NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - The South Carolina Stingrays, proud ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and AHL’s Hershey Bears, have agreed to terms with forward Andrew Cherniwchan (pronounced chern-itch-an) for the 2019-20 season. Cherniwchan led South Carolina in scoring during 2018-19 with 67 points on 29 goals and 38 assists.
The Hinton, Alberta native has played 216 total regular season games for the Rays during parts of seven seasons from 2011-19. He has posted 170 points with SC, the 15th most in Stingrays history, while his 76 goals rank ninth in franchise history.
“I felt I had a good season last year,” Cherniwchan said. “There were some ups and downs, but I learned a lot and that made me itch to get back for another year and try and go on another good run here. You never know how much longer you’re going to play and I’d like to win one here.”
Last season the 30-year-old became the first Stingrays player to appear in all 72 of the team’s regular season games since defenseman Dustin Stevenson in 2011-12. Cherniwchan’s 2018-19 point total was eighth-best in the ECHL last season, while his goal total ranked 12th. His excellent play also earned him an appearance in the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic, where his play helped the Eastern Conference team earn the title in the event.
“Playing all 72 games last year definitely took its toll on my body,” Cherniwchan said. “I took the last month and a half off and just took it easy and relaxed. I’m just starting to get back into training and getting on the ice and I feel really good so I think the rest definitely plays a big role in how you recover and get ready for next season.”
The Stingrays have been the only ECHL team Cherniwchan has played for in his career since first signing with the club during the second half of the 2011-12 season. In addition to his lofty regular season point totals, Cherniwchan has also played 39 games in the Kelly Cup Playoffs during his ECHL career, scoring 21 points on 10 goals and 11 assists.
“The conversations I had with Cherny about returning were great,” said Stingrays Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Steve Bergin. “We talked about last year, what was good, what wasn’t good, and the expectations for next year not only for him as a player but for him as a leader. He’s potentially going to be the oldest guy on the team and he’s a guy that’s played in the AHL a ton, he’s played here a lot, and he’s going to be one of our veterans. How he played on the ice and his numbers last year were great, his age hasn’t affected him at all. He had a career year last year so getting him signed is huge for our team and it’s something we can build around, but the expectation for him is to continue to grow as a player and also to step up as a leader here.”
After South Carolina’s season came to an end in late April, Cherniwchan signed a professional tryout contract with Hershey and joined the club during their first-round postseason series. He saw action in four Calder Cup Playoff games with the Bears.
Cherniwchan’s AHL career has included 173 regular season games with Utica, Providence and the Springfield Falcons, scoring a total of 46 points (25 goals, 21 assists). He’s also suited up for 20 AHL postseason contests, adding a goal and two assists.
The veteran attacker has gotten to know Bergin well over the last three seasons and said he’s excited to see him get the opportunity to be the team’s head coach.
“Bergy’s put his time and work in and I have a ton of respect for him, we get along great,” Cherniwchan said. “I think the two of us can feed off of each other, we both kind of learn from each other as we go and I think we make a good combo. He can even elevate my game some more and I think he has what it takes to get us back in the playoffs and then from there you never know what can happen.”
Before turning pro, Cherniwchan played for Northern Michigan University in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) for four seasons from 2008-2012. During his collegiate career, he scored 84 points (35 goals, 49 assists) in 146 games. In 2009-10, he helped lead the Wildcats to an NCAA Tournament appearance and a fourth-place finish in the CCHA league standings. The forward also served as an assistant captain for NMU during his senior season.