Story by Tony Uminski
SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Rampage turned the tables on Central Division rival, the Rockford IceHogs Tuesday night at the AT&T Center with a 3-2 comeback win, avenging the Hogs’ overtime shocker Sunday. Rockland scored with three seconds remaining in regulation to send that game into overtime and then scored just 16 seconds into that extra session.
No need for overtime Tuesday night, as the Rampage held on in the last 2:10 of the third period after recovering from a 2-1 second period deficit.
“I thought we were really good at the start,” said Rampage Head Coach Drew Bannister as San Antonio grabbed an early 1-0 lead. “Towards the middle part of the game they kinda took over. There was a penalty that we killed that gave us some momentum. We managed to get it back at the end of the second with the power play opportunity where we scored to tie it up. And the third period I thought we had a great response.”
Mike Vecchione continued his assault on his personal career-high goals for a campaign with his 13th of the season at 3:47 of the first period, converting on a rebound from the left circle.
“It just kinda sat there for me to tap it home,” said Vecchione, who spent the last two seasons with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley, where he scored his personal best 17 goals two years ago.
But the IceHogs scored the next two goals.
Reese Johnson beat Rampage goaltender, Ville Husso, with a wrist shot at 7:15 of the first period off a rush, and Jacob Nilsson left alone in the right circle, teed it up on the power play and went top shelf over Husso’s shoulder for the second tally at 5:27 of the second period.
But the Rampage power play connected again toward the end of the period as Jordan Kyrou scored his fifth of the year on a shot that was stopped by Hogs goalie Kevin Lankenin, only to have its momentum lift it up and over the Rockford netminder’s head and plop into the net at 18:54. The Rampage power play ranked third in the league, went 2-7 on the night.
In the third period, defenseman Jake Walman slammed in a loose puck from the left circle with 6:27 left in regulation to provide the margin of victory, his second of the season and one of his team-high nine shots for the night. Tanner Kaspick and Jake Dotchin assisted.
The Rampage defense kept up the pressure, outshooting the Hogs 18-8 in the last 20 minutes, and keeping Rockford shooters at bay for the final 2:10 with their goalie pulled for the extra skater.
“I thought Ville made some outstanding saves late in that game to keep that puck out of the net,” reminded Bannister.
Husso kept the Rampage in the game early as well, stopping Rockford forward Anton Wedin early in the second period on the breakaway, taking the shot on the blocker to deny the Hogs the lead at the time.
“We have so much confidence in (Husso),” said Rampage defenseman Mitch Reinke, back in the lineup after missing the last 13 games with an injury. “I wouldn’t say there’s any weakness to his game. He can play the puck well. He battles. He competes hard and we’re happy to play in front of him and try to get good wins for him.”
Reinke couldn’t have gotten healthier at a better time with standout defenseman Derrick Pouliot called up to St. Louis after the game Sunday. Reinke made his presence known on the power play and blueline made a difference, picking up two assists.
“I felt pretty good, didn’t really feel any rust out there,” said Reinke, who was a top AHL rookie last season and set the Rampage rookie record for goals, assists, and points for a defenseman, 12-33-45.
“I thought Mitch was real good,” added Bannister.
“I got some chemistry with him early in the year when he was running the power play,” said Vecchione, who now has three power-play goals this season. “He’s just a presence up there. He always has his head up, ready to shoot, make a play. Both goals today, he walks the blue line, so it’s little things like that where he’s just holding onto the puck and drawing guys to him. He opens up the ice for everybody.”
Bannister also mentioned that Klim Kostin just returned to San Antonio after a three-game stint with St. Louis and scoring his first NHL goal, will be evaluated by the team’s medical staff tomorrow. Kostin was hit on what appeared to be his shoulder and immediately skated off favoring his left arm.
Overall, the Rampage outshot the IceHogs, 40-30 in beating Rockford for the first time in their last five meetings (1-3-1) and improve to 9-6-6 on the year.
Saturday night, they take on the division-leading Milwaukee Admirals, who arrive with a 10-game winning streak, which was helped along with two wins over the Rampage earlier this month. The game is a big “four-point” night, like the Admirals, who lead the Rampage by seven points, can expand that lead to nine points with a win, while San Antonio can cut the Milwaukee lead to five points should the Rampage win in regulation. Nine minus five = 4.
Saturday is also Teddy Bear Toss Night, as well as the game being telecast on Fox Sports Southwest. Rampage radio voice, Brian McCormack will join former Rampage radio man Dan Weiss on the presentation, with yours truly taking over the radio duties for the evening.
Despite going 4-4-2-1 in their last 11, the Rampage hold down third place in the AHL’s Central Division with 24 standing points, fifth overall in the 15-team Western Conference.
Rampage Ramblings – Nathan Walker is tied for third with 22 points on the AHL scoring list at the time of his recall…he’s tied with former Rampage captain, Ben Street, who’s with Binghampton in the Ottawa organization this season…Derrick Pouliot is tied for 7th with 4-14-18 points, called up to St. Louis to cover for Robert Bertozzo’s four-game suspension, but Pouliot still leads the AHL in power-play points (14) and assists (12)…Rampage alums dotting the leading scorers’ list include Andrew Aggozino, in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Andy Miele in Tucson, Alex Petrovic in Providence and David Warsofsky in WBS… Vecchione’s +13 is third-best in the league.
SLUMPING – Zach Nastasiak has only one goal in the last 15 games with two assists…Alexey Toropchenko has only two goals and one assist in 20 games…Nick Lappin hasn’t scored a goal in 13 straight games, but he did have a three-assist game vs the Texas Stars on Nov. 2…Tanner Kaspick has one goal in 12 games and Austin Poganski has gone 10 games with no goals after scoring his two this season in back-to-back games.
TEAMWISE – The Rampage are the fifth least penalized team in the league, averaging just over 10 minutes a game…the Rampage are one of four teams who haven’t scored a shorthanded goal this season. The others? Texas, Bridgeport, Ontario…the Rampage have allowed three shorties, which is much better than the Griffins, who have surrendered six shorthanded goals already this season…the Rampage have outscored opponents in all three periods this season, including 24-18 in the third…San Antonio’s 33.50 shots per game are just behind Iowa and Rochester as the most in the league, while they are fifth in shots allowed at 27.50, trailing Hershey, Cleveland, Laval and Syracuse in that department…the Rampage are now even at 4-4-2-1 when scoring first, but are 0-6 in extra session games, losing four times in overtime, and twice in the shootout.