(Photo: Darren Abate/AHL)
After a promising road win against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators AHL affiliate), the San Antonio Rampage experienced three more setbacks on the road to the Calder Cup playoffs. The team played a notorious AHL three in three over the weekend, with two games against the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit (Red Wings AHL affiliate) and one against the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate).
Their record for the weekend was 0-2-1-0 bringing their record on the season to 24-23-5-0, which is last place in a tough Central Division. Despite sitting in last place the Rampage are still only 5 points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand on the fourth place IceHogs. San Antonio has 24 games remaining with 19 of the those games coming against divisional opponents. Exactly half of those games are at the friendly confines of the AT&T Center, where the Rampage have been undefeated in regulation since December 8th. The remaining games away from home are still a glaring concern for a team that has just 5 road victories. Consider that if half of the 21 Rampage road losses were wins the team would be about 35-15-2-0 and firmly in control of the division. Unfortunately hockey doesn’t work that way and this past weekend was yet another reminder.
Vs. Grand Rapids 2/15
The mostly forgetful weekend started with a 5-1 loss to the Griffins at Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids. The Rampage trailed 2-0 after the first period but began mounting a comeback in the second on a goal from Nolan Stevens (5) at 6:52. Picking up the assists were Jordan Schmaltz (2) and Joey LeLeggia (18). The game remained 2-1 until late in the third period when a 3-goal burst from the Griffins any hope for the Rampage of securing a sixth road victory. A name Blues fans may recognize, Wade Megan, grabbed a hat-trick for Grand Rapids, his third goal coming with just two second left in the game.
Vs Grand Rapids 2/16
Saturday featured the same teams in the same setting with only a slightly different outcome. San Antonio started Evan Fitzpatrick in net and built a 2-0 lead heading into the final minutes of the third period on goals from Stevens (6) and Mark Cooper (1) in his second stint with the team this season. Jakub Jerabek (4), Jordan Schmaltz (3), Niko Mikkola (6), and Jake Walman (7) tallied assists. Then in a span of 1:58 the Rampage gave up 3 goals, including the game winner in overtime. After the second Griffins goal Fitzpatrick appeared to sustain an injury and remained down on the ice for some time. Jared Coreau took over for the remaining :24 of the third. Top Red Wings prospect Filip Zadina scored just 8 seconds into overtime, completing one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking losses the Rampage have experienced all season. San Antonio outworked Grand Rapids throughout the night outshooting the Griffins 35-21. The Rampage also went 1-for-5 on the powerplay.
Vs Rockford 2/17
The Rampage faired no better on Sunday against the IceHogs at the BMO Harris Bank Center. A mixture of fatigue and frustration resulted in a 5-2 defeat and the third straight loss of the weekend. Cooper (2) scored his second goal in as many games and LaLeggia (8) also grabbed a goal for the Rampage. Adam Musil (5) earned an assist on Cooper’s goal, while Bobby MacIntyre (9) assisted on LaLeggia’s. Mitch Reinke (24, 25) assisted on both goals moving to within two points of Jordan Kyrou for the team lead at 33. The game was closer than the final score indicated as it was tied at 2 through two periods. Rockford pulled away on two empty net goals late in the third period.
San Antonio will escape the Midwest and head west to the warmer climates of Southern California for two games against Pacific Division foes. On Friday the 22nd the Rampage will face the Ontario Reign (LA Kings AHL affiliate) at the Citizens Business Bank Arena at 9:00 pm CST. San Antonio will then travel further south to San Diego where they will face the Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate) at the Pechanga Arena San Diego at 9:00 pm CST. The Rampage have beaten both teams at home this season and look to repeat those results on the road in a situation where every point is critical to their playoff hopes.
Blues Prospect Report
Nolan Stevens scored two goals in two games for the Rampage before an injury held him out of the game against Rockford. The rookie now has 6 goals and 8 assists on the season good for the thirteenth on the team in points. Most notably his 14 points are just one less than Klim Kostin, who has not produced much since his return from the World Juniors. The two are tied with 6 goals apiece, with Kostin notching one more assist for a total of 9. The differences begin with plus/minus and penalty minutes. Stevens sits at plus 2 while Kostin falls off at minus 16. Finally, Stevens has earned just 8 minutes in penalties while Kostin has racked up 58 minutes. The 6’3″ forward from Brantford, ONT was drafted by St. Louis in the 5th round, 125th overall, in the 2016 Entry Draft.
Evan Fitzpatrick looked solid in his first appearance for the Rampage since December 28th. The 6’3″ netminder stopped 18 shots before giving up two goals on the final two shots of the night he would face. After the second goal he came out of the game with an injury and no update has been given on his status. The St. Johns, NL native has put up good numbers during his three appearances this season, earning a 1.90 GAA, and a .907 SV%. Fitzpatrick was drafted by St. Louis in the 2nd round, 59th overall, in the 2016 Entry Draft.