Rays open camp with unfamiliar faces

Spencer Carbery

Mike Hamilton looked around the South Carolina Stingrays locker room Monday morning hoping to find a familiar face.

There were not many to be found.

The Stingrays, who opened training camp on the franchise’s 20th season Monday morning at the Carolina Ice Palace, don’t have a single player on their current roster who took part in last year’s training camp.

Hamilton, who joined the team after Christmas last season, is the elder statesman around the Stingrays locker room with 25 games with the club a year ago. The rest of his 19 teammates either did not play for the Stingrays last year or joined the team later than Hamilton.

“There a quite a few guys I’m meeting for the first time,” Hamilton said. “I’ve played against a couple of the guys, but we don’t have a lot of guys who played here last year. Even in a league like the ECHL, that’s pretty uncommon to have that much turnover on your roster.”

With the retirement of Matt Scherer, Pierre-Luc O’Brien, Trent Campbell and Johann Kroll, there are no players left on the roster from the Stingrays 2009 Kelly Cup championship team.

“It was kind of a perfect storm of events this summer, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a positive way,” said second-year head coach Spencer Carbery. “We had some guys retire that meant a lot to this team, to this franchise and this city, so I knew that there was going to be a transition.”

The Stingrays brought in five additional players Monday — forwards Shawn Weller, Hunter Bishop, Daniel Koger and Tyler McNeely; and defenseman Kevin Quick.

Weller, 26, has played 291 AHL games in six seasons with the Binghamton Senators, Abbotsford Heat, Manitoba Moose, St. John’s IceCaps and Texas Stars.

Bishop, 25, played in 34 games with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs two seasons ago. He missed last season with a shoulder injury.

Quick, 24, helped the Florida Everblades (ECHL) capture their first Kelly Cup championship last season. Quick appeared in 173 games over three seasons with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals.

McNeely, 25, played in 66 games with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season.

Koger, 22, finished last season with the Stingrays.

“We wanted to be very patient this summer with our recruiting,” Carbery said. “With the (NHL) lockout, we knew that there might be some players available later in the signing period that might not get AHL deals. I think it really paid off for us because we were able to bring in some high-caliber players late in the summer.”