The beloved Rampage got off the schnide big time this week with a pair of victories in regulation against old friends the Grand Rapids Griffins. There's still some season left for the team to play spoiler and a few guys to make decisions harder for the Avs management this summer.
- Mason Geertsen was sent down to the Komets and Will Weber invited to San Antonio. Weber is a very large (6'4, 239#) defenseman with some AHL experience but little offense.
This isn't a bad thing for Mason at all, with the 6 Ds set for better or worse he wouldn't be dressing so getting him down to the Komets to prepare for the playoff run makes tons of sense. I think we'll see a bunch more trickle down over the next few weeks. Bourke, Cheek, Thompson, Belzile, Weber and Martin are all expected to play for Ft Wayne once they're done with the Rampage season. Blake Sebring talks a little about that here in his weekly Inside the Zone. The Komets are going to be good and full of guys we know well.
- The Avs seem to really want to limit Mikko to 9 NHL games this year, which he will hit today. Ok, they send him back to SA and bring up... who? Evs makes the most sense from an experience standpoint, but he appears to be unwell plus he's not a center. Borna and Hish have about the same experience, not much, but they've both been inconsistent this year. Aggz has a few NHL games including 2 this year but he's not really a center either. They could go off the board and give Big Sam a try, he's been playing well lately for sure. If the contract issue wasn't a concern they would definitely keep Rantanen up there so the real battle is how badly do they want to get that ELC to slide.
Ben Street has been cleared by the Avs docs and should be in the lineup tonight
Joey Hishon left the game Sunday after an awkward collision but looks good to go after missing Tuesday
Schumacher and Drazenovic practiced this week and should be available
Dennis Everberg was in a NC jersey this week and left practice after the first drill on Friday. Status unknown
Bordy is out with an undisclosed injury
Reto Berra is still out with LBI
Taylor Beck still out with LBI
The streak was finally broken on Sunday. After 39 days and 15 straight games without a regulation win, the beloved Rampage got a lead and held on to it for a change. Spencer Martin was fantastic, throwing a 31-save shutout and assisting on Sam Henley’s game-winning goal. Nikita Zadorov took a faceoff win by Andrew Agozzino and turned it into insurance early in the 3rd. There was no turtle, no costly mistakes from the usual suspects and the forecheck and shot generation was as good as I can remember this year.
41 shots on goal tied a season high… 5 players – Bourke, Agozzino, Henley, Everberg and Petryk recorded 4 SOG and all but one skater had at least one… Big Z had his 10th goal of the year in his 50th game… PK killed off all 4 chances… Martin got his 2nd shutout in his 13th start and now sports a .910 Sv% (around league average) despite a couple of devastating performances in January… Duncan Siemens returned to the lineup and played solid D all night. Without shot metrics it’s difficult to quantify what he brings but he’s been the top CF% D on the team all year for the games we have data on. When he’s on the ice the puck goes forward…
The Rampage completed the 2-game sweep of Grand Rapids Tuesday and to say that was unexpected is an understatement. What changed between the Ontario game on Friday and these two? The lineup gained Duncan Siemens and lost Mikko Rantanen, theoretically that’s a defensive upgrade with a major blow to the offense but it’s pretty obvious the real change is how they played on the forecheck and in the neutral zone. For some reason they got back to playing Dean’s system how it’s meant to be executed and it worked to a T. Spencer Martin provided stable goaltending, in the previous 3 games the starter hadn’t made it to the end of the game, and the team built on that over the 6 periods vs GRG. I thought the big test was going to be backing it up in the second game, now it shifts to Bakersfield. If they win there, or at least play similarly, then that falls to the Texas game and on through the remaining 9 games. The Rampage aren’t going to change their place in the standings or erase any of the hideous statistics but they can show that they’re a helluva lot better than they have been for the last 4 months.
Trevor Cheek scored the game-winner with assists to Garry Nunn and Troy Bourke. At times this was the best line for San Antonio… Good to see Bourke with an assist, only his 9th point of the year but he was everywhere during the game… Marty’s only goal against in both games was fluky bank shot off his skate from behind the net, he saved 61/62 in the pair… I know 31 shots against doesn’t sound like good shot suppression but it’s a few below SA’s average and these were pretty high-event games in general… Coach Dean had good things to say about Duncan Siemens return like "eats hard minutes" and "makes the pairs more complementary". Say what you want about coincidences but they were terrible defensively while he was out and win the first two games when he comes back. He even had an assist on Belzile’s goal Tuesday…
At this point the opponents don't matter much for the Rampage. They can't move in the standings much if at all so the focus is on playing good hockey and making life difficult for anyone lucky enough to drop by the AT&T Center. Even tho' the Avs have used all but one of their allotted callups there's still a chance to be on the Black Aces if there's a playoff run in Denver and plenty of jobs to be won for next season.
Lines/Pairs from Tuesday:
Evs – Aggz – Borna
Big Sam – Belz – Pete
Bourke – Cheek – Nunn
Thompson – x – Mags
Z – Guenin
Gormley - Clark
Duncan – Max
Scratched: Berra, Bordy, Hish, Street, Schumi, Draz, Beck (all injured)
Our good friend Nate Mallett attended practice on Friday and these were the lines he saw:
Evs - Street - Pete
Henley - Aggz - Borna
Bourke - Belz - Cheek
Nunn - Draz - Hish
Schumi - Thompson - Mags
I'm assuming the pairs were the same with Weber as the extra. After Evs left Nunn moved to the 1st and Schumi moved to the 4th.
Rampage vs Condors Saturday night 8pm ET
Rampage vs Stars Sunday afternoon 5pm ET
All games on Ticket 760
Last real road trip of the year to Rockford and Milwaukee
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Tonight's game will start long after the cries of joy/despair from the Avs/Minny game have faded away, no conflict tomorrow so stop by and support your prospects and Nate Guenin. Enjoy!