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 matter how you slice it -- playing three hockey games at the AHL level in less than five days can bring out the worst in teams. Add to that equation a three-game-in-three days series against your geographical rival and that’s double the trouble.
The Rampage passed the first test -- winning at home Friday against the Texas Stars and then finding a way to win in Cedar Park, just outside Austin Saturday night to keep their five-game winning streak alive behind Ville Husso. Previously, the Rampage’s only regular season game at the HEB Center ended up an 8-1 Stars demolition. So the improvement has been noted.
Unfortunately, the Stars were the more motivated of the two squads Sunday as the Stars salvaged the three-game weekend series by cranking the Rampage, 7-3, at the AT&T Center, ending the Rampage’s five-game winning streak in the process.
Adam Mascherin’s near natural first period hat trick led the way for the Stars, who carried a 3-1 lead into the locker room at the end of one. Only Jordan Kyrou’s breakaway goal spoiled the fun for Mascherin, who doubled his goal total for the season after potting 35, 35 and 40 for Kitchner the past three years.
Kyrou showed why the Blues have him high on their radar with a spiffy breakaway goal at 6:42 after a nice backhand feed at the blueline by Mackenzie MacEachern following a defensive lapse at the Texas line. Kyrou came in full speed ahead and found the top corner of the net, glove side.
Then came the game’s turning point.
A slew of Texas penalties began at 7:29, with three minors called against the Stars, but they killed all three to leave the score 1-1 with just a few Rampage shots getting close to the goal. The Rampage shooters constantly looked for the perfect pass/shot and came up with neither as the Stars penalty killers did their job, filling in the passing lanes to disrupt the Rampage powerplay and then used that momentum to score at 12:52 with Mascherin’s shot just under the crossbar.
The Stars made it 3-1 when a loose puck in front ended up in the back of the net at 16:01, as the Stars’ fourth-rounder wore the hat.
As both teams headed for the dressing rooms at the end of 20 minutes, no one could imagine the second period would be worse for the home team.
The Stars extended the lead with their first goal scored by someone not named Mascherin when Denis Gurianov found a loose puck at the side of the net and backhanded it past Binnington at 7:21.
Just 1:12 later however, the Rampage showed some life – Jordan Nolan scored his fourth goal in his last eight games, using Ryan Olsen as a decoy on a two-on-one and zipping the puck over Colton Point’s stick hand up high to get the Rampage back within two.
But the Rampage gave up three more before the end of the period, as Eldon Pearce, Brady Norris (his first pro goal) and Joel L’Esperance lit the lamp. After the seventh goal, Rampage goaltender Jordan Binnington went nuts, wildly swinging his goal stick at L’Esperance in an ugly display of frustration. Binnington was assessed a five-minute slashing major and a game misconduct.
His temper may have been tried by his own teammates, who showed little inclination to clear pucks, block pucks, or move people out of the way in front of the net. Then, on the fifth goal he allowed, Binnington stopped the puck in a pileup only to have Chris Thorburn suddenly barrel in, showing a sudden burst of new-found energy by jumping into action and actually push the puck past his own goaltender.
Binnington went into orbit two goals later.
Defenseman Chris Butler scored from the point on a wicked slapshot in the third period, again over Point’s stickhand at 7:15 and deservedly so, as the Rampage captain got to taste the tip of Travis Morin’s stick, who was sent to the box for high sticking, resulting in the Rampage power play.
That was the only Rampage power play goal out of six chances, while the Stars were a perfect 3-3 with the extra skater.
Weekend Highlights – The Rampage tried to duplicate last year’s first ever successful three-game-sweep of the Stars in October, 2017, but just couldn’t get the job done this time around…for those not familiar with the AHL and minor league hockey, most leagues employ the 3-in-3 schedule at this level to avoid too many early weeknight games, which are notoriously ill-attended…many teams suffer through 5-6 of these weekends a season, with the Rampage’s upcoming slate a tougher one than this weekend, when they play those three games in three different cities on the road…Nolan Stevens scored his first professional goal in Saturday’s 4-3 win. Stevens, a 2016 fifth-round pick, got the goal in his 19th game, after scoring 24 goals last season at Northeastern…Austin Poganski, who many fans counted on for some scoring punch this season, scored in the first two games this weekend and now has three markers in his last five games…the former North Dakota captain and fourth round pick in 2014, scored 10, 12 and 11 goals in his last three years with the Fighting Hawks…Defenseman Mitch Reinke’s six-game scoring streak in Sunday’s horror show, but he does have 10 assists in his last 12 games…Ville Husso, who relieved Binnington after he was ejected, stopped all seven shots he faced Sunday and won his first game since opening night with the 4-3 win Saturday night…veteran Jordan Nolan now has points in eight of his last nine games, including his first four Rampage goals. Nolan had only one assist in his first 13 games before getting his AHL scoring helmet adjusted. Nolan has 24 NHL goals with Los Angeles and Buffalo in 361 games…Husso is now 2-9-0-0 with one shutout and a 3.52 goals against.
Up Next: After a successful 4-1 homestand, the Rampage hit the road to meet Central Division foes in Grand Rapids (DET) Thursday, followed by games in Chicago (LV) Friday, Rockford (CHI) Saturday (their second straight 3-games-in-3 days weekend), finishing up back in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Dec. 5.