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From the Rampage Desk: Week 26 - The Final Road Trip

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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The beloved Rampage are on a 4-game winning streak and that's tops in the Western Conference, hey! This weekend they travel to the midwest one last time to play the IceHogs and Admirals.

News

- Big Z and Aggz were called up to Colorado on Sunday, they're both still there

- Mikko returned from Colorado on Saturday Night and played in Sunday's game

- Spencer Martin was awarded the AHL Player of the Week for his performances against Grand Rapids, Bakersfield and Texas. A few hours later he was on a plane to Ft Wayne.

- Cody Corbett was sent back to the Komets on Wednesday

This was pretty much planned and Yogi would have started Sunday if Marty wasn't on a ridiculous streak, as far as it relates to him I don't think it's a big deal. He's going to Ft Wayne to help win a Kelly Cup. What's baffling is why the Avs org would do it. Sure, the Rampage are just playing out the schedule but he gave the team their first regulation wins in way over a month. Why not keep him up for a few more starts? Berra needs some work after the injury I guess but does that really matter?

- Nate and JP returned with RWtH Live this week and it's a good one. Some good analysis of why SA suddenly started winning and some speculation about some possible changes for next year.

- Ben Street is the Rampage's Man of the Year

- Dan Weiss has your Rampage Report for this week

- As you may have noticed, quite a few teams are signing amateur players to try-out contracts right now. Even our brother Komets have signed a few, the Avs/Rampage have not. I'm sure they've been kicking the tires on on a few, maybe made an offer or two. Since the plan is to have all the players eligible for the ECHL post-season (Bourke, Cheek, Belzile, Thompson, Weber, Geertsen) go back to Ft Wayne for the Kelly Cup playoffs and there's little left to play for in San Antonio, you'd think that Craig Billington and David Oliver would be signing a few ATOs to allow the K-crew to leave and start practicing/playing with the team.

Of course you're also allowed to sign your own prospects to ATOs, with or without signing them to standard contracts for next year, even if they are underage and will return to Juniors after the summer. While a bunch of Avs draftees are still active, there are a couple that are now looking for something to do.

J.T. Compher's Michigan squad was eliminated last weekend so if he chooses to forsake his NCAA eligibility, he could go to San Antonio for some practice and a few games. I don't really expect this, he's on the fence about turning pro anyway and dropping all your classes with a month left in the semester is dumb if you actually care about school.

Sergei Boikov's Drummondville Voltigeurs were eliminated by AJ Greer, J-C Beaudin, Julien Nantel and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in a lopsided 4-0 sweep. He is eligible for the AHL next year and is a fair bet to be signed to an ELC. This is a guy I expect to see with the Rampage in some capacity soon.

Quebec Remparts defeseman Raphael Maheux was a training camp invitee last summer, his team was just eliminated by Nicolas Meloche and the Gatineau Olympiques. Perhaps he stops by the Rampage for a bit.

With only 7 returning players signed for next year, the Avs need to fill quite a few spots on the Rampage roster and they're not going to materialize out of thin air. I'm sure they're trying to find the best players and they've always been choosy rather than using a volume approach, but some results would be nice. Many of the better players are still active in the CHL playoffs and SA is out of town until Sunday so it's not a huge surprise that any try-outs haven't shown up yet. If we don't see any by a week from now I'd consider that troubling.

Injury Report

- Michael Schumacher has been close but not close enough to play because of a shoulder injury

- Dennis Everberg has missed the past few games with an undisclosed injury

- Taylor Beck is still out with LBI (off-ice injury, s/t to RWtH)

- Duncan Siemens missed Sunday's game with a minor injury, Corbett's demotion might mean he returns this weekend

- Reid Petryk is banged up and didn't practice early in the week

- Bordy is out with LBI, might be season-ending

Recap: Bakersfied & Texas

The beloved Rampage completed their 3rd 3-game win streak of the year and first in 3 months on Friday. Spencer Martin had another shutout and ended up with one goal against total in the streak so far. The last time we saw Ben Street he was scoring his second OT goal in 2 nights on Halloween. He returned with a goal and assist and 6 SOG which was huge. The big story was the continued effectiveness of the Rampage forecheck and neutral zone strategy that gave them a 32-16 shot advantage after 2 periods. There was a bit of a turdle, Bakersfield had 21 SOG in the 3rd including the final 9 but they were selling out in an attempt to get something going and SA still had zone time if not shots.

