NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays (9-8-4-0) have not had much success on the ice as of late. The team has dropped to fifth in the standings and is currently on a six-game winless streak and are 2-7-1-0 in their last 10 games. They are about to embark on a five-game road trip over the next two weeks with two stops this weekend in Jacksonville and three contests against the Everblades the following week. The Stingrays are a talented team up front but their lack of scoring has doomed them as they have only scored over three goals once in the last 10 games. Despite the past few losses against Florida and Jacksonville it has not been all bad.
“Over the last couple of game we have been able to find a pretty good compete level. Seems like it is different things on differ nights that are hurting us. But I was happy with our compete level over the last couple of (games),” said head coach Ryan Blair. “It’s some different little areas that present themselves on different nights that have really, really hurt us. We’ve talked about those areas, shown those areas and work to improve those areas and continue to work.”
The schedule has been high paced for the Stingrays as they played 10 games in a 17 day period which included a six games in eight day marathon and a four in five day endcap to the stretch. There has not been much time for the team to practice as they have had to mix in recovery days to keep themselves fresh for the games. The upcoming schedule has allowed for more practice time and Coach Blair has been happy with the way practices have started going in to the first leg of the road trip.
“I definitely helps. It allows to guys to hit the reset button. It allows our group to regenerate and get that focus back.” Blair continued, “Having a little lighter of a week especially helps us.”
Players can become frustrated when their personal game and team game is not where they want it to be. Monitoring the mood in the locker room is important for the coaching staff.
“Honestly it’s been a new day every day for the guys. They’ve come in and they’ve continues to be energetic, passionate and eager to learn and get better. That’s a good sign. Obviously you never want to be hitting this struggle but we’re positive with our outlook that we’ll be better because of it. We’ve got a great locker room with some great character players and leadership in there. We’re just in a rough spot and we’ll dig out of it. We have a really good room and a room that believes in themselves and believes in what we’re trying to do here,” Blair said.
“From a group standpoint and an individual standpoint we’ve run into some tough spots. Some guys that are usually on the scoresheet that are really struggling and some guys that are usually really good in our D-zone are struggling and struggling in net too. So it’s all around that we’re struggling and it just seems like guys are getting frustrated as it goes on. It’s a lot easier said than done to remain positive but it’s a message that we as a staff continue to promote. We need to find ways to remain positive and determined. And we need to be a more resilient group.”
There will be some lineup changes as Mark Cooper has been placed on the injured reserve list. Cole Ully is expected to be available this weekend and Matt Weis has been assigned to the Stingrays from the Hershey Bears for the first time this year.
“Weis is a highly skilled forward that plays at both ends. He’ll definitely impact our lineup in a positive way. It’ll be a wakeup call for some of our guys too to see that things are shaking out at the next level,” Blair said. “This adversity and now we’re adding a couple of pieces, it’ll add more competition and hold guys even more accountable now.”
The task ahead is to get back into the win column. Ironically the power play, which has under achieved the majority of the season, found life in that past four games and accounted for the majority of the scoring. Building on the new found success in the power play and keeping the compete level high is a priority for the upcoming road trip.
“We’ve got to play with urgency. We have to play with determination. I thought over the past few games we struggled on the scoresheet but I thought overall our compete level and urgency was there,” said Blair. “We need that to continue.”
The Stingrays will be looking for leadership from within to propel the team to success. A new addition to the locker room is veteran forward Anthony Collins who has returned to where he got his start in the ECHL back in 2013.
“He’s a nice addition to the lineup. He brings that honest toughness to the group and good leadership. He’s played in the league for a long time. He’s a stand-up guy so we’re happy to have him. I thought he was effective and played his role well,” said Blair. “I also though Dan DeSalvo and Max Novak were our biggest competitors over the last three or four games and we’ll need that to continue. I thought those guys have been really solid and kind of driving the bus in terms of urgency and compete.”
The Stingrays start their road trip tonight against the Jacksonville Icemen with a Saturday rematch. They will face the Florida Everblades three times next week before returning for a home game on Wednesday, March 3.
Travis Rogers covers the South Carolina Stingrays for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him at @SinBinStingrays.