(San Antonio) – The Rampage have righted the ship.
After a four-game skid the end of November, San Antonio has found greener pastures in their own backyard, nailing seven of a possible eight points in a nice 3-0-1-0 run at the AT&T Center.
The Rampage began the season with 16 of their first 22 games on the road and have survived the stretch with a 15-10-2-0 mark after goaltender Ville Husso led the way in a 2-1 shootout win over Rockford Friday night.
“Husso was there to shut the door,” said Rampage head coach Eric Veilleux. “I thought he played a very solid game again.”
Husso was his most impressive during the five minute overtime period, which included a two-minute stretch of four-on-three hockey compliments of a tripping penalty called on Alex Belzile. The Rampage kept a tight triangle defense together, but when a shot was attempted, Husso was there.
“Our PK has been good all game long (Rockford 0-6),” explained Veilleux. “It’s not like there’s a tactic for anything like this. You know they’re getting two minutes of four-on-three, so anyone can assume they’re not gonna shoot from everywhere. They’ll probably wait for a very good scoring chance and we played the way we needed to.”
Defenseman David Warsofsky scored the deciding goal in the shootout to open the third round, while Husso stopped all three Ice Hogs attempts.
“I’m not one of those guys who has a lot of moves,” explained the offensive-minded blueliner. “I had an idea I wanted to shoot blocker and it worked out.”
Warsofsky has been quiet on the offensive side of his game thus far this season after being one of the final cuts from training camp in October. He’s always played out East, first in college with Boston University, and with Providence, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL and the Bruins, Pittsburgh and New Jersey in 39 NHL contests. According to the 5-9 defenseman, there is a transition period at this level.
“I don’t think it’s a different style. I think its different players. I hate to say it, but when you’re in the East, you’re usually in the East for awhile. When you look at the players there, they’ve been there their whole lives. You’re used to everyone’s tendencies over there. It’s getting used to guys you’re playing against. The more I play against teams the more that happens,” said the former Blues draft pick signed by Colorado in the off-season from the Penguins organization. Last year, Warsofsky played mostly in WBS, scoring 16 goals and 47 points in 58 games, with a seven-game stint with the big club. He also tallied six points in five games for the Baby Pens.
Julien Nantel scored the only Rampage goal in regulation, his sixth of the season, on a deft move down the left wing, curling toward skating behind the net. He suddenly changed course and flipped the puck into the cage off Rockford goaltender Jeff Glass from behind the goal line for a nice deflection into the net.
The goal stood up until former Avalanche forward Andreas Martinsen scored an unassisted goal over nine minutes later in the second period, a period that saw the Rampage outshoot the Hogs, 21-15 in the wide-open affair. Glass stopped 34 San Antonio shots, while Husso ended up with a Rampage season-high 43 stops.
David Warsofsky with the game winning goal!— San Antonio Rampage (@sarampage) December 16, 2017
Check out full highlights from tonights shootout win: https://t.co/pzZoEQPwvH pic.twitter.com/A0E8OKLSSL
In two meetings with the Central Division second place Ice Hogs, the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Rampage have limited Rockford to just the Martinsen goal. Anything to that stat?
“No, you can’t measure up goals against all the time. You go with scoring chances,” remarked Veilleux, who saw his team run roughshod on Rockford, 6-0 in their own barn in November. “Today, I think our goaltender made a big difference in that department.”
The Rampage return to the ice Sunday afternoon at 3 against Rockford before heading north to Winnipeg to meet the high-flying Manitoba Moose, the AHL’s Western Conference leader with a 19-5-1-2 record and a 12-game unbeaten streak (11-0-0-1) after a 7-3 pounding of the Belleville Senators Friday night.