The Florida Panthers AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage had a strong weekend. The Rampage played road games Friday, Saturday and Sunday and picked up points in each game. On Friday against the Milwaukee Admirals, the Rampage blew a two goal lead with 1:00 left in regulation, sound familiar?? The Admirals scored two goals in a 39 second stretch to send the game to overtime where they eventually scored the winner. San Antonio was disappointed with the 5-4 overtime loss but content with a point on the road. Mike Santorelli scored a goal and assisted on a Quinton Howden goal, Howden’s tenth of the season. Goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 36 of 41 shots sent his way.
The Rampage continued their weekend with a 4-3 shootout win over the Peoria Rivermen. Goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris recored a career high 49 saves. Zach Hamill scored two goals in the game to bring his season total to 14. This was the Rampage’s first shootout win of the season bringing their shootout record to 1-0-0-4.
The Rampage carried their momentum into their Sunday game against the Chicago Wolves, again winning in a shootout. The 5-4 victory saw the Rampage overcome a two goal deficit to send the game into extra time. Mike Santorelli recorded an assist in the game and afterwards was called back up to the Panthers. The Rampage are now 4-1-1-0 on their current road trip. For the season the Rampage are 23-23-1-4, and their 51 points are five behind the eight and final playoff spot. The Rampage will continue their nine game road trip this weekend with a game in Peoria Friday followed by two games against the Grand Rapids Griffens Saturday and Sunday.
I have a half baked, unsubstantiated theory about why the Rampage find themselves in last place in their South Division. The Rampage returned most of the same players from a team that last year finished sixth in the Western Conference, but this year they occupy the 13th spot. My theory is that during the NHL Lockout, many NHL players, or borderline NHL players, played for their team’s AHL affiliate, thus many AHL teams were stronger due to the presence of some NHL guys. The Rampage had nobody from the Panthers playing on their team. The only player to leave the Rampage after the lockout was Drew Shore, but he was by no means a lock to be on the Panther’s roster. Defenseman Michael Caruso started the NHL season with the Panthers but if he had not gotten hurt he would have most likely been back in the AHL.
My point is that during the beginning of the season the Rampage had a much harder go of it because a lot of the teams they were playing had NHLers on their roster while the Rampage did not. Now that the lockout is over and any NHL players playing in the AHL have returned to their NHL squad, the Rampage should start winning more games and thus have a chance to improve enough to make the playoffs. During the lockout, the Rampage were had 15 wins and 25 losses, while post lockout, the team is 6-3. While there have not yet been enough post lockout games for this theory to bear itself out, I would argue that now that the playing field has been leveled somewhat, the Rampage will begin a strong playoff push. We will see what happens but it is worth keeping an eye on.
Lets jump over to the ECHL for a bit. The Cincinnati Cyclones won both games of a home back to back against the Trenton Titans on Friday and Saturday nights. The Cyclones won 2-1 Friday night in bizarre fashion. With the Titans’ goalie pulled in the first period due to a delayed Cyclones penalty, a Trenton player somehow managed to put the puck in his own net. The goal was credited to Cincinnati goalie Brian Foster who was the last Cyclone player to touch the puck. Foster became the 11th ECHL goalie to score a goal. He also stopped 28 of 29 en route to his and the teams fourth straight win.
Foster and the Cyclones made it five straight victories by beating up the Titans 5-2 on Saturday night. Unfortunately the winning streak was snapped in a 4-1 home loss to the Kalamazoo Wings Monday afternoon.
The Cyclones remain in first place in the North Division with 68 points, four points ahead of Toledo. The Cyclones will play four games in five nights Friday through Tuesday, with their only day off coming Monday.