ECHL: South Carolina Stingrays Season Recap

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Christina Slemp for Inside the rink

“And another season comes to an end, and your South Carolina Stingrays head to the offseason,” the announcer said on April 13th as the Stingrays lost to the Florida Everblades. What a season it was. The Stingrays finished the season with 39-26-4 and, for only the third time in franchise history, did not make the Kelly Cup Playoffs, which led to the firing of head coach Brendan Kotyk. But the Stingrays’ season overall was full of memories fans and players will not soon forget.

Related Post: ECHL South Carolina Stingrays Hire Former AHL Assistant for Head Coach

The Stingrays kicked off the season with a new captain, Garet Hunt, stepping up to fill the void left by the retired Andrew Cherniwchan, who had served as captain for four years. The season also saw a dynamic roster, with players transitioning between the Hershey Bears and the Washington Capitals. Some players moved on to other teams, while the Stingrays welcomed new signings, adding to the team’s depth and diversity. The Stingrays finished the season with 85 points, 249 goals, and 896 penalty minutes.

Seventy-two games later, the South Carolina Stingrays finished by not only playing their hearts out on the ice but also making a significant impact off the ice. They sent 14,237 bears to the Salvation Army, Lowcountry Orphan Relief, Jeans Angels, Ronald McDonald House, and Toys for Tots. Patrick Harper, Ian Mackey, Reid Cooper, Kameron Kielly, and Connor Moore spent time with Habitat for Humanity building houses, showcasing their commitment to the community.

The season was also marked by individual player achievements. The team retired #28 Andrew Cherniwchan’s number after his retirement, a testament to his contribution to the team. Mid-season, Connor Moore was named to the 2024 Warrior/ECHL All-Star Classic roster, a well-deserved recognition of his skills. Then, Jonny Evans was named ECHL Player of the Month, Austin Magera was named to the ECHL ALL-Rookie Team and the ALL-ECHL Second Team, and was awarded the ECHL Rookie of the Year Award. Jack Adams brought home the ECHL Community Service Award, all of which are a source of pride and appreciation for the Stingrays and their fans.

While this was great, the main focus was winning hockey games, and boy, did they win some doozies. When things were getting bleak, they had a fantastic comeback to win against the Iceman 5-3 after the Iceman made it a 3-0 game in the first period. They were able to defeat the Everblades, who are currently in the Kelly Cup Finals two of the three times they met in March, and started the season out by taking down the Orlando Solar Bears in overtime and the New Foundland Growlers in two of their three-game series, while completely shutting out the Jacksonville Iceman and then mid-season shutting out the Atlanta Gladiators twice. February, as we headed toward the end of the season, you could see things were not right in the Stingray’s barn. They fell to the last-ranked Atlanta Gladiators and the Savannah Ghost Pirates, and in March and April, they experienced a few losses against different teams with at least three games they should have been able to steamroll. The Stingrays’ Power Play teams left so much on the ice, but at 24%, they made 54 out of 228 power plays worth something while killing off 177 of the 217 penalties, putting them at 82%, with six of them ending with short-handed goals made. 

Despite the bad vibes, South Carolina’s Forwards had two players who excelled in Goals: Austin Magera led the team with 29 goals, and Jack Adams followed closely behind with 27. But they also had Josh Wilkins at 20, Tyson Empey at 19, Jonny Evans at 18, and Kevin O’Neil at 16. Five other players reached double digits in goals for the Stingrays, including Defenseman Nick Leivermann at 10. But what is impressive is the number of assists that some of the players were putting up: Kevin O’Neil at 47, Austin Magera at 45, Jack Adams at 35, Michael Kim at 29, Connor Moore at 29, Jonny Evans at 27, Nick Leivermann at 24, Tyson Empey at 23. 

The Stingrays’ Defense was led by Michael Kim and Connor Moore, who led with both assists and points and Nick Leiverman and Benton Maass, who led the defensemen for goals. Goaltending did their best with what they had to work with. Mitchell Gibson led the goalies with a 22-14-3 record, holding a 2.56 GAA and .899 SV%. Garin Bjorklund, the other half of the main goaltending team, came out with a 14-11-1 record, 3.33 GAA, and SV% of .882. Reid Cooper was on the team for a little bit, playing six games for a little bit. He didn’t finish the season with much, 3-1-0 with a 2.92 GAA and SV% of .866. 

With the hiring of Jared Nightingale as head coach, we look to see those numbers grow and the team gets back to the previous glory they once held. The Stingrays are not a team that takes defeat lying down. They will pull it back together for the fans and put forward one of the best seasons we’ve seen from them yet. The South Carolina Stingrays kickoff their 24-25 season on Saturday, October 19th, against the Savannah Ghost Pirates at home at the North Charleston Coliseum. The puck drops at 6:05 PM EST. 

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Stephanie DeLaFleur

Beat Writer covering the ECHL Savannah Ghost Pirates, NHL Vegas Golden Knights and AHL Henderson Silver Knights. Follow me on X @StephiDelafleur

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