SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Rampage returned home for the first time in nearly a month and defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-2 in front of 7,850 fans at the AT&T Center on Friday night.
The game marked the first on home ice since it was announced on February 6 that Spurs Sports and Entertainment had sold their AHL license to the Vegas Golden Knights. The team will be relocated following the conclusion of the 2019-20 season and likely rebranded.
The win for the Rampage is their sixth in their last seven games. This stretch has now pulled them within a point of fourth place in the Central Division.
“It’s a great hockey community here,” Rampage Head Coach Drew Bannister said. “They’ve supported us well all year, and I thought they’d be there to support us now, especially with the way the guys have played since the announcement. It gives them something extra to cheer for, and hopefully, we can give them some meaningful extra hockey down the stretch.”
Grand Rapids opened the scoring just eight minutes into the contest as Joe Veleno beat Rampage netminder Ville Husso from the high slot to make it 1-0 Griffins. San Antonio answered back just 12 seconds later with Mike Vecchione’s 21st of the season off a Derrick Pouliot missed chance.
San Antonio took a 2-1 lead into the locker room thanks to Tanner Kaspick redirecting the puck home at 19:28.
Fans were not only vocal because of the team’s performance on the ice but they finally got the chance to vent their frustrations over losing their team at the end of the season. Chants of “We want hockey!” rang throughout the arena all night long in place of the usual “Let’s go Rampage!” cheer.
“I feel blindsided,” Rampage fan Dan Pianfetti said. “They didn’t think about the fans, employees, let alone players. It was really, really poorly done and managed.”
After a scoreless second period, the Griffins knotted things up in the third. Charles-Edouard D’Astous fired a shot that pinballed off a few bodies and past Husso to make it 2-2 at 3:20. From there, it was all Rampage as Josh Ho-Sang netted the game-winner in his San Antonio debut. Nolan added an empty netter to give the Rampage the 4-2 win.
The win will likely take the bad taste out of the mouths of fans after the AHL officially approved the transfer of ownership, as well as the relocation of the Rampage just hours before the Rampage dropped the puck on Friday.
Still, the team knows they are within a playoff berth and are wanting to go out on a high note in the city. As Jordan Nolan said, they are doing it all for the fans.
“Guys want to finish strong to end the year,” he said. “We want to give the fans a nice playoff push. You get in and you never know what happens. I think it would be good for our fans and for the team to make the playoffs.”
The Rampage are now 23-21-12 (58 points) and will return to the ice on Sunday afternoon when they welcome the Rockford IceHogs (28-28-3) at 3 p.m.