The South Carolina Stingrays have been in the news for the past few months around the minor league hockey circuit, and with good reason. First of all, the ‘Rays spent their March by setting an ECHL record of 23 straight wins.
More than that, however, was the rise of their goaltender Jeff Jakaitis. Jakaitis went 8-0 for the month and set the ECHL shut out streak of 321 minutes, setting the league’s record and coming just ten minutes short of the pro hockey record.
In fact, Jakaitis just won the player of the month for March after leading the Stingrays into the playoff race.
The 23 game win streak overall from the Stingrays ties the ECHL record previously set in 2007-2008 with the Texas Wildcatters who had the same winning streak.
South Carolina outscored their opponents 100-35 during the streak, mostly thanks to the four straight shutouts from Jakaitis, and allowed two goals or less 16 times out of those 23 games.
After their run, South Carolina has remained in the hunt for the ECHL playoffs during their most historic season. They have clinched a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and are in second place in their division behind the Florida Everblades. They trail Florida by six points but they also lead the playoff-clinched Reading Royals by one point, who have also clinched a playoff seed in the east.
The Stingrays lost to the Everblades last night, 4-1, and have just one game remaining in their regular season when they face the last place Evansville Icemen. Reading trails them by one point for the second seed in their division and they have two games in hand, so things aren’t looking terrific for the Stingrays to be a top seed. The Orlando Ice Bears are fighting the Greenville Road Warriors for the final seed in that division.
In the other division, the battle is between the Kalamazoo Wings, Cincinnati Cyclones, and Wheeling Nailers for the final two playoff seeds.
One way or another, it looks like South Carolina will face Reading in the first round best-of-seven in the Kelly Cup playoffs. The road the team has taken to become a playoff team has been unorthodox, and it remains to be seen how far they can go without that streak to back them.
In 2008-2009 the Stinrays were the champions of the ECHL, but their luck has faltered since then. They’ve made the playoffs every season since their title but they hit a low last year when they were swept by Gwinnett in the first round.
Last season they won their division and once again made the post season. However, they were defeated by the Road Warriors.
This season, the Stingrays hope history is back on their side.
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