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San Antonio Rampage win home opener

The Rampage beat the Ontario Reign 2-1 to start the season

San Antonio -- The San Antonio Rampage avoided last season’s disastrous 0-4 home start with a 2-1 win over the Ontario Reign in the 2017-18 AHL opener for both clubs Saturday night.

Samuel Blais and Jordan Schmaltz accounted for both Rampage markers and goaltender Spencer Martin stopped 18 of 19 Ontario shots to record the win.

Blais’ blade actually did the work on the first goal of the season, as the second-year pro scored on Reign goaltender Jim Campbell by having the puck go in off his skate at 10:48 of the first period. Rocco Grimaldi led the charge down the right wing and skipped a pass toward the goal, trying to connect with the streaking Blais near the crease. Campbell got a piece of the puck to slow it down, and the disc went in off Blais’ skate for a 1-0 Rampage lead.

“I thought we had a pretty good game,” noted Grimaldi, in his third year in San Antonio. “I thought we closed out the game well, something we struggled with last year.”

After killing their third penalty early in the second, the Rampage doubled their lead when Gabe Bourque skated behind the Ontario net around to the left circle and found Schmaltz breaking in from the blueline and former St. Louis Blues first-round pick snapped a quick shot past Campbell at 2:17. Adam Musil also assisted.

Seeing defensemen jumping up into the play has been a missing facet of play of recent years in San Antonio, but not on this opening night. “We want to attack at least four players who know their roles and lanes. Sometimes even having the D-men driving the net,” said San Antonio coach Eric Veilleux. “That’s the way we want to play. We want to support the attack and be active with our D.”

The damage could have been worse for Ontario just a couple moments later when San Antonio’s Brendan Ranford hit the post at the 4:10 mark with a shot over Campbell’s stick.

The only blemish on Martin’s night came with 6:37 left in the second when he mishandled the puck behind his own net and Michael Mersch made him pay for the lone Reign tally.

Martin did enjoy his best moments with just over 2 minutes left in the second with rapid-fire stops from the slot and around his crease, as the Reign had their most active period in the middle session.

“Every year you go into the season thinking this is the year we’re gonna have a strong start,” remarked Grimaldi, last year’s leading Rampage scorer. “We want to get some momentum going the right way, especially with these divisional games. It's huge to get these two points.” The Rampage now face a four-game road trip before returning to San Antonio to cap a 3-games-in-3-nights weekend on Oct. 22.

Shots Between the Lines

No Rampage power plays…Bokondji Imama’s fighting major with San Antonio’s Mason Geertsen was the only Reign penalty…the Rampage are now 5-7-0-1 against Ontario, but only two of those wins have come in regulation…opening the season on defense were Geertsen, Schmaltz, David Warsofsky, Duncan Siemens, Chris Butler and Nicolas Meloche…up front, on the left side were Ranford, Blais, Andrew Agozzino, who also assisted on the first goal, and Bourque…Centers included Joe Colborne, Dominic Toninato, Felix Girard and Musil, while Grimaldi, Klim Kostin, Trent Vogelhuber, and Reid Petryk patrolled the right wing…the Rampage outshot Ontario, 12-4 in the first period – 32-19 for the game…attendance: 7,251.