NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays (8-3-3-0) will be looking to get back in the win column this week after their first back-to-back regulation losses of the season. They have a home and home series with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (6-3-5-2) on Wednesday and Thursday and finish their week on Friday at home hosting the Jacksonville Icemen (5-8-1-1). The Stingrays went 1-2 over the past weekend, splitting a two-game series with the Florida Everblades (12-5-0-0) and losing Sunday to the Orlando Solar Bears (8-6-1-0).
The past weekend started with a strong outing resulting in a 5-1 win against Florida, but then the Stingrays fell flat the rest of the weekend, dropping their next two contests with identical 4-1 scores. Head coach Ryan Blair had to reshuffle his lineups due to players under COVID protocols and AHL call ups. He brought in new players to fill the voids left by the players under COVID protocols, the Hershey Bears recalling all of their non-injured players and Alex Dubeau and Doyle Somerby receiving try-out agreements with Hershey and Tucson Roadrunners, respectively. Regardless of who is suiting up for the Stingrays, expectations exist for the players who do take to the ice.
“Overall I am not happy or satisfied with the way things went last weekend,” said Blair. “We had a solid Friday and a good start on Saturday. The power play kind of killed us Saturday. It gave a lift and momentum to the other team and it kind of went downhill from there. We couldn’t respond and it hurt us.”
The Stingrays have struggled somewhat against Greenville, posting a 2-1-3-0 record, with their only wins coming in shootouts. The Stingrays have to be better in their own end and neutral zone, according to Blair. He said going into the next three-game set, the focus will be on getting the players to focus on their own roles and responsibilities.
“The players aren’t happy with last weekend. Pulling 2 out of 6 points isn’t what they wanted,” Blair said. “We should be coming out hungry and the new bodies back in the lineup will bring us more energy.”
The Stingrays will be bringing back three defensemen and at least one forward for Wednesday’s match up with another forward possibly becoming available Thursday or Friday. Graham Knott, Blake Hillman, and Cole Fraser, who were all signed before the canceled Wheeling series, will make their home debuts. Blair was happy with all of the new players and added it would take time for them to settle into their roles within the team. He was also very pleased with the return of Brett Supinski and plans to keep him together with Mark Cooper and Dan DeSalvo. One player that will not be back this week is Zach Malatesta, who took a puck to the head on Friday night’s game against Florida.
“He’s a real competitor and you can see it with him coming back into that game. He wanted to play the rest of the weekend but we couldn’t let him from a safety standpoint.” Blair expanded, “he has a laceration and it’s still pretty swollen. Hopefully we will have him back in a week or so but he’ll be in a cage for a little bit to protect it while it heals.”
Hunter Shepard and Tyler Nanne are still about a month away from getting cleared to play. Blair isn’t sure if they will rehab here or go up to Hershey when they get healthy. With the AHL season about to kick off, Blair knows players could get called up or sent down at any time and is ready to adjust as needed.
Stingrays upcoming games:
Wednesday, February 3 – vs. Greenville Swamp Rabbits, 7:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)
Thursday, February 4 – at Greenville Swamp Rabbits, 7:05 p.m. (Bon Secours Wellness Arena)
Friday, February 5 – vs. Jacksonville Icemen, 7:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)
Travis Rogers covers the South Carolina Stingrays for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinStingrays.