Garry Nunn didn’t pack nearly enough. He flew into San Antonio expecting a short stay, as Rampage coach Dean Chynoweth told him he’d likely play in just one game.
Sixteen games and six weeks later, Nunn was still in San Antonio, with a few overtime winners to his name.
“I just focused on playing every game like it was my last,” Nunn said. “I didn’t know if this opportunity would come, so I made the most of it.”
Nunn helped the Rampage finish the 2015-16 season strong, as he had seven goals and seven assists in 16 games. In a career that’s spanned from Alaska to Atlanta with many spots in between, he’s hoping he played his way back to San Antonio next season.
Nunn’s surprise emergence was part of a wild Rampage season, which was a roller coaster like some players had never experienced before.
After beginning the season with a 10-game point streak, becoming the last AHL team to lose a game in regulation, the Rampage were hit with call-ups and injuries and dropped out of playoff contention. Behind Nunn and the return of players including captain Ben Street, the team ended the season on a good note, tying a franchise record with seven straight home wins from March 20 to April 9.
“Nine years pro and I’ve never seen anything like this season before,” said Max Noreau, who led all Rampage defensemen with 12 goals, 33 assists and 45 points. “The first couple months, we had this energy where we knew we could beat everybody. And with this finish, I think everybody can learn from this season and look to keep that energy.”
Some of the season’s highlights included strong play from goaltender Calvin Pickard, who was named the AHL’s goalie of the month for October before spending much of the season with the Colorado Avalanche.
Pickard finished with a .917 save percentage in the AHL and a team-leading .922 save percentage in Colorado.
“Picks” was one of many Rampage players to receive call-ups, as defensemen Chris Bigras, Zach Redmond and Nikita Zadarov finished the season with the big league club. Ben Street, Mikko Rantanen, Dennis Everberg and Andrew Agozzino also spent time in Colorado.
And then there was Rantanen, who became the youngest player to suit up for the team at 18 when he made his debut on Oct. 24. He scored a goal on his first shot. Rantanen turned 19 a week later, and his season included Rampage rookie records for goals (24), assists (36) and points (60), along with a World Junior Hockey Championship for Finland, an AHL All-Star Game appearance and co-Rookie of the Year honors.
“I’ve learned a lot in San Antonio, getting used to the American style of play,” Rantanen said. “I’ll always be thankful for this season.”
Forward Ben Street might have exemplified the ups and downs of the season. He spent his first six games in San Antonio, scoring a point in each game as the Rampage went 5-0-1-0 and was called up by Colorado. After seven games with the Avs, Street suffered a torn pectoral muscle and missed four months. He returned for the Rampage on March 26, just as the Rampage’s fortunes were turning. In Street’s 15 Rampage games, the team posted a 12-2-1-0 record.
“He’s hands down the catalyst,” Chynoweth said. “Street’s the captain and makes things happen. Injuries are frustrating, but it’s part of the game. We played better the last month. Our resiliency showed and getting guys back in the lineup was a huge difference.”