NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays (0-0-1) are preparing for a weekend tilt against the Jacksonville Icemen (1-1-0). The Stingrays are coming off of a 3-2 OT loss in their home opener against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (1-1-0). The Stingrays held the lead twice in that game before allowing the Swamp Rabbits catch up and eventually get the OT winner. The Stingrays were visibly outworked in the final period and overtime. Stingrays head coach Ryan Blair addressed it with the team.
“We talked about it the first couple days of this week. We have to be better in our own end. They kind of hemmed us in there the last five minutes and they obviously had the momentum going into overtime. We weren’t really sharp. And that’s on us to make sure the guys are ready to go for our weekend series against Jacksonville.”
Jacksonville split their opening weekend losing to the Florida Everblades (2-0-0) on the road and beating the Swamp Rabbits at home. Both games were physical games, a hallmark of Icemen teams under head coach Jason Christie. When looking towards the weekend’s games, Blair had this to say,
“We want to respond from our loss in our home opener. I think a good start is going to be critical. Playing on the road and getting going early is going to be critical for us. Throughout the course of the season we are going to be a team that focuses more on ourselves than the opponent but they’re a big team, a powerful team, they’re a physical team. So we’ll have to use our speed and compete to combat that.”
There will be some new faces in the lineup this weekend but Blair is not looking to completely shake things up after a single game.
“We’ll stick with what we had. We have a balanced lineup. The first three lines are all guys who have produced at this level or higher levels. I want to try to keep those guys together, keep them going and try to get some chemistry with our top three. And obviously (Dylan) Steman, (Cam) Askew and (Tim) Harrison played parts of last year together and we’ll keep those guys together as our fourth line. As a staff we want to try to roll all four lines and not limit anyone’s ice. Some tough decisions need to be made in the game but we want to get everyone rolling and feeling good with one another…… We’ll have two new guys in the lineup Friday night Doyle Somerby on defense and Brett Supinski up front. We’ll just have to see how Friday goes. We’ll likely split our goalies but other than that no lineup decisions have been made for Friday or Saturday yet.”
Earlier this week, the ECHL and Stingrays announced additional games through the middle of February. The games are clustered and have more of a feel of a regular season. Coach Blair likes the tempo of the new games.
“The start of the year is always a little bit slower than you would like and you want to get guys going and playing games. I think getting into a little more of a groove and a routine with some consistency will help our group.”
The Stingrays will be on the road Friday night in Jacksonville and will return home to face the Icemen Saturday at 6:05 PM at the North Charleston Coliseum where seating capacity is still limited to 2,700 fans in attendance.
Travis Rogers covers the South Carolina Stingrays for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter at @SinBinStingrays.