Stingrays blank Wheeling, 3-0
Bryson Busniuk was at lunch with his family when he got the call from South Carolina Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery.
Dave Jarman was working at his day job at Port City Mopeds on The Isle of Palms when assistant coach Ryan Warsofsky reached out.
Busniuk and Jarman thought the Stingrays' coaching staff was joking at first when they wondered if the duo would be interested in playing Saturday night against the Wheeling Nailers.
Jarman, 27, had been a star at Sacred Heart University but had only played in two professional games for the Stingrays during the 2010-11 season. Busnuik, 34, had more than 300 ECHL games under his belt, but he had not played in the league since the 2008-09 season.
Jarman and Busniuk combined to take more than a dozen shifts and helped rest a weary Stingrays team, which was playing in its third game in three days.
South Carolina goalie Jeff Jakaitis turned away all 29 shots he faced as the Stingrays got three goals to beat Wheeling, 3-0, before a crowd of 4,579 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays improved to 21-5-3 (45 points), while the Nailers fell to 14-9-5 (33 points).
With an injury to forward Lindsay Sparks and a call-up for defenseman Steve Spinell to the American Hockey League's Providence Bruins, Carbery was desperate for bodies Saturday afternoon. He found out about Sparks' injury about lunchtime, which was too late to get anyone here from the Southern Professional Hockey League.
His first call was to former Stingrays captain Matt Scherer, but Carbery's former linemate didn't even return his call. He tried Johann Kroll next, who declined the offer.
Next up was Busniuk, who played for the Stingrays during the 2008-09 season and said he was already planning on coming to the game.
"He called me about 1:30 (p.m.) and I told him sure, and it didn't matter if he dressed me or I got to play a single shift," Busniuk said. "I ended up playing a little more than I thought."
Carbery said having those two extra bodies helped the Stingrays more than they'll know.
"It kept guys fresh and to be honest, Bryson and Dave were solid out there," Carbery said. "They kept it simple."
Carbery called the three-goal victory one of the best of his coaching career.
"One of the most impressive games that I've ever been a part of," Carbery said. "I've been in some bad situations, short guys. I've been in some pretty interesting scenarios. This was as adverse a situation as you could find, and the guys came out and played great the entire night."
In all, South Carolina has 11 players currently called up to the AHL and with captain Kevin Quick and Sparks out of the lineup with injuries, the Stingrays' roster looks nothing like it did earlier in the season.
And yet, the Stingrays continue to win and have the best record in the ECHL's Eastern Conference.
"Some teams will use injuries and call-ups as an excuse not to play well," said Jakaitis, who recorded his second shutout of the season. "We seem to thrive on the adversity. I'm not sure I've seen a team overcome this many call-ups and injuries."
The Stingrays dominated the opening period, outshooting the Stingrays, 17-4, and taking a 2-0 lead on goals from Luke Grenier and Ryan Grimshaw.
Leading 2-0 late in the third period, the Nailers were pressuring the Stingrays inside their defensive zone when Busniuk dropped in front of Scott Zurevinski's shot to block it. The puck slammed off of Busniuk's shin skates.
"It was unbelievable. I mean he lays out and blocks it," Carbery said with a chuckle. "I got guys that are regular pros that wouldn't do that. It was just a great night from everyone in that locker room."
Peter Boyd got the final goal on an empty netter in the final 30 seconds of regulation.