(San Antonio) – Andrew Agozzino scored a goal and added two assists as the Rampage stopped the Texas Stars, 5-2 in front of 6,704 fans at the AT&T Center Saturday night.
Rocco Grimaldi and AJ Greer also bent the twine, as well as Tage Thompson, as the Rampage dropped the Stars for the fourth time in five meetings this season. Spencer Martin showed why he’s the reigning AHL Player of the Week, returning to form in a strong performance, kicking out 23 of 25 Stars shots, including a penalty shot, five minutes into the game.
The big sidebar of the night was the newest member of the Rampage roster – the kid wearing #10 on a line with Grimaldi and Samuel Blais – Tyson Jost, who reported to San Antonio this week to help play himself into game shape. Jost has been out of the Avalanche lineup since mid-October.
“It’s nice to get back into the game routine,” said the Avs future top gun. “My legs definitely weren’t there because I haven’t been on the ice too much. With the lower body injury, it’s hard to get back on the ice—you don’t want to re-injure it. It was awesome to get back into that routine of playing the game, get back out there in that battling mentality. It’s a matter of getting my flow and rhythm back.”
Jost wasn’t a factor in the game. His first shift he appeared lost on the ice, which is understandable since he’s been sitting in the press box watching, not playing while recovering from his injuries. But his skills were more evident as the game went on.
“I just want to get back to my game and help this team win”, added the 19-year old former first-round pick, whose arrival was as much anticipated as Avs teammate Mikko Rantanen two years ago after his first-round selection. “I’m gonna do whatever it takes to help these guys put together some wins and get back into game shape.”
Jost’s positive attitude will carry him a long way in getting back to Denver. The Rampage, after the rare home game Saturday, play the next four games around the holiday on the West Coast in Bakersfield, San Jose, San Diego and Ontario, but there’s no firm timeline on his return to the NHL.
“It’s was a little frustrating for me at times because I’m not used to sitting out and watching everyone else play. I’m happy I’m back out on the ice though and do what I love and get my rhythm.”
Agozzino mentioned it was definitely a positive having the high draft pick on the ice tonight along with other Avs system stalwarts out there. “Jost just getting in yesterday, he’s a first-round talent for a reason. He’s got a great skill set and I think he’s only going to get better the more he plays with us.”
Jost probably needs to visit the Alamo as soon as possible, because his Rampage experience will be limited, but head coach Eric Veilleux the former University of North Dakota standout has a lot of work to do. “He’s here to get into better game shape. Biking, lifting weights, doing some cardio off the ice is definitely not like playing a hockey game. I thought he was ok, but we’re not sure how many games he’s gonna be here for, but he’s a great player.”
Part of the rehab will be skating and some drills tomorrow for Jost while the rest of the team has the day to watch the NFL. “That’s part of our job at the AHL level (getting him ready to play),” according to Veilleux.
Agozzino was ready to go tonight as he continued his assault on the AHL scorecard. The veteran returned from Denver last week and has five goals and three assists in the eight games since he’s been back.
The officials took a while to give their approval for his seventh goal of the season at 11:17 that gave the Rampage some breathing room after the Stars closed to within a goal.
Texas goaltender Landon Bow was shaky playing the puck behind his net and was challenged by Tage Thompson, who sent the puck into the slot on a bang-bang play, and the puck went in off Agozzino’s skate. Officials spent a good five minutes reviewing the play before pointing to center ice.
“When (the officials) were taking so long it kinda worried me a little, but they counted it, but it was a lucky one – hit my skate and went in.”
The Rampage were fortunate to be in the game when Greer found room between Bow and the right post to tie the game at 1-1 just 1:32 into the second period. The Stars’ Max French lit the lamp before most of the fans had a chance to bite into their nachos at 2:52 of the first period on a great shot over Martin’s right shoulder.
When Texas speedster Denis Gurianov was tied up from behind by Rampage defenseman Nicolas Meloche just over five minutes into the game, referee Andrew Howard ruled a penalty shot and Martin turned it away with a stick save.
“That was huge,” said Agozzino. “You don’t want to be down 2-0 that early in the game. That’s a huge stop kinda settled us down and got us back into our game.”
“A hockey game is a game of momentum very often,” reminded Veilleux. “One big save can make a big difference and I’m sure it did.”
Four minutes later, the Rampage grabbed the lead for good when defenseman Chris Butler’s wrist shot from the point was mishandled by Bow and Alex Belzile was there to backhand the puck into the net. Belzile has two goals and four assists in eight games and seems to be in the right spot at the right time when he’s on the ice. Belzile led the Colorado Eagles in scoring during their Kelly Cup run last season.
Just under 10 minutes later, Thompson scored his fifth of the year, looking more like St. Louis Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter than a hockey player, swinging at a waist-high floater that ended up in the back of the Stars’ net at 15:57. Butler and Agozzino assisted.
After Justin Dickinson of Texas and Agozzino traded goals, Grimaldi tipped in a Davis Warsofsky blast from the right point over the beleaguered Bow at 12:13 and Martin did the rest as the Stars outshot San Antonio, 12-6 in the final 20 minutes.
“I expected us to come out a little harder,” said Veilleux on the Rampage’s sluggish start. “I thought we picked it up after that. Overall I thought we were pretty good, systematically. We did not give them many scoring chances, but the ones we did give them were Grade A scoring chances. That’s not like us usually. Marty was there to make some big saves.”
ODD NUMERICAL STAT OF THE NIGHT – Spencer Martin is now 10-5-1 against the Texas Stars and that’s the Rampage’s record this season, 10-5-1! That’s good for third in the AHL Pacific Division behind Tucson and Stockton, and it’s the second best Rampage start after the 2010-11 team began 16-4 but missed the playoffs by four points, finishing 40-33-4-3.