It was less than a month into the season when South Carolina head coach Spencer Carbery knew the Stingrays had issues at the center position.
Greenville at South Carolina
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The Stingrays didn’t have a natural centerman on the roster. Carbery moved players from the wing to center, but they were just band aids, covering a weakness that would eventually need to be addressed.
Sooner or later, Carbery realized, he would have to go outside the organization for a solution. He fielded dozens of phone calls from ECHL teams about prospective centermen. But either the team wanted too much in return or the player in question didn’t fill Carbery’s needs.
“It was tough there for a while because the three guys we’d signed to play up the middle were all gone a week or two into the season,” Carbery said. “I knew I had to be patient. The right guy was going to come along, but it was nerve-wracking. We needed a center, badly.”
Enter Chris Langkow.
Carbery had an ace in the hole. He had the rights to Matt Pope, a prolific scorer for the Stingrays a year ago who was under contract with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears.
Several teams had already inquired about Pope, but Carbery was holding out for the right player.
When Langkow’s name came up, Carbery quickly did his due diligence. Langkow had an impressive resume.
He helped the Alaska Aces win the Kelly Cup title in 2011 as a rookie. He led the Aces with eight goals during the playoffs. He also played for former Stingrays head coach Jared Bednar in the AHL with the Peoria Rivermen.
“We knew about Chris, but we’d never seen him play in person, so there was a little bit of mystery,” Carbery said. “We talked with a lot of people, Jared included, and all we heard was great things about Chris.”
The scouting report on Langkow was that he was a solid two-way centerman. Not much of a scoring threat, but a guy who could play in all three zones and who was especially good in his defensive zone.
“We were missing that solid, dependable centerman,” Carbery said. “That was a huge hole in our lineup.”
A year ago, Langkow missed six months with a head and neck injury. He was just finding his legs with the Reading Royals when he learned he was being traded.
“Like a lot of guys I was a little shocked getting traded,” Langkow said. “But the more I learned about South Carolina and the organization, the more I got excited about it.”
Langkow has proven to be better than advertised. While a dependable defensive center, Langkow has added an offensive flair that Carbery had not expected. Through 29 games, Langkow has 10 goals and 11 assists. His 10 goals rank second on the team.
“That’s been a very pleasant surprise for us,” Carbery said. “I’ve put Chris in a bunch of different situations and he’s been able to handle everything we’ve thrown at him. I can put him on any line and know I don’t have to worry about that line the rest of the night. He’s going to take care of it.”