Top Shelf with Tony Uminski 11/30
When the Silver and Black opened the season with a young, inexperienced back line, the San Antonio Rampage found an answer on the unemployed, veteran, power-play manning defenseman file under L, as in Lashoff, Matt.
The former first-round Boston Bruins draft pick 10 years ago found himself on the outside looking in when his team in Germany suddenly ceased operations late in the summer. Most players would be up ice without an elbow pad, but Lashoff had connections with the Toronto Maple Leafs and used that hookup to grab a training camp slot.
“It was an opportunity to keep skating and get on the ice,” said Lashoff, who had made friends in the Leafs organization when he played with the AHL Marlies and NHL Leafs from 2010-2012. Lashoff wasn’t thinking about making the team there in Toronto since they were pretty much stacked with defensemen. But camp did give him visibility.
One team that took notice of the veteran’s play was the Rampage. “They were looking for an older guy to stabilize the young guys. It was a perfect situation,” said the upstate New York native of his San Antonio hiring.
Lashoff, his wife Kristin and two children, Ryder, 4, and Lyla, 2, headed to South Texas at the best time of year – any-time after blazing summer.
“It’s strange, wearing a t-shirt with December around the corner,” said the former Kitchener, Ontario Ranger in the junior ranks. “I did play in Tampa Bay for a couple of seasons, so (the weather) wasn’t a shock. It’s great, actually, mentally.”
Lashoff was the 22nd player selected in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Bruins and then burned rubber on I-95 between Boston and Providence, R.I. for close to three years.
“It was surreal, one of those ‘it happens only once in a lifetime’ moments,” said Lashoff of his ascension up steps to don the Spoked B for TV cameras to eat up. “You don’t even realize what’s going on. It was a pretty cool experience. And I thought, ‘it’s the NHL!’”
Lashoff was happy to be picked by the Bruins, since he would be playing closer to his hometown near Albany than at any time in his career so his family could watch him play.
The 6-2 defender played great in Rhode Island, being named to the AHL All-Rookie team while leading his club’s defensemen in scoring with 11-25-36. He made his NHL debut that 2006-07 season on October 26against the Montreal Canadians, and laced them up for 12 games, earning two assists.
“I loved my time in Boston. It was a unique experience being one of the core guys of the team that would eventually win the Stanley Cup. Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, and David Krejci, it was really cool.”
His trade to Tampa Bay in the Mark Recchi deal was a shock, but not overwhelming, since he had a feeling something was in the wind come deadline time in 2009. “I knew my time there (Boston) was coming to an end and there was a possibility. It’s easier to take when you don’t have a wife and kids though. I was happy to go to Tampa and have the chance to establish myself. But I was super happy to see the Bruins win the Cup a few years later.”
Lashoff played the AHL-NHL connection again with the Lightning and Norfolk, where former Rampage players Bracken Kearns and Lukas Krajicek were teammates and former San Antonio Dragons forward Darren Rumble was his head coach.
Off to Toronto at the beginning of the 2010-11 season in a three-player trade, Lashoff again found himself doing the NHL-AHL shuttle. At least the Marlies were an Uber pickup away, where Lashoff led the team with 137 penalty minutes and was second in defenseman scoring with 7-21-28.
Many times in his career, Lashoff found himself in a “we’re going in a different direction” scenario, as he arrives on a team just in time before there’s a management reshuffle and Lashoff’s not in the new folks’ plans.
Not so in Toronto. Lashoff was apparently close to being recalled to the Leafs in October, 2011, when the Marlies were in a similar situation as the Rampage here, playing against Texas every other game. For the Marlies, that rivalry team was the Lake Erie Monsters, and those early season games between the two teams had the tension and bad blood brewing with each contest. On the Saturday night before his short journey across town to the NHL, former Rampage rough houser, Patrick Bourdeleau nailed Lashoff with a bruising hit, causing his knee to buckle and blow out the knee.
He did manage to return to play eight games in the Calder Cup playoffs that season, but Europe came calling when the NHL locked out players in 2012 and he and new wife Kristin were off to Zurich, Switzerland, where Lashoff played for former NHL coach Marc Crawford during the labor issue.
“It seemed like my career was spiraling out of control at the time,” admitted Lashoff, “But we got to see some pretty cool places.” Kristin followed Matt to Sweden for the 2013 season, but Lashoff backed off at the prospect of his wife joining him in Russia when he played in Novokuznetsk – look it up, it’s not the end of the world, but you could see it from there…and yes, that is Mongolia to its southeast.
“Kristin stayed home and had Ryder. I did get to go home for the birth. I got home around 2 a.m. and he was born at 8:30 that morning. I stayed a couple of days” and it was off to the other side of the world.
After this 23 game experiment and two assists, Lasher returned to play in Bridgeport and Portland, where he played for former Rampage coach Ray Edwards and with Eric Selleck, Brandon Gormley, Chris Summers and Dylan Reese.
Now, the Rampage are looking forward to Lashoff’s blueline presence, especially in helping to turn the power play around. His power play goal Friday night against Texas could be a harbinger of things to come.
“We have a lot of unselfish guys on this team. We’re a little short on selfishness. But, sometimes being selfish, scoring goals helps the team,” Lashoff observed about the struggling power play situation, encouraging teammates to shoot rather than dish off.
“It’s frustrating when you lose so many guys, our consistency suffers. We lost two of our top six forwards. But we'll grin’ through it. When we played in Ontario (a 5-1 Rampage romp against the defending Western Conference champion), we’ve seen us play on all cylinders, so we have set the bar there. We can do it.”
And despite all the travels, the management decisions of finding Lashoff somewhere else to play, or debilitating injuries, the Avalanche may just have need for a former first round pick with a head for the game and speed in his skates. Until then, the Lashoff’s will enjoy the sun of San Antonio and life’s experiences in the Alamo City.
In Case You Missed It!
The Florida Panthers put former Rampage head coach Tom Rowe back behind the bench, but this time as the Cats’ head coach. Rowe, who, like Lashoff, also cut his teeth in the KHL, coaching the Yaroslavl Locomotiv team (the Russian league franchise that lost its team in a tragic plane crash the year before Rowe took over), and managed the Rampage in 2014-15. San Antonio finished with its best record ever under Rowe at