’t been as much time for on-ice practices as the coaching staff would like. But they use all the tools available to them including one on one sit down sessions with players and game video review.
“It’s the little details like not getting a puck out, taking a bad penalty, not blocking a shot, losing a battle on the wall. those things right there were costing us hockey games. We took and showed the guys, especially on video, since we don’t have a lot of practice time, that these things are so important,” said Warsofsky. “Those little plays add up and cost you hockey games.”
The Stingrays will continue to stick with the systems they have used with great success over the past several years. While little tweaks to the structure may happen from time to time and during the course of the game to adjust to an opponent, the blue-collar work the ‘Rays have become known for is here to stay. The atmosphere in the locker room and on the bench has remained focused and optimistic through the ups and downs.
“The main pillars of our team have stayed the same. That’s to outwork the opponent, out compete the opponent and win battles. Those little things give you a chance to win every night,” said Warsofsky. “(If) we go down early, there’s no panic on our bench…It’s a huge thing. It’s kind of a weird thing, but deep down if you believe you are going to win a hockey game and you get 18 guys believing that, you can go a long way.”
Almost two months into the season and several names are starting to stick out positively for Warsofsky. While he has been happy with the defense as a whole, he singled out praise for the consistent play rookie Taylor Cammarata, who spent the first several weeks on the injured reserve. Since working his way into the lineup, he has become a top scoring threat and has been involved in many of the Stingrays top scoring chances as of late. Coach also stated Steven Whitney was probably the team’s best player before his injury. Along with Cammarata, rookie forward Nick Roberto is also starting to make a solid impression.
“Sometimes these rookies take a little time and you have to have some patience with them. It’s a big jump from college or juniors to pro hockey. You’re playing against 30 year old guys and you have to compete on a night to night basis and be consistent. We’re starting to see that out there.”
The Stingrays and Everblades will play three times this week, starting tonight in Estero, FL. Game time is set for 7 pm ET.