The beloved Rampage are still without a regulation loss and bring a 6-0-4 record back to Cedar Park to play the Stars on Wednesday and then come back home for the 2nd game of the year vs the Stockton Heat.
Patrick Bordeleau was suspended by the AHL for 3 games for his tantrum in Saturday's game vs the Stars. Last we heard his initial hit on Mattias Backman produced a concussion. He will be out through Sunday.
Andrew Agozzino and Marc-Andre Cliche were on the ice practicing yesterday, which is fantastic news. San Antonio really needs a couple forwards right now. No transactions on the wire so one or both should be back for Wednesday.
Even better news was that Mikko Rantanen is listed as day-to-day with LBI. Considering how it looked on Sunday this is very promising.
Dan Weiss' weekly Rampage Report features guest stars Duncan Siemens and Coach Dean. Good stuff from the coach, said they've practiced 3v3 a lot but the structure seems to go out the window on the ice. Also said that they need to play better with the lead and that wasn't something they were used to having in Lake Erie.
A dose of reality
The Rampage have 16 points in their first 10 games and have a share of the lead in the Pacific Division, sounds pretty good right? It is, but there's no reason to think that they can go on cruise control and the playoffs are a layup. Of their 4 regulation wins, 3 are against sub-.500 teams. Against the other top teams in the conference they're 3-0-4 with all but one game going to overtime. We've seen this before, they're a good team that has problems finishing games off but now are somewhat lucky in that their collapses still result in points, mainly due to Calvin Pickard. They're right up there with the top teams but just a bit behind.
San Antonio has been hemorrhaging forwards lately, 15 of their 33 goals are injured or in the NHL. With Bordeleau suspended for 3 games there are only 10 healthy forwards on the roster. I love guys like Petryk, Cheek & Schumacher but they should be your kickass 3rd line, not playing top minutes. Hopefully they can keep it going until reinforcements arrive but sooner or later there just won't be enough skill to get goals when needed. One of the strengths early on was Dean's ability to roll 4 lines in basically any situation and keep everyone fresh, that's not the case now.
The defense has been a mixed bag all year, it's been big in winning games but SAR let a ton of shots hit the net - an average of 35 per game. Duncan & Noreau have been the most consistent pair all year but the others have been up and down. No one seems to know why Mason Geertsen didn't play in 3 straight games this past weekend but I do believe he was missed. Redmond seems to be a passenger in the AHL as well as the NHL. I don't know if the plan is to keep him with Zadorov, but he needs someone skilled in the D-zone to keep him out of trouble. Regardless, the Bigras/Clark pairing doesn't seem to work anymore either so there could be some movement in the 2nd/3rd pairs. We look like we're getting to the point where the defensive usage will become a problem. Again.
An .800 pace isn't sustainable for any team over a season so this run won't continue but a .600 pace is what San Antonio needs to shoot for to make the playoffs and they should be able to do that. The hot start gives them a few points in the bank when things go south for a stretch. Alex Tanguay is gone for the foreseeable future in Colorado so the Rampage will always be down a forward, now we bet on players stepping up a level and scoring. What Dean does with the defense with a glut of talented prospects looking for PT will be very important. Nobody wants to see another Gervais situation but that's exactly what's happening now with Clark & Redmond. The Avs have been pretty hands off in the past but these are different prospects and I'm pretty sure they want to see them all getting time on the ice in the AHL. Whether they do anything about it will be interesting to see.
Recap: Week 5
The Rampage returned home for just their 2nd home game of the year Friday against our good friends from the Central Division the Chicago Wolves. Max Noreau got the good guys on the board late in the 1st with a PPG set up by some hard work down low by Mikko Rantanen and a good cross-ice pass by Hubert Labrie in his Rampage debut. Borna Rendulic scored his first goal of the year 15 seconds in to the 2nd period, finally finishing one off after the usual stickhandling clinic. After a couple Chicago goals tied it up, Borna set up Colin Smith 10 minutes later to give the Rampage a 3-2 lead that lasted until the inevitable 6v5 melee worked with 55 secs left. Chicago completed the game late in OT when Danny Kristo beat Picks for the game-winner.
