It's that time of year again.The time when coaches in the ECHL start looking to sign college players to help out during a playoff run.
A year ago, the Stingrays brought in defenseman Dave Grimson and forwards Mick Berge, Rob Ricci and Nikita Kashirsky. Three of the four -- Berge, Ricci and Kashirsky -- played at least one game during the team's Kelly Cup run.
With as many as a dozen players out of the lineup due to injuries and call-ups, Stingrays coach Cail MacLean will be looking toward the college ranks for help this month. The college hockey season is quickly coming to a close.
"I don't think it's any secret that we're going to bring in some college guys this month," MacLean said. "Even if we had a full roster, I'd still want to bring in a couple of guys just get a look at them for next season. We obviously need some help, but I'm not going to bring a guy, just to bring him in at this point in the season. I want to bring in someone who has a chance to help us out if not during the playoffs, then next season."
This past weekend, the Stingrays played with just five defensemen, none of whom started the season with the team. Bringing in a quality defenseman will be a top priority, MacLean said.
"No question, we're looking for a defenseman, but every team is looking for defensemen so they're not easy to come by," MacLean said. "If there's a forward out there that can come in and contribute, we'll sign him. If someone can help us it doesn't matter what position they play."
Last year, the Stingrays signed Stefan Della Rovere, a seventh-round pick of the Washington Capitals, who plays for the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League, one of Canada's premier junior leagues. McLean said he expects Della Rovere to play for Hershey, the Stingrays' American Hockey League affiliate, during the playoffs.
"We'd love to have Stefan back, but my understanding is that he'll be with Hershey when his junior season is done," MacLean said. "Getting guys out of juniors is more complicated because of the immigration issues. It usually takes a couple of weeks for their paperwork to come through, and by then you're already into the playoffs."
There were as many players in the Stingrays' training room this week as on the ice for practice.
Nate Kiser (upper body), Josh Godfrey (concussion), Zach Jones (knee), Joe Finley (hand), and Matt Scherer (groin) were all out of the lineup this past weekend against Cincinnati. Rugged winger Spencer Carbery went down Sunday afternoon with an upper body injury.
Only Kiser is expected to be back in the lineup this weekend, when the Stingrays take on Florida beginning Friday night.
"Nate has the best chance to get back on the ice," said Stingrays trainer D.J. Church. "I'm not as optimistic about the other guys."
Scherer still hopes to get in at least one game this weekend against the Everblades.
"It's feeling a lot better, but at the same time you don't want to push it and get hurt again," Scherer said. "If not this weekend, then definitely next week."
Carbery could return next week when the Stingrays travel to Estero, Fla., to take on the Everblades. Godfrey, who hasn't played since Jan. 16, hasn't started skating again.
Jones, who had knee surgery last month, was thought to be out for the rest of the season but now could return before the end of the regular season.
"We have three games down in Gwinnett the first week in April. and we're hoping that Josh will be back in the lineup then," Church said.
Finley is still not expected to return this season.
Hershey acquires defenseman
Hershey acquired defenseman Grant Lewis from the AHL rival Chicago Wolves, which could be good news for the Stingrays.
The Bears acquired Lewis without giving up a player. It could mean the return of either Dylan Yeo or Patrick Wellar from Hershey.
"The more players Hershey has, the better chance we've got of getting one our players back," MacLean said.