(San Antonio) – The Rampage let a 2-1 first period lead slip away and dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago) Wednesday night, all but assuring themselves some free time after tax day this season.
After Rockford scored just 4:21 into the game on a shot through Spencer Martin’s pads, Michael Joly used a nice deke on the doorstep and tucked the puck past Rockford’s Collin Delia at 6:13. Rocco Grimaldi and Zach Sanford assisted on the play as Delia appeared to still have his heart at the United Center after making his NHL debut last week in the game that made his injury replacement, Scott Foster famous.
San Antonio defenseman Tommy Vanelli scored his first AHL goal from the blueline 8:31 with a nice shot off a rebound that drifted out to him for a quick wrist shot that found the inside post, glove side for a 2-1 Rampage lead, but that would be all the offense San Antonio could muster.
Rockford drew even on a goal Martin would want back, as the Hogs’ Anthony Louis floated the puck into the Rampage zone from just inside his blueline and the puck landed a few feet in front of Martin. The San Antonio masked man couldn’t handle the odd bounce off the clearing pass and Lance Bourne slapped it behind the surprised Martin for a 2-2 tie.
The Rampage, 0-3 on the power play, coughed up a shorthanded goal in the middle session as William Pelletier beat two San Antonio skaters up ice and beat Martin stickside at 3:08.
San Antonio pulled Martin with under a minute left only to have Pelletier outrace defenseman Jesse Graham to the puck and send it into the vacated net for a big win in the playoff hunt for Rockford.
A.J. Greer, Andrew Agozzino and Alex Belzile all hit the post tonight, which seems to be part of the Rampage skill set recently in this two-game losing streak that has taken San Antonio out of the playoffs baring a miraculous recovery.
The Rampage remain on the outside looking in on the Pacific Division at 33-28-10-0 this season, six points behind third-place Texas with Stockton in between them after a 4-3 overtime win by the Heat in Cedar Park Wednesdayon a goal by former Rampage skater, Colin Smith 14 seconds into the extra session.
San Antonio is running out of games, with two in Cleveland this weekend against the last place Monsters, followed by three-games-in-three nights beginning next Thursday at home against the defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins, followed by a home-and-home set with Texas. Before this skid, those two games looked huge, but right now appear to be nothing more than a “pad-the-stats” kind of contests.
Since January 5th, when the Rampage were at a season-best seven games above .500, San Antonio has gone 13-13-8-0, with those overtime losses key in pushing them out of the playoff race, while their inter-state rival Texas Stars have gone 16-11-5-3 during the same time span to stay ahead of San Antonio. What’s even more discouraging is the Stars’ mediocre 4-3-2-1 mark over their last 10 games – a prime time for the Rampage to make a move on the Stars, only to limp into the stretch run with a 5-4-1-0 record of their own.