NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - The South Carolina Stingrays, proud affiliate of the Washington Capitals, have announced their captains for the team’s 26th season. Defenseman Joey Leach has been named team captain, while forwards Patrick Gaul and Andrew Cherniwchan will serve as alternate captains. It is the first time that both Leach and Cherniwchan have been announced as leaders but both have worn a letter at various times in the past two years, while Gaul will don an “A” for the fifth straight campaign.
“We think Joey Leach has been a cornerstone of the success here over the last couple of years,” said Spiros Anastas, Stingrays Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations. “He’s a guy that can play a ton of minutes, leads by example and is very vocal, always putting his teammates first. We’re very excited to have him lead the charge in our leadership group.”
Leach spent most of his 2017-18 campaign in South Carolina and scored a career-high 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) in 61 contests while racking up a +18 rating. The 26-year-old blueliner also saw action in five games with the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack during late February and early March.
“It’s a huge honor to be the captain of a great organization like the Stingrays,” Leach said. “I’ve already seen two great captains here in Andrew Rowe and Joe Devin and I’ve learned a lot from those guys and the leadership group that’s been here. The Stingrays are a team that likes to celebrate their achievements and the people that have come through here. I feel honored to have been chosen to lead this group.”
Leach has played in 265 career ECHL games with South Carolina, the Fort Wayne Komets and the Bakersfield Condors and totaled 90 points on 17 goals and 73 assists. He has also contributed seven assists in 45 career AHL games for Hartford, Hershey, the Lake Erie Monsters and the Oklahoma City Barons.
“I think everyone has the same mind frame and it doesn’t really matter who has the C or the A’s, everyone’s still leaders,” Leach said. “We’re all men around here and we can talk with each other and help each other out. I’m a vocal guy on the ice and in the locker room, I like to make sure everyone knows what’s going on defensively. Our coaches have put their trust in me so I’m not going to change anything I do, they’ve given this role to me for a reason so you can’t go and start changing things too much.”
Gaul is entering his seventh season in South Carolina and his fifth as an alternate captain. The Pittsburgh, Pa. native is now fifth all-time in regular season games played with South Carolina, having suited up for 341 contests with the club during the past six years. His 153 total points on 57 goals and 96 assists also rank 15th in club history.
“Obviously Patrick Gaul has been here a very long time and he’s well known in the community,” Anastas said. “He knows how things work here with the Stingrays and he’s now on to his third different coach in the organization so he’s a guy that can really help us as a coaching staff.”
Cherniwchan has played 144 regular season games for South Carolina in his professional career, spending time with the Stingrays during parts of six seasons from 2011-2017. The Rays have been the only ECHL team the 29-year-old has played for since first signing with the club during the second half of the 2011-12 season. Cherniwchan has scored a total of 103 points on 47 goals and 56 assists during the regular season with South Carolina and also has 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 34 postseason appearances.
“Andrew Cherniwchan is a player who leads by example,” Anastas said. “He’s not overly vocal but he comes in and does his work every day. He competes hard, he sticks up for teammates, produces offensively and does anything you ask.”
Anastas is also expecting leadership to come from others in the locker room who may not have an official title and announced a leadership group of seven players to his team.
“Our hope is to have a team that’s full of leaders and that is bought in to what we’re trying to accomplish together,” Anastas said. “We’re going to have a leadership group of seven players and that includes our three captains, but it includes four more guys that we think can make a real impact in our locker room like Nick Roberto, Christian Horn, Marcus Perrier and Parker Milner. They’re guys that have been around a long time that can bring different perspectives and can draw from different experiences. When you combine all of our captains and the other four who are part of our leadership group, I think we’re really excited about the environment and the culture that’s going to breed in our locker room.”
The team also announced their season-opening roster Thursday in advance of the 2018-19 regular season.
In addition, the team has completed a trade with the Maine Mariners to acquire defenseman Chris Leone in exchange for forward Luke Stork.
Leone, who was acquired by Maine in a trade with the Cincinnati Cyclones earlier this week, has played a total of 110 ECHL games during the last three seasons with four different clubs. The 26-year-old blueliner appeared in a career-high 68 regular season games last season with Cincinnati, scoring 21 points on five goals and 16 assists. A native of Dearborn Heights, Mich., Leone has also spent time with the Toledo Walleye, Manchester Monarchs and Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
The defender, who measures 5 feet 11 inches and 198 lbs., played NCAA hockey in his home state for Adrian College from 2012-16, where he amassed 71 points (24g, 47a) in 109 career games.
South Carolina signed Stork in early August. The attacker is beginning his rookie professional season after a four-year career at Ohio State University from 2014-18. He appeared in two games with the Stingrays during the preseason.
The Stingrays also signed defenseman Cameron Bakker to a standard professional contract Wednesday. Bakker had been with the team during the preseason on a try-out agreement.
The Rays’ roster consists of 12 returning members from the 2017-18 season and eight rookies. Four players are on AHL contracts with Hershey.
South Carolina Stingrays 2018-19 Season Opening Roster