WHEELING - A person really couldn't help but feel bad for the South Carolina Stingrays, and it had nothing to do with losing consecutive overtime games Tuesday and Wednesday nights against the Wheeling Nailers. Rather, it's all about an area that large managing a grand total of 2,538 fans for the two games.
That's shameful, especially when you consider South Carolina is a franchise that has won an ECHL record-tying three Kelly Cup titles.
Well, Nailers fans, this is your chance to show 'em how it is done. The front office is banking on you showing up in droves, helping to further illustrate why Wheeling elected to take the first two games on the road. Vice President of Business Operations Craig Bommer, along with presidents Rob and Jim Brooks, used their collective head, knowing it's far easier for fans to get to WesBanco Arena on weekends.
And, hey, what's not to like? At 7:35 tonight the Nailers are going for a three-game sweep of the Stingrays in their Kelly Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
I've heard an awful lot of people around the Ohio Valley complain about having nothing to do, in terms of entertainment. Well, there's a game you should attend. I remind you that this team is back from representing each and every one of us - hockey fan or not - well in North Charleston.
The least you can do to repay the Nailers is pack the house tonight.
Didn't Seem Likely
If you thought this run, which looks like it will reach the conference semifinals, was possible back in February, please raise your hand. That's what I thought.
Prior to being bitten by the call-up and injury bugs, the Nailers were arguably the best team in the ECHL. They were leading the league in goals, had two No. 1 goaltenders and victories were coming in bunches.
But then came the year's second month, accompanied by a 10-game losing streak that threatened to all but end what looked to be a promising story. There was just concern, both within the fanbase and inside the organization.
That's when the coaching staff, head coach Stan Drulia and assistant John Wroblewski, really earned its paycheck. They beat down the door of every agent and turned over every rock they could find. It took a while, but they built a winner for the second time in one season.
Writers don't get a vote for ECHL Coach of the Year, but mine would have gone to Drulia, who has employed more than 50 different players this season. But he never strayed from the plan, and every guy in the locker room bought in.
That's coaching, folks. His reward appears to be a second-round playoff berth.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net