It was quite a night for rookie Rampage defenseman Mitch Reinke.
The Michigan Tech product scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Rampage to an unnecessarily exciting 5-4 overtime win over the Milwaukee Admirals and in the process set the Rampage franchise record for points by a rookie blueliner.
Unnecessarily exciting because the Rampage used the first two periods to construct a 4-1 lead, only to see it evaporate in the third period as the Admirals set sail and manned the yard arms, (always wanted to use that term in a story) getting two quick goals late in the period after an early third period marker got them within two.
But the Rampage caught a break when a Milwaukee hooking penalty put them on the power play just 22 seconds into the overtime, and Reinke made them pay for the mistake with a nice wrist shot over Admirals goaltender Troy Grosenick’s right shoulder 11 seconds later.
“Jordan Nolan had a great screen in front,” said Reinke, who was still playing at Michigan Tech last year at this time before signing with St. Louis on March 26. “When he’s in front, a lot of holes open up for me, so it’s a placement shot and that’s what I try to do.”
That was the winner, and his third point of the game, but it was his assist on Nolan’s goal that opened the scoring at 10:13 that broke the Rampage record for rookie scoring by a defenseman, set by Keith Yandle, now with the Florida Panthers, 12 years ago.
“It’s a big honor. Keith Yandle is a very recognizable name and it’s a huge honor, I’m very grateful for that,” said Reinke, who now has eight goals and 29 assists after his three-point effort.
Nolan was camped at the top of the crease and tipped in a picture perfect pass from the right circle from Reinke. With Trevor Smith also assisting against his former team, the youngster had teammates with over 1300 pro games under their belts.
“It just took Mitch to find me backdoor and I’m glad he was the one,” said Nolan on the record-setter. “It was special for me and for him.”
With the Rampage up 3-1 after goals by Tanner Kaspick and Jordan Kyrou, Reinke struck again with a wicked slapshot that whistled past Grosenick’s glove at 14:48 of the second period on a 5-on-3 power play advantage with Nolan again putting his size in front of the Milwaukee net.
“We wanted to emphasize shots early, try get some momentum,” said Reinke as the Rampage coaches called their time out for the critical occasion to spell out strategy. “Just found a lane and put it in.”
The game seemed well in hand by this time. The Rampage were rolling, but somehow, the Admirals didn’t get the memo. At 5:23, a hard shot by defenseman Scott Savage screamed past the left post of the Rampage net, cracked against the back dasher and ricocheted right out to his teammate Yakov Trenin who had an empty net to make the deposit to shave the lead to 4-2.
Then, about 10 minutes later, Savage and Rampage winger, Connor Bleackley went down in a heap the corner and only Bleackley skated away. Savage appeared to suffer a serious lower body injury and was taken off the ice on a stretcher. The injury to their teammate seemed to energize the Admirals, as they found the back of the Rampage net twice in the next 1:16 to tie the score at 4-4, leaving Rampage coach, Drew Bannister in a foul mood after the game.
“I like the way we played in the first two periods, but after that I’d like to forget about the game,” said Bannister tersely.
Bannister tried to explain how the team gave away the three-goal lead, but more importantly, a valuable standing point to an opponent ahead of them in the standings, and now they play the hot Chicago Wolves in a special Tuesday morning game for school kids.
“Selfish hockey, bad penalties, that’s how it happens (tonight).”
(About the Wolves game) “If we can play like we did tonight, we probably don’t have an opportunity to win hockey games so it doesn’t matter what time we play, 10:30, 7 o’clock. We have to be better than we were tonight. That’s all I have to say about that.”
Although the coach was upset after the game, a win is a win, and it gives the Rampage a 26-26-6 record, worth 58 points in the Central Division — which is last in the division, five points out of a playoff spot with 18 games remaining. In those 18 games, all but five will be played in Texas, with 12 of them in the AT&T Center.
The Rampage have enjoyed some success against Tuesday morning’s opponent, the Chicago Wolves. San Antonio is 3-1 against Chicago, but the Wolves have been on the hunt lately, taking over the top spot in the Central Division. Their recent six-game winning streak was snapped Saturday night in Cedar Park, 4-2 by the Stars. The Wolves led, 2-0, less than eight minutes into the game, but Texas netted the last four goals of the contest to break the Wolves winning streak. In those six games, the Wolves allowed only seven goals.
Even though the Rampage are in last place, and even though they’ve won only three of their last 12 games, they are miraculously only five points out of the last playoff spot in the division. Texas and Rockford have 63 points, with the Ice Hogs having played one more game, while Milwaukee has 61 points and Manitoba 59 to the Rampage’s 58. It’s not an understatement to say that by this time next week, we’ll know the true intention of this team — games Tuesday morning vs. Chicago, followed by a home-and home set with Texas Saturday and Sunday will give fans an indication where this team will sit when it comes to post-season aspirations are concerned. A sweep — they mean business. If they are swept, the beginning of the end of yet another disappointing Rampage season.