The Rampage brought their 5-0-3 record to Cedar Park on Saturday to face the Stars and their 4.2 goals per game. Right off the bat Texas went to work racking up 17 SOG in the first thanks to a couple of PPs but Calvin was stout and turned them all away of course. The 2nd started out with more Stars domination and they capitalized on a wild bounce and an extremely poor shift by the 4th line to take a 1-0 lead. Right after that, Mikko Rantanen took control with a couple of absolutely terrible goals against Stars goalie Max Lagace and then drew a penalty which Joey Hishon capitalized on with his first goal of the season. Trevor Cheek was rewarded by moving up to the 1st line in the 3rd and promptly scored a goal with (of course) Mikko getting the primary assist.
As we’ve seen several times before this season, the Rampage seem to have the ability to induce frustration in their opponents late in games. Part of that is Pickard being extremely stingy when the game is on the line but it also comes from finishing checks, keeping the play out of dangerous areas for the most part and a good PK. Borna Rendulic took a dumb slash to open the 3rd but the rampage killed it off then scored the aforementioned Cheek goal. The frustration started for Texas here. Martinsen and Jesse Blacker got involved and went off with matching minors then Duncan Siemens pounded on Stephen Johns for a while. Texas scored while all 4 SA players watched from quite a distance and the game was back in play. With around 7 minutes left, Bordy gave a flying elbow to Mattias Backman and a melee ensued. Bordy ended up with a 5 minute major while Julius Honka went off for 2 for being a douche. Joey Hishon then took a slashing minor, said the magic word and was ejected. SAR carried out a valiant 3v4 PK for 37 seconds but the Stars cut the lead to 1 with 5 minutes remaining. After another 5 minutes of gut-wrenching action, the Rampage held on for the 4-3 win. Whew!
I get why Dean had the 4th line out with a 4-2 lead in the 3rd, he doesn’t want to shorten the bench until absolutely necessary and the Stars were starting with the cheap shots, but it was a bit of an escalation that probably didn’t need to happen. Bordy’s elbow/boarding major was flat out stupid, you can watch the gifs here, and will probably merit a suspension. It’s tough to tell players to go out and be physical, just not too physical, in the middle of a passionate final period but good game management would probably have been to leave them on the bench.
On the other hand, even tho’ Hish’s penalty was stupid and so was getting thrown out for mouthing off, I kind of like it. This was the first game all year he’s been totally engaged and that feistiness showed in the 1G/2A and also in the penalty sequence. Honestly, I’ll take Hishon scoring and taking stupid stick penalties over just mailing it in like he has all year.
Considering Sunday's game was the back end of a 3-in-3 against a rested opponent and the backup goalie was playing, one point is good on paper. The Rampage had this one tho’, so it hurts. Losing Mikko Rantanen also hurts. Either the depth is better than it looks or Dean’s system is being executed to a degree that anyone can play in it competently. Either way, with all the injuries accumulating it’s important that players take steps forward when their comrades fall, and they did. Bourke and Zadorov scored their 1st goals of the year and Colin Smith got his 4th after a slow start to the year.
Shot suppression was impressive, Chicago had 24 SOG and 51 Corsi for while controlling play for long stretches. This helped Roman Will out early but he was still shaky when the game was on the line. Defensemen accounted for 16 of the 31 SOG, including 4 for Bigras and 3 for Z in his debut. With all the forward injuries the Ds are going to have to take an even larger role in the offense but they look like they can handle it. Zadorov got better as the game went on and his goal was fabulous. Playing like this is good for his development and confidence. Good for the Rampage too.
After getting totally dominated by Texas on Saturday, but winning in regulation somehow, the Rampage head back to Texas tonight. Bordy is on the shelf with a suspension but I'm sure Texas will want a little payback for his egregious play. Hopefully they won't goon it up too much. Conjuring up the shot suppression we saw against Chicago Sunday would be a huge help.
The Rampage beat down Stockton 5-1 a few weeks ago with a great defensive performance and 5 different goal scorers. The Heat have been bumming around under .500 most of the year so on paper this is one the Rampage need to have.
There will be a fair amount of turnover for the forwards and maybe even the defense tonight so I'll just wait for Dan Weiss' tweets later on the lineup. Safe bet Calvin starts.
Wednesday night at Texas 8:30pm ET
Friday night vs Stockton 8:30pm ET
Sunday Afternoon and Tuesday morning vs the Stars
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A little luck on the schedule has no Avs/SAR conflicts until the day before Thanksgiving so stop by and support your prospects. Enjoy!