Stingrays Going to Third Straight Conference Finals: Why it Matters

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Posted May 5, 2017

Former South Carolina Stingray Braden Holtby. (Caps Outsider)

On Thursday night, after the South Carolina Stingrays advanced to the conference finals for the third year in a row, most Caps fans had no clue. Many Caps fans know and pay attention to the AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Several Caps currently playing for the Bears may have spent some time in the ECHL. In addition many NHLers, past and present have played in the ECHL.

On the Caps alone, Daniel Winnik, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, and Jay Beagle all played in the ECHL. Assistant Coach Todd Reirden and development coach Olie Kolzig also played in the ECHL. Winnik, Grubauer, Holtby, and Beagle were four of 76 former ECHL players and 36 coaches on opening night rosters this year. Some notable names include Coyotes’ Mike Smith, Blue Jackets’ Brandon Dubinsky, Stars’ Jordie Benn, Oilers’ Cam Talbot, Kings’ Jonathan Quick, Wild’s Devan Dubnyk, Flyers’ Michael Neuvirth, and Penguins’ Tom Kuhnhackl. Some of the coaches include Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma, Jared Bednar (who coached the Stingrays from 2007-2009) and  Peter Laviolette. Alan May also played in the ECHL.

Hershey players include captain Garrett Mitchell, Nathan Walker, Stan Galiev, Tyler Lewington, Vitek Vanecek, Pheonix Copley, Dustin Gazley, and Hubert Labrie. They all played in the ECHL.

If Caps goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov comes over from the KHL, he may start out with the Stingrays next year as an opportunity to get used to the North American style of play. This year goalie prospect Adam Carlson played 23 games and had a GAA of 2.97. He seemed to struggle after suffering an injury this season. Carlson was signed last summer as an undrafted free agent after playing one season at Mercyhurst College.

Parker Milner, who has carried the Rays in the postseason, helped save the Bears season. Before Copley was reacquired, the Bears goaltending and defense were struggling. Milner was called up and won 3 of his 5 games he started.

The South Carolina Stingrays are more than a team in North Charleston, South Carolina. They’re a franchise that has made the playoffs 23 out of 24 seasons (06-07 was the one year they did not make it) and have won the Kelly Cup three times and lost in the finals in 2015 in 7 games. They have been affiliated with the Caps since 2004 (except the 2012-13 season when the Caps were affiliated with the Reading Royals) some of these players truly are future Caps (and Bears for that matter). It will be fun to watch these players move up the chain of professional hockey. Who knows, you may get to hear the magic of a Joe Devin game 7 OTGWG.

The Conference finals will follow a 3-4 format with the first games being in Charleston on May 12, 13, 15 and then in Manchester on May 19, 20*, TBD*, and TBD*. The Powerade Center has events going on so that is why games 6 and 7 are TBD. *denotes if necessary. You can listen to the rest of the Stingrays playoff run here.