The San Antonio Rampage will try and recover from a disappointing early game Wednesday in Grand Rapids, where they saw a two-goal lead evaporate as the Calder Cup champions roared back for a 7-4 win at VanAndel Arena.
The Rampage were sailing along with 3-1 and 4-2 leads, thanks to the two-goal effort of Julien Nantel and Andrew Agozzino’s fourth goal of the season, set up by newly acquired Vladislav Kamenev. Then, the Griffins, the Red Wings top affiliate, scored five unanswered goals on St. Louis prospect Ville Husso.
San Antonio dropped to 7-3-1 on the season with the setback, and under normal conditions, they would be tied for the top spot in the Pacific Division with Calgary’s top farm team, the Stockton (CA) Heat with 15 points. However, in the AHL, teams are positioned on a percentage basis, as the California teams in the division play eight fewer games than the Rampage and Texas Stars to help keep travel costs to a minimum.
It’s an insane situation. In the eight-team division, the far west teams in California and the Tucson Roadrunners were 1-through-6 in the final standings last season, while the Stars and Rampage finished seventh and eighth. Many times, a well-rested West team would come in to play for a weekend series and face a Rampage team that played one or two additional games that week. But that was the carrot the AHL dangled the NHL brass to relocate teams in the east out west to be closer to their NHL counterparts.
Imagine trying to get a farmhand from Manchester, NH out to LA for a Kings game when a player went down in California. Or have a player fly from Norfolk, Virginia to Anaheim to cover for a Ducks injury. The same held true for the Flames getting a kid from Glen Falls, NY to Calgary. But in the end, the system puts the screws to the Stars and Rampage, who end up some weeks playing an extra game or two and playing a well-rested division rival at home or on the road.
UP NEXT: The Rampage continue their road warrior status this weekend. The team has been on the road most of this season, going 3-1 in rare AT&T Center sightings, leading the league in allowing only eight goals on home ice, the only AHL team still in single digit goals allowed at home this season. After this weekend’s games in Rockford and Chicago, the Rampage play a reciprocal home ice morning game versus Grand Rapids Tuesday, and host their only normal start game of November against the Texas Stars on Saturday, Nov. 18.
Friday night, the Rampage head into Rockford to play the Chicago Blackhawks AHL club. The IceHogs are 4-2-0 at home but have stubbed their toes lately in losing three straight games to stand at 7-5. Agozzino, who was called up last week but did not dress for the Avs, leads the team with 4-6-10. Kamenev, who scored eight points for Milwaukee before the big Matt Duchene deal that included former Rampage center Kyle Turris going to Nashville, is right behind Agozzino’s total with nine points.
A pair of Blues former first-round picks settle in as the #3 and #4 scorers in the early going for the Rampage, with 18-year old Klim Kostin (1-7-8) and defenseman Jordan Schmaltz (2-5-7) holding down the fort, with another Blues prospect, Samuel Blais in the 5th spot with 4-2-6 in five games due to a St. Louis summon. Colorado rookie Dominic Toninato and Reid Petryk are tied with Blais (pronounced ‘BLAY’) with six points each.
Saturday night, the Rampage take their road show to Chicago to face the Wolves in a game that will feature battling St. Louis prospects. The Wolves left the Blues affiliation in the lurch this summer when they aligned with Las Vegas, but the Blues still have a few farmhands in the Wolves lineup including former Rampage center and 33-goal scorer last season, Wade Megan, and Ivan Barbeshev. The Wolves are 4-5-1 and were blanked 3-0 by Milwaukee Admirals Wednesday.
THIS AND THAT – Rampage beware! Rockford and Chicago are a combined 7-1 when scoring first this season…Odd situation for Rampage goaltender Joe Canatta. Called up from the Colorado Eagles to backup Spencer Martin on Saturday, Oct. 28, the Massachusetts netminder took over at the start of the third period after a sub-par performance from Martin against the San Diego Gulls. Up 5-1 heading into the final 20 minutes, the Gulls went into prevent mode and didn’t register a shot on Canatta…the first time the Rampage held a team to no shots in a period in franchise history. A Gulls shooter hit the post on an empty net in the final 10 seconds in their 5-3 win, keeping the shot total at zero…the Rampage power play has fallen on tough times – going 4-48 in the last eight games to fall to 25th overall with the extra skater…meanwhile, the Rampage penalty killers, who didn’t allow a power play goal until their 17thman disadvantage, have slipped from first to 13th after surrendering nine goals on 41 penalty kills…the Rampage are 6-2 against division foes, including 3-0-0 in a weekend sweep of Texas Oct. 20-22…the Rampage have outscored opponents 11-6 in the third period, which would be more impressive if the Griffins hadn’t lit the lamp 3-0 Wednesday against them in the third frame…the Rampage are tied with Utica with +25 shots in the third period, behind only Hartford’s +39 advantage in third period salvos…however, the Rampage are the only team with a winning record among those three…the Rampage tout the sixth best winning percentage in the AHL with .682…the aforementioned Martin is 4-1-1 with a 2.52 GAA this season…the San Diego game was his only blemish…rookie defenseman Nicolas Meloche is tied with AHL rookies with two major penalties and is second in minutes with 27…there have been seven penalty shots this season in the AHL, and the goalies have the edge, stopping all but the first attempt of the season, including Ville Husso’s save on Dominic Turgeon in Grand Rapids…the Rampage are scoring 3.36 goals per game while surrendering 2.82 and they are 5-0 when leading after two periods.