The South Carolina Stingrays were the best defensive team in the ECHL during the regular season.
Today’s GameWhen: 7:05 p.m.Where: North Charleston ColiseumSeries: Gwinnett leads, 2-0Tickets: 744-2248
The Stingrays led the ECHL in scoring defense, giving up league-low 171 goals. It was considered a strength of the Stingrays heading into the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs.
Injuries have decimated the Stingrays defensive core. Cam Brodie and Ryan McGinnis suffered season-ending injuries during the final weekend of the regular season. Then Ryan Grimshaw was hurt in Game 2 of the Stingrays’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Gwinnett.
As a result, the Stingrays are scrambling to shore up their blue line for the rest of the series.
The Stingrays, trailing 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, take on the Gladiators in Game 3 today at the North Charleston Coliseum at 7:05 p.m.
The Stingrays have been outscored, 8-2, during the first two games of the series, giving up uncharacteristic scoring chances that even MVP goalie Ryan Zapolski hasn’t been able to stop.
“We’ve dealt with injuries all season and we’ve still found ways to win games,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “This is nothing new for this team. We just need to do some little things a little bit better and we’re going to be fine. I got a ton of confidence in the 20 guys we’ve got in our locker room.”
The Stingrays were forced to play the final two periods of Game 2 this past Saturday night without Grimshaw, who left the game at the end of the first period after getting shoved into the Stingrays’ net and colliding with one of the posts. Grimshaw will miss the rest of the playoffs with a leg injury.
Rookie defenseman Jake Areshenko will be inserted back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 2. Less than a month ago, Areshenko was finishing up his senior season at Bemidji State University.
Scooter Vaughan also missed the final two periods with cramps. Vaughan, who was originally signed to play defense, had been playing forward for the last month. The former University of Michigan star is expected to move back to the blue line for Game 3.
“It doesn’t matter where I play,” Vaughan said. “Wherever they need to me to play is fine with me as long as it’s going to help us win.”
Luka Vidmar, who has yet to play during the playoffs, is listed as questionable for tonight’s game with a lower body injury.
“We’re only going to worry about the guys that are on the ice,” Carbery said. “We can’t worry about the guys that are sitting in the stands.”
The Stingrays have managed just two goals in the first two games of the series — both of those coming in a 3-2 loss in Game 2.
“We just need to get the puck in their end and get it deep,” said Stingrays captain Kevin Quick. “Once we get the puck in their end and we’re cycling it, we’re all over them. Too many times we’re turning the puck over, and that plays right into their game. They are a great team in transition.”