As news began to leak out last week that the NHL lockout was coming to an end, ECHL teams immediately began looking for players.
South Carolina Stingrays vs. Gwinnett Gladiators
Gwinnett vs. South CarolinaWhen: Tonight, 7:05 p.m.Where; North Charleston ColiseumRecords: Stingrays 18-19-4 (40 points); Gwinnett 25-12-2 (52 points)Tickets: 744-2248
ECHL rosters that had been overflowing with players during the lockout found themselves scrambling to fill slots for players who had been called up to the American Hockey League. Many players who would have been on NHL rosters were playing for AHL teams during the lockout.
The South Carolina Stingrays were one of the teams to feel the impact, losing their top two scorers — Hunter Bishop and Tyler McNeely — to the AHL.
It could have been worse. ECHL South Division rival Florida lost eight players to the AHL, while tonight’s opponent, Gwinnett, had five players called up in the last week. The Stingrays will take on the Gladiators beginning at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Due to call-ups, trades and injuries, only three players — Damon Kipp, Andrew Cherniwchan and Kevin Quick — that were on the Stingrays’ starting lineup on opening night will take the ice tonight against the Gladiators. The Stingrays have used 48 different players this season, a lot even by ECHL standards.
“It’s been a crazy year from a personnel perspective,” said South Carolina Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. “The turnover on our roster has been pretty dramatic. We’ve had to use a lot of different players and a lot of different player combinations. It seems like we’ve had a new guy in the lineup almost every single night since Christmas.”
The Stingrays got some good news on Monday when they learned that forward Matt Beca will be in the lineup tonight. Beca, 26, skated in two games with the Charlotte Checkers over the weekend, recording one assist. He has played in four games with the Stingrays this season (one goal, one assist) and in 31 contests with the Florida Everblades. The Stingrays got Beca in a trade with Florida on New Year’s Eve in exchange for forward Matthew Pistilli.
“It’ll be good to have Matt back in the lineup,” Carbery said. “We were not sure how long he’d be up in Charlotte, but he’s a welcome addition.”
Carbery said the return of captain Shawn Weller, who suffered a hand injury two months ago while playing for St. John’s in the AHL, is still two weeks away. Mike Hamilton (concussion), Ryan Lowery (concussion) and Ryan Turek (knee) are not expected to play this week.
“I’ve never seen so many top-flight guys go down with injuries at one time,” Carbery said. “But we can’t worry about who’s not in the lineup. We need to be concerned with the guys we can put on the ice.”