(San Antonio) – The Rampage fought back from a third-period deficit and snapped their four-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime win over the Iowa Wild before 6,360 fans at the AT&T Center Saturday night.
Rocco Grimaldi’s fourth goal of the season 2:21 into overtime ended the longest dry spell of the Rampage season when he scored on a power play rebound halfway up the net.
“We knew we had to cash in,” said the former Florida Panthers second-round pick. “A nice puck that kind of squirted to me with an empty net and I put it in.”
Grimaldi, who led the Rampage in scoring with 55 points last season, has been an overtime specialist in his career, potting six goals and four assists in the extra session with San Antonio and Portland, Maine in the AHL.
“I love playing when the game’s on the line. I always seem to find my second wind, my boost of energy. I want to be out there in all the key moments and help my team in any way I can. Whether it’s 3-on-3 or 4-on-3, it’s good for a guy like me to buzz around, use my speed. Use my smarts. It was nice the puck was bouncing my way on that last one.”
J.C. Beaudin, up from the Colorado Eagles, pulled the Rampage to within a goal with his first AHL red light special, being in the right place at the right time in the slot after a Brendan Ranford shot from the blue line.
“Ranny took a great shot on the ice and I took the rebound. For sure it’s nice to get this goal off my back.” Beaudin has six goals and 16 points in 16 games for the ECHL Eagles.
Julien Nantel’s unassisted fifth goal of the season at 11:20 of the third period evened the score at 3-3 and a key save by reserve goaltender Joe Cannata while killing a penalty helped set up Grimaldi’s game-winning shot.
Nantel has been on a tear as a member of the Rampage this season with his five goals coming in his last eight San Antonio contests sandwiched around a stint in Boulder. “I thought when Julien started last year, he was hesitant,” said Rampage coach Eric Veilleux. “He proved he is definitely an AHL player and with a great potential at the NHL level, but going to Colorado for the playoffs (last season) gave him a lot of confidence. When he came back for training camp this year, I did not see that confidence that I thought he should have and that’s one of the reasons why we decided to send him down. Now (that he’s back), that was probably the best Julien Nantel we’ve seen so far and I’m sure that is just the beginning.”
Nantel found the puck high in the Iowa zone, stickhandled down the right wing and beat Steve Michalek on the stick side.
“These guys went down to regain confidence a little bit and play at a faster pace,” said Veilleux. “And they totally got it.”
Thanks to Jordan Schmaltz, our 13th annual teddy bear toss as begun!— San Antonio Rampage (@sarampage) December 3, 2017
Take a look: pic.twitter.com/u2kntMr4MI
After the Wild scored early in the game, defenseman Jordan Schmaltz found a loose puck at the top of the crease in the middle of a wild scramble for the puck at 8:59 to knot the score and bring hundreds of teddy bears to life, floating onto the ice from the stands in the annual event to help holiday organizations provide enjoyment for kids in the area. Grimaldi and Felix Girard kept the pressure on the Wild defenders with sticky forechecking, got the puck on net and keep it alive in the crease until Schmaltz, the team’s leading scoring defenseman, found the puck and put it past Michalek.
The Wild scored the next two goals, with Joel Eriksson Ek scoring on a 2 on 1 after a Reid Petryk turnover in the offensive zone and Pat Cannone scored four minutes into the third period for a 3-1 edge.
Cannata glided across the crease to rob the Wild on a penalty kill when defenseman Andrei Mironov went off for roughing in the third period before Nantel’s heroics. Overall, Cannata stopped 22 shots in his first start of the year for San Antonio this season. The AHL veteran netminder, with 116 games at this level to his credit, had a unique stat in his only previous appearance this when he didn’t face a shot in the entire third period in a game against San Diego Oct. 28. The zero shots on goal by an opponent is a Rampage franchise record.
The Rampage had two players head to the locker room in the game with puck-induced injuries. Ranford went off in the first period when he was struck in the face with the puck near the red line, but he returned to assist on Beaudin’s goal. Meanwhile, Andrew Agozzino forced Veilleux to use his eraser on the bench to adjust his lineup card when Agozzino took a puck to the face in almost the exact spot on the ice. Agozzino did not return.
Rampage special teams have made for some adventurous moments in the skid. Before tonight’s overtime power play game-winner, the extra skater situation has been a challenge for the Rampage, as they went 2-25 in the previous seven games. The penalty kill has fallen from a top 5 unit in the league to #23, allowing 12 power play goals on 42 chances over the last eight games, before stopping Iowa on all six opportunities Saturday.
Petryk nearly atoned for his turnover with a last-second rush, but the puck just eluded his stick enough to not allow him to get a quality shot off as time expired in regulation.