The South Carolina Stingrays, proud affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals and AHL’s Hershey Bears, have named their official team leaders for the 2019-20 season. Forward Andrew Cherniwchan has been named team captain, while Mark Cooper, Dan DeSalvo, Tommy Hughes and Ed Wittchow will serve as alternates.
Cherniwchan, who has posted seven points this season on three goals and four assists, will have a letter on his sweater for the second consecutive season after serving as an alternate captain last year during 2018-19. The Hinton, Alberta native had the most productive ECHL campaign of his career, suiting up for all 72 of South Carolina’s regular season games while scoring 67 points (29g, 38a).
“I think you have to have a leader that everyone can look at and turn to,” said Steve Bergin, Stingrays Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations. “Our whole mentality for the entire season is that everything has to be earned, nothing is given. We felt that just because someone has been here, doesn’t mean they’re automatically the captain. We wanted to see how these guys interacted with the group, how they handled practices and certain situations and Cherny’s been great. It helps that he’s been here and that he understands our culture and how important it is to do things the right way, but more importantly, he’s been a really good leader for the group, and he shows up to work hard every day.
The Hinton, Alberta native has played 223 total regular season games for the Rays during parts of seven seasons from 2011-19. He has posted 177 points, the 13th most in Stingrays history, while his 79 goals rank ninth in franchise history.
“Bergy just told me this morning and I was pretty excited,” Cherniwchan said. “We have a lot of good leaders here, but it’s definitely an honor and I’m really happy to wear the ‘C’. When you think of all the other names that have worn it in this organization it’s a pretty amazing thing.”
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. His AHL career has included 173 regular season games with Utica, Providence and the Springfield Falcons, and he’s combined to score a total of 46 points (25 goals, 21 assists). Cherniwchan has also suited up for 20 AHL postseason contests, including four with the Hershey Bears last spring, adding a goal and two assists.
“Having this good group of leaders with us this year already makes my job as the captain even easier,” Cherniwchan said. “You’ve got plenty of others you can lean on who have been leaders in other places throughout their career and we’re all on the same page. I just want to represent this organization well and help everyone out the best that I can. I think with the group we have, we can do some really good things and that’s what makes this year so exciting.”
Hughes and Cooper will serve as alternates when the team wears their white uniforms, while DeSalvo and Wittchow will don the “A” in navy sweaters.
“I think it’s a good way to expand your leadership group,” Bergin said of his decision to select four alternates this season. “Instead of having three captains, you now have five and you have five guys that you can lean on as examples. We have an experienced team that’s older, so getting these guys more involved is good for the entire group.”
Hughes is on an AHL contract with Hershey for the second time in his career, while Wittchow is with the organization for the first time on an AHL deal with the Bears. DeSalvo is in his fifth professional season, while Cooper is in his fourth pro year and both forwards are in their first seasons with South Carolina.
“All of those guys are really good teammates and they’re guys that have a really good mixture of being vocal but more importantly they bring it every day,” Bergin said. “They are good examples of how to be a pro and how to go about your business. That’s the reason we chose this group because they all go about doing things the right way. We think it’s going to be a really good core for us throughout the year.”
South Carolina is back at home for three games in three days November 15, 16 and 17. Nov. 16 is the team’s first-ever Hockey Fights Cancer Night! Tickets for all of the team’s upcoming 2019-20 home contests are on sale now via Ticketmaster.