SUMMERVILLE, SC – The South Carolina Stingrays have had deep runs in the playoffs the past several years. One of the main factors attributed to their success has been their defense and penalty kill unit. While most defensive systems in hockey tend to have many similar elements, getting players to buy into a team’s specific system and their individual responsibilities and requirements in the system can take time. As evidenced by the Stingrays’ slow starts the past few years, when players are focused defensively, offensive struggles can arise.
But this year, Head Coach Ryan Warsofsky has been able to get an early buy in of his systems by his players and the Stingrays are off to one of their hottest starts in the past decade. Going 8-2-0-0 heading into the Christmas break put a nice cap on an 18-6-3-1 start to the season.
The Sin Bin was able to catch up with Joey Leach, Marcus Perrier and Danny Federico to talk about the Stingrays defensive play and the season so far. Several common themes came from the players including praise for the forwards and the importance of buy in by the players to the structured system that the Stingrays are known for.
“I don’t think (our system) is different than other places,” said Leach. “We just take pride and have a good group of guys who contribute together and are able to execute the plan Coach has put in place for us. The big thing is committing to the plan he has in place and executing that the best we can. That’s what makes us successful.”
Having a bunch of us return definitely helped and the new guys we brought in bought in right away. We all gelled as a group together which is huge,” said Federico. “It speaks to our D Corps when you can switch us up with any other guy. If the situation calls for it, send out two guys out that haven’t been playing at all together that night and it is seamless. I think that speaks volumes for our D Corps.”
“It’s not just the defense,” said Perrier. “Our forwards take pride in blocking shots. As a team focus, our defensive zone is one of the top priorities. If we defend well, it gives our forwards opportunities to attack on the rush. Our defensive structure is more of a five man unit. So if one guy isn’t on the same page it tends to break down. Getting everyone on the same page is important.”
Leach added, “Definitely in the D Zone the forwards help a lot. You have to have support from them down low to be able to make your plays defensively.”
And the Stingrays have been making defensive plays all year. They continue to lead the league in three major statistics over the past three years; goals against, shots against and overall penalty kill records. The Stingrays lead the league with a penalty kill success rate of 89.9%. Additionally, the club is second in the league in both shots against (27.86) and goals against (2.46). The early defensive successes the Stingrays have enjoyed have placed them in a great position to make it through the All Star Break and the doldrums of February when injuries and call ups can test teams to their limits.
The Stingrays wrap up 2017 with a home-and-home series by visiting Atlanta tonight and Saturday night, before embarking on a 13-game campaign in January with a daunting five games in seven days set at the end of the month.