Always give your best effort would be a message former Rampage defenseman Duncan Siemens might buy into. You never know who’s watching.
Siemens was the well-entrenched Rampage blueline stalwart who finally got his NHL moment last season when the Colorado Avalanche gave him his opportunity after 345 minor league games in Cleveland and San Antonio with an extended 16-game look at the end of the season.
Friday was the Sherwood Park, Alberta native’s first time back in the Alamo City after signing with the Nashville organization in December when all the other NHL organization passed on the former Colorado first-round draft pick. It’s been a roller coaster 11-months for the 26-year old veteran.
You may recall how the Avalanche surprised the hockey world by qualifying for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on the final weekend last season, outlasting current Rampage parent organization St. Louis and last year’s shared affiliation for the chance to meet the high-flying Predators in the first round.
In the process of losing to the Preds in five games, Siemens must have made an impression.
“With the experience, I had played against them with Colorado last year, they felt my toolset might be able to help them out,” said Siemens of his December signing. “I had a lot of help throughout the organization getting into shape. That’s been the process up to this point. Keep at it and see what happens.”
Earlier, before the postseason, Siemens earned the faith and trust of the Avalanche coaching staff that allowed him to play in all five playoff games with his gritty style and overall hustle, but the fans also bought into his on-ice spirit, something San Antonio fans discovered three years earlier when Siemens’ skates first made contact with San Antonio ice.
Yes, he would get a few call ups, play a game or two, and then head back to San Antonio, but this time last year, he would remain in Colorado and even register his first and only red light special.
“The way it bounced and kicked and slipped right into the net. I couldn’t help but smile, but at the same time, I was kinda like, ‘you know what, this it would happen, you get into a fight, you break your nose, the way I play the game, that will be a special picture, a special moment for a long time.'”
Siemens’ first and only NHL goal came with the goalie AWOL — an empty netter, but it was great fun as he took a picture with the puck and his mug shot, complete with his nose stuffed with gauze, had him looking like Uncle Schmedly the walrus at Sea World.
How was it sitting on the other bench Friday? “It’s the first time in a long time I’ve been super nervous for a hockey game for whatever reason I had butterflies in my stomach. After playing three years in front of these fans here. They’re great fans. We did a lot in the community, build a great relationship with some of them. They always treated me really well. They tend to like my style of play. It was fun coming in off the rodeo knowing how the ice was going to be, how the game was going to go after playing in a few.”
Siemens already has two goals this season, including one in Cedar Park Wednesday night when the Stars beat Milwaukee 4-2 to add to the misery of the Admirals 1-5-5 funk. Now, with Friday’s overtime win, the Admirals trail Rockford by three points, while the Rampage falls seven points off the pace with two games in on the Hogs in the Central Division race.
The Admirals finally turned the tables on a 3-2 OT score, as they had lost four of their previous five overtime games 3-2, only to pin the OTL on the Rampage by that same score, and keep the race tight for the final berth. The Rampage kept their franchise record-setting points per game streak at home alive now at 15 games — 13-0-2-0. They haven’t lost in regulation at home since the Friday after Thanksgiving. Of their remaining 19 games, 15 will be played in Texas, with 12 at the AT&T Center and three at Cedar Park.
SIDE NOTE FOR SAMMY — Last Saturday, Rampage winger Sammy Blais was the toast of St. Louis, scoring the shootout goal that derailed the Boston Bruins, 2-1 at Enterprise Arena. Sunday, he played nine minutes in Minnesota in the Blues 2-1 overtime loss to the Wild and got word he would return to play for the Rampage in the AHL, who would play in Colorado for games Tuesday and Wednesday.
So Blais boards a flight to Denver Monday after the trade deadline passes with teammates Chris Butler and Jordan Kyrou, gets off the plane and gets the message to return to St. Louis, as one of the Blues players won’t be available for Tuesday’s game with Nashville. Blais played over 11 minutes, hits everything wearing a saber tooth crest, and still got shipped out Wednesday to come to San Antonio. How does he handle the news?
“It’s part of the job,” he said matter of factly after Friday’s overtime setback. “You don’t have a choice. You just have to be prepared all the time. It’s the job of being a pro and be ready for every opportunity I get.”
One other fun fact with Blais — as a rookie playing with the Chicago Wolves two seasons ago, he scored his first pro goal against the Grand Rapids Griffins and their goalie at the time…Jared Coreau. I asked him if he gave Jared a little jab when the former Griffins netminder joined the Rampage in January after his trade here from San Diego. “No, he’s had a lot of good saves against me, so it’s been a good battle. I didn’t bring it up,” he said with a grin.