Aggz didn’t get on the scoreboard but he’s quietly put together a nice run at center the last few games. He also has 26 SOG in the last 5 which has to be either an indicator or even part of the reason for the turnaround… Zadorov had another solid game putting up an assist and did another fine job limiting his mistakes… Max Noreau scored his 8th PPG of the season, a team record. Minus points for a really selfish pinch late in the game that created a 2v1 the other way… There were a few dumb penalties, something they’ve limited lately, but the PK stopped them all… Another 40 shot game, 15 guys had at least one and 12 had more than one. Another good sign spreading things out. Early in the year the offense was pretty much top-6 or nothing, this is much more sustainable.

The Rampage stretched the winning streak to 4 on Sunday and are the hottest team in the Western Conference. The defense was rebooted after losing Big Z to the Avs and Duncan Siemens to yet another injury but it held together, barely, and a clutch OT goal from the freshly returned Mikko Rantanen kept the streak alive. San Antonio trailed for the first time on the homestand after a ghastly turnover by Nate Guenin created a 3v1 on the opening faceoff made it 1-0 Stars. Garrett Thompson tied it up a few minutes later and we went to the 2nd tied. Guenin made up for his earlier faux pas by ripping a bank shot off a few guys past Jack Campbell but the Stars countered late in the 2nd. Each team seemed content to skate like madmen in the 3rd but no goals were forthcoming and OT ensued. After a few dicey shifts, Mikko took it upon himself to make a highlight reel goal the game-finisher and he did.

Ben Street didn’t score but it wasn’t from lack of chances, 9 SOG… Spencer Martin won his 4th in a row saving 24/26, no way this kid deserves a demotion… Nate Guenin was on the ice for every goal for or against. At least he had a goal and an assist on the GWG… Will Weber made his Rampage debut and was ok. He’s the 40th player to wear silver and black this season… Rampage outshot Texas 14-5 in the 2nd and 37-26 overall. The tweaks they’ve made over the past couple of weeks are working very well. Question is, why didn’t they do this sooner when it would have mattered? Could they have? I don’t know honestly.

Preview: Rockford/Milwaukee

Again, little reason to worry about the opponents this weekend. RFD/MKE are both playoff teams and have good things to gain from winning. I guess what we're looking for here is how much of the streak was goaltending and how much was from system tweaks.

I think it's a pleasant combination of both. Marty was fantastic for sure, but the system tweaks have the Rampage playing much like the Monsters did during the good times. There was the relentless forecheck and the active trap and the bullshit layered defense the Avs have tried to play all year was abandoned for something that actually works. There's no doubt in my mind that some changes are coming this summer in the coaching ranks of the Avs org. I've learned not to bet against Dean staying, but you never know. One thing we've all noticed is Assistant Coach Randy Ladouceur suddenly taking on a more visible role. He's doing the pre-game interviews with Dan Weiss and has been seen running practices. I wish I knew what that says about the situation going forward.

Lines/Pairs from Sunday:

Draz – Street – Pete
Henley – Mikko – Nunn
Hish – Belz – Thompson
Bourke – Cheek


Gormley – Guenin
Weber – Noreau
Mason – Clark
Corbett

Marty
Yogi

Scratched: Will, Mags
Injured: Duncan, Everberg, Schumi (UBI), Bordy (LBI), Beck (LBI)

I'm sure Yogi will start tonight and probably tomorrow as well. It looks like Duncan is ready to play again so either Weber or Mason will be out if there's 12 healthy forwards. Hopefully Petryk is one of those healthy forwards, even better if Dennis Everberg is also in the lineup.

Schedule

Friday night at Rockford 8pm ET

Saturday night at Milwaukee 8pm ET

All games on Ticket 760

Next up

Back home against San Jose Wednesday and a weekend set vs Iowa

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Tonight's game conflicts with Avs/Caps but Saturday's doesn't so stop on by and support your prospects and Nate Guenin.