We have an on-site correspondent with the Rampage now, but he’s having issues logging in. When he’s able to log-in, these home recaps will switch over to being published by Tony, not me.
— by Tony Uminski
(San Antonio) -- No one on the Rampage has more than 2 goals in seven games this season. No one seems to know where the net is. Klim Kostin is completely MIA. The Rampage season is slipping away in the third week of the season.
For the first time in its 17-year franchise history, the Rampage have started their season dropping six of their first seven games. The offense is offensive. If the power play didn’t come alive with two goals Sunday in Manitoba (by defensemen), the Rampage would have the unique position of being the only AHL team with one power play goal (in 20 chances) this season. As it is, San Antonio is now 3-26 with the extra skater after their 3-0 blanking by the Milwaukee Admirals (NSH).
Three straight times in this six-game losing streak the Rampage could muster only one goal. Tuesday night, they didn’t get their 10th shot on goal until the third period. With Rockford (CHI) next on the hit parade Wednesday night, the Rampage have a chance to extend their losing streak to seven!
And this sad state of affairs comes off a promising 2-0 opening night win over Grand Rapids (DET).
Zach Sanford did score twice for San Antonio in 2-1 and 3-1 losses to Colorado 10-days ago. The New Englander was recalled this week by the Blues, and the Rampage offense went to Missouri with him.
Take away Sanford’s two goals and three by defensemen, the Rampage forwards have scored eight goals in seven games. Aren’t they the closest players on the ice to the opponent’s goal? Aren’t they the players who are supposed to light the lamp at the enemy’s end of the ice? Re-read those last sentences…wow.
Along with Ontario (1-3-2-1), the Rampage are only AHL teams with one win, but the Rampage are the only team with 2 standing points, the fewest in the league and rank #31 in the 31 team league.
The Rampage’s 13 goals is the least of any AHL team in seven games, while goaltender Ville Husso leads the league with four losses.
The team is also playing soft. Overall, going into the Milwaukee game, the team was averaging 7.87 penalty minutes per game – all minors. Not even close to a fighting major yet. Tuesday night, they picked up back-to-back delay of game penalties within 1:01 of each other! And Nolan Stevens actually got called for “throwing the stick.” Seriously?
When your penalty killing unit is the only bright spot on your hockey team, it’s going to be a long season. FTR, the Rampage PK has allowed only four goals in 26 chances. is at 80%, allowing 4 on 26 chances.
And here’s the reason for some serious pessimism that this trainwreck will find the tracks. Where do the Rampage go for offense?
Brian Flynn, a 30-year old veteran, had a career year in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars last year with 18-29-47 and was a solid AHL signing after Flynn played six years in the NHL with Buffalo and Montreal. He had 16 goals with Rochester six years ago, along with 27 NHL markers in 275 games up in the show. So he knows what to do with the puck and proved that last year in killing the Rampage from the other bench.
Flynn leads the team with three points – all assists.
Then there’s 33-year old Trevor Smith, who returned to Milwaukee after spending the last two seasons with the Predators top affiliate as their captain. He did score 31 goals the last two years, but you best have a Plan B if you’re looking for Trevor Smith to lead in the scoring column. Yes, he has nine NHL goals with Pittsburgh, Toronto and Tampa Bay. Yes, he’s also played a few games with the Islanders, Nashville and Pittsburgh, but Smith is a career AHL guy – one of the best at this level with 600 games now and 185-255-440…12th AHL season.
Another seasoned veteran, Jordan Nolan has played 361 NHL games, mostly with the Kings and wears two rings…but he’s known for his grinding style, not Sid Crosby hands. He did score 23 goals – in junior hockey -- in 2009 with Sault Ste Marie. Nolan does have 24 NHL goals in those games, with four coming last season with the Buffalo Sabres.
Looking at some of the serious St. Louis prospects here:
Adam Musil left his scoring touch in juniors – he had 51 points in 56 games his last season in Red Deer, but in 62 pro games, the former 4th rounder has matched his draft standing with four goals.
Connor Bleackley has found redemption with the Blues after the Colorado Avalanche gave up on him, and ironically, he found himself in San Antonio at the end of last season with Avs and Blues teammates. Bleackley was drafted in the first round by the Avs in 2014 and went unsigned by Colorado and returned to his junior squad. The High River, Alberta native scored a team high 29-39-68 in 71 games with Musil and Red Deer when he was selected high on the leaderboard by the Avs, but a couple of injury plagued seasons with the Rebels with a groin and knee injuries resulted in his non-contract status. Bleackley scored nearly a point per game in Red Deer and re-entered the draft pool, thus justifying the Blues’ faith in him as a fifth rounder in 2016. He did have 19 goals and 38 points in 40 ECHL games with Tulsa last season, but had only one in 13 Rampage games. Simply put, Bleackley has to score in San Antonio.
Another fellow, 27-year old Stephen Perfetto once had 28 goals with Alaska of the ECHL, but two years and four hockey teams later, he has raised the stick only six times, including once this season. This is his second tour in SA after 3 games following his Alaska scoring outburst, but if Stephen Perfetto is your go-to guy this season, well, start making plans for something other than watching hockey in South Texas, again, in April.
Kostin managed one shot in the third period Tuesday, going -2, and generally missing opportunities to make an impact. He’s 21. He has a ton of time ahead of him, but Rampage fans were hoping this would be his breakout year after getting just six goals last season. On at least three occasions, press box personnel have said, “Klim has to bury that,” as he fired the puck wide, or made a nice play, only to shoot the puck into the goalies pads. On his one goal, he showed his immense promise – going between the legs before slipping the puck past the Grand Rapids goaltender.
Austin Poganski and the aforementioned Stevens, a couple of Blues’ fourth rounders in 2014 and 2016 respectively, have fizzled…fifth rounder from 2016, Tanner Kaspick, did score his first pro goal Sunday.
Going up and down the roster, there just isn’t a whole lot of pucks in the bank, and that could mean fans going to Rampage games for the dollar beer and the ever-enchanting antics of T-Bone.
Also, watching the team try and climb out of this hole will be noteworthy, and a win tonight in Illinois would be worth waiting for.