(San Antonio) – The Rampage got a boost from unexpected sources in their 2-1 win over the Texas Stars Saturday night in front of 10,116 fans on Pucks and Paws Night at the AT&T Center.
With goaltender Spencer Martin’s sudden recall to Denver Saturday afternoon, Andrew Hammond got his first start since January 10th. The former Ottawa Senators netminder responded to the challenge, nearly blanking the Texas Stars before giving up a third period goal. All told, Hammond stopped 31 of 32 shots, as the Rampage were outshot 32-29 in the tight contest.
“It was good to get back in net. It’s been obviously a while for me. I knew there would be a couple of little hiccups along the way. The one thing I tried to do today was fight for every puck, knowing you’re not going to be perfect. I thought I was able to do that and the team in front of me cleared out a lot of rebounds. They helped out a lot and blocked shots and did all the things we needed to do to win,” said Hammond, who made headlines when he went 20-1-2 with Ottawa in the 2014-15 season with a 1.79 GAA and three shutouts.
“It’s been a little strange how it’s worked out,” said Hammond. “When I was up in Colorado for a month, Bernier was playing out of his mind. Obviously, you understand and support that. Then when I got back there I got an injury so it’s been two-and-a-half months since I’ve played. It’s hard to believe but I’ve been confident about my game in practice and just keep working hard knowing you’ll get an opportunity one of these days and this is what I did and it worked out. We got the win.”
Hammond has to be one of the most patient people in hockey - and someone who just couldn’t get a break. Talk about bad timing. After being acquired by the Avalanche in the Matt Duchene trade, he was sent back to Belleville because the Rampage were set with Martin and St. Louis prospect Ville Husso in the crease. Then when Hammond finally arrived in Denver thanks to a Semyon Varmolov injury, the Avalanche jelled and went on their impressive 10-game winning streak behind the hot hand of Jonathan Bernier. Follow that up with a freak injury to Hammond himself, and it’s been a long time since he’s seen game action.
For the Rampage, it’s good knowing they have depth in goal with Hammond and Joe Cannata while Martin and Husso are up in the NHL. Cannata has been playing well, going 3-0-1 over the last little while.
When the big trade went down, Hammond wasn’t seen as much of an asset, more as a contract dump to help the money work for Ottawa.
“For everyone, I think it was important for me to get the change of scenery. There were some other things going on where I was able to stay in Belleville. I enjoyed my time there. Getting up to Colorado and getting to meet all the guys now. Great group there and I’m really excited and now here in San Antonio I’m really impressed with the group here too. All in all, it’s really working out and very happy with that.”
Hammond welcomes the chance at a fresh start, and while he is an unrestricted free agent this summer, it sounds like he wants to make the most of any game action he gets over the next few weeks. He’s looking to show the Avs - or another NHL franchise - that he’s still got a lot of hockey left in him and that he’s worth a contract for next season.