With the 23-game winning streak firmly in the rearview mirror and a Kelly Cup playoff spot and opponent already determined, the South Carolina Stingrays have turned their attention to the postseason.
The Stingrays, who set an ECHL record with 23 consecutive wins during the months of February and March, will play their final regular-season game Saturday night against the Evansville IceMen beginning at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
South Carolina will face Reading in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs, which are set to begin next weekend. The only issue remaining to be resolved is which team will have home-ice advantage for the seven-game series.
The Stingrays are a single point ahead of Reading in the East Division going into the final weekend of the regular season, but have a game in hand on the Royals. If Reading wins its final two regular-season games against Indianapolis, the Royals would hold home-ice advantage. Indianapolis is among four teams still battling for the final two playoff spots in the North Division.
None of that seems to matter to the Stingrays coaching staff or their players.
“Of course we’d like to have home-ice in the series, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t get it,” said Stingrays captain Andrew Rowe. “You’ve still got to go out and play well. We’re focusing on fine-tuning our game and getting mentally and physically ready for the playoffs. The playoffs can be a grind and you’ve got to be prepared for that.”
After a season-high seven-game road trip the last two weeks, the Stingrays have been off since April 4. The Stingrays have spent this week in practice, tweaking their game and getting some much-needed rest before the playoffs. The Stingrays will enter the playoffs with plenty of momentum, going 26-2 since the beginning of February.
“To be honest, I think we’ve been in playoff mode for the last five or six weeks,” said South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery. “We dug ourselves a pretty big hole earlier in the season, so we had to really work to get to where we are now. We’re not overlooking Evansville. We’re treating this game like it’s the start of the playoffs. The opponent isn’t the Reading Royals and it’s not Game 1, but the way we play and compete and approach the game will be same as next weekend when the playoffs officially start.”
Former South Carolina Stingrays forward Travis Morin will be inducted into The Post and Courier Stingrays Hall of Fame during the first intermission on Saturday.
Morin skated with the Stingrays from 2007-09, helped lead the organization to its third Kelly Cup title in 2009. In 147 games with the Sitngrays, Morin recorded 175 points (62 goals, 113 assists). The Brooklyn Park, Minn., native finished second in ECHL rookie scoring and in 2008-09 and led the league with 62 assists.
“Travis is very deserving of this award,” said Carbery, who played on the 2009 championship team with Morin. “He’s probably the best player I’ve ever played with. He’s a guy that could have been upset about playing in the ECHL, but he never was. He just continued to work hard and improve his game and now he’s among the best players in the AHL.”
Over the last six seasons, Morin skated with the Dallas Stars organization appearing in 13 total games with in NHL and helped the Texas Stars, of the American Hockey League, capture the 2014 Calder Cup title last season. Morin won the Les Cunningham Award as the 2013-14 AHL Most Valuable Player, the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL’s 2013-14 regular-season scoring leader and the Jack A. Butterfield trophy as the 2014 Calder Cup Most Valuable Player.
In 409 career AHL games, Morin scored 119 goals and 233 assists for 352 points and is Texas’ all-time leader in goals (119), assists (232), points (351) and games played (404).
The Stingrays Hall of Fame inducted 16 members since its formation in 2003. The inductees include, Rick Vaive and Mark Bavis (2003), Rob Concannon and Brett Marietti (2004), Dave Seitz (2005), Ed Courtenay (2006), Kirk Daubenspeck (2007), Brad Dexter (2008), Jerry Zucker (2009), Jason Fitzsimmons (2010), Julie Thoennes and Nate Kiser (2011), Jared Bednar (2012), Matt Scherer (2013) and Marty Clapton and Trevor Johnson (2014).
Rays ink Boyd
The Stingrays signed defenseman Ronald (R.J.) Boyd on Friday.
Boyd, 24, played for Michigan State the last three seasons, recording 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 111 games.
Boyd was selected in the seventh round (183rd overall) by the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL draft. Boyd is a native of Lake Worth, Fla.
“With the playoffs right around the corner, we needed to add some depth on our blue line,” Carbery said.