Stingrays 20th Season off to rough start

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC-The South Carolina Stingrays are struggling as they near completion of the first quarter of the 2012-13 season. If the first 20 percent of the season is predictive of the last 80 percent it will be a frustrating 20th season. The ‘Rays find themselves mired in last place in the five team South Division of the ECHL Eastern Conference.
 
Their record of (7-11-0-1) and 15 points is technically good for a tie with the Florida Everblades who also have 15 points.   Unfortunately for ‘Ray’s fans the ‘Blades, South Carolina’s traditional and most bitter rival have played four less games in capturing their points total.
 
The news is no better when viewed from the conference standpoint. In the Eastern Conference standings South Carolina is in 10th place out of 14 teams. Home ice has seen the team split eight games posting a 4-4 record while on the road they have managed three wins in ten games. Attendance at the North Charleston Coliseum is also down. The ‘Rays traditionally a solid draw are averaging 3,041 fans after nine home games. Of course with both the University of South Carolina and Clemson enjoying excellent football seasons the local attendance should pickup after the college football season concludes.
 
The points total and record is reflected in the team’s statistical results. South Carolina has scored just 13 power play goals in 81 opportunities an overall 16 percent success rate. Meanwhile their penalty kill is giving up goals almost 20 percent of the time. In another meaningful area they are surrendering 3.03 goals against per game while averaging 2.63 goals scored in their 19 games. Only three players led by rookie Andrew Cherniwchan are in positive plus/minus territory. He leads with a +5 rating.  
 
Equally frustrating are the statistics in the shots category. The ‘Rays are last in the average of shots launched in the entire league averaging 25.26 shots on goal per game. Defensively they are giving up 33.79 shots per game and are near the bottom of the league in this category.
 
On a positive note they are getting good balance in the scoring category. Six players have double digit point totals. They are led by rookie defenseman Tommy Cross (5g-10a) with 15 points while forward Hunter Bishop leads in goals (7) scored. Mike Hamilton has chipped in six strikes.   In net, goal tender Ryan Zapolsky has a record of 4-3 and a nice 1.93 goals against average. He ranks fourth in the ECHL in this category. He has a save percentage of 0.926. This also ranks high as he has the third best save percentage in the league. His partner   rookie Shaun Hunwick (4-4) is carrying a   0.918 save percentage with a 2.92 goals against average.  
 
South Carolina has only missed the playoffs one time in their 19 previous seasons. Thus, a surge is expected by local fans.   The key may be a turnaround defensively. The goal tenders have shown the ability to stop the puck reflected by their save percentages. Thus a reduction in shots on goal should be a major help in reducing goals allowed.
 
The Rays who dropped two out of three games at home this past weekend make another northern road swing as they play Reading, the night before Thanksgiving and then jump back into action on Friday and Saturday at Elmira before returning home on the 30th to host Reading. This will be an important stretch and perhaps an indication of whether the   season can be turned around.  
          
Contact the author at Phil.Brand@prohockeynews.com
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