As the parent teams of the San Antonio Rampage work towards their playoff hopes in the past few weeks, the AHL affiliate has picked a lousy time to put their offense into dry dock.
Since Jan. 1, the Rampage have festered around the .500 mark, going 5-7-2-0 and scoring just 25 goals in those 14 games. Not only have they been offensively inept in many of the games, only strong goaltending performances has kept the record respectable.
There was the weekend set with the Tucson Roadrunners (Phoenix) – two 2-1 OT losses after scoring the first goal each night. Getting on the board early seemed a curse more than a luxury, as the team as a whole adopted a prevent defensive system, barely crossing the blueline and being outshot in the two games 87-38.
Their period shots on goal resembled Cleveland Browns halftime scores, 22-5, 13-3, and 18-8, as all four lines seem to think a 1-0 lead qualified for the witness protection program.
Players have absolutely lost their scoring touch. Andrew Agozzino has one goal in the last 29 games! He was counted upon challenging the 30-goal mark but has only eight on the season.
Rocco Grimaldi has been limited to one goal in his last 15 games. On paper, the Agozzino-Grimaldi-Klem Kostin front line looks like a terrific lamp lighter. But if it wasn’t for the St. Louis Blues #1 pick’s three goals in the last nine games, this top line has been enjoyed a “deer in the headlights” look around the net.
Reid Petryk hasn’t scored since Nov. 11, but has missed 13 games due to injury). Julien Nantel’s last scoring game was on Dec. 15. Felix Girard’s goal Wednesday night was his first since Dec. 9. Brendan Ranford, who averaged 17 a game with the Stars in three seasons, has only two this year and the last one coming Nov. 25. When it comes right down to it, when Trent Vogelhuber (2 goals) and Alex Belzille (5 in his last 16 -- zero in his last 7) are your “go-to” guys on offense, it’s going to be a long last two months of the season.
When looking ahead at the annual rodeo road trip schedule, the games in Texas and Rockford were definite ‘maybe’s’ for the win column. San Antonio was 7-1 vs Texas and 3-0 against the Ice Hogs this season. In fact, the Rampage even restricted the Hogs to only two goals in those three meetings…both goals unassisted! Although the offense showed some degree of interest Wednesday night, outshooting the Hogs 34-28, the power play was 0-4 and only occasionally did the scorers inject fear into Rockford goalie Collin Delia, who’s pedestrian .894 and 2.99 goals against would suggest a sunburn on the goalie’s neck.
The backline has done better than up front skaters, especially on the penalty kill, where teams have gone 7-48, but three of those came in one game vs. Milwaukee. But the two-five-goal games in the last four contests, and being outscored 14-7 in the last four (1-3-0-0) has signaled perhaps the “sit-back-and-see-what-they-can-do” strategy is flawed when it comes to attaining any degree of success.
The Rampage have yet to win a game for head coach Eric Veilleux on this trip, which will number a dozen games this year. With losses in Cedar Park, Texas Saturday (5-1) and in Rockford, Illinois (Blackhawks), 3-1, the Rampage are 0-10-1 during their annual San Antonio sabbatical with Veilleux behind the bench with the next two games against teams they rarely beat on the road.
This recent stretch has dropped the Rampage into 11th place in the Western Conference from the loftiness of fourth just two weeks ago. Friday’s opponent, the defending Calder Cup champs, the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit), have ripped off a 6-0-0-1 streak, gaining momentum for the struggling ‘Page. Then, it’s the Milwaukee Admirals and the Bradley Center, where the Rampage haven’t won since skates were invented. One note of optimism – the Rampage play the Admirals twice with Milwaukee sharpshooter and former San Antonio sniper Bobby Butler across the big pond playing in the Olympics for team USA.
The Rampage entered last year’s big trip with an outside shot at the post-season. They are there again this year. But to suit up in late April, this Rampage team needs to break it’s post-holiday slumber and get rolling again sooner – not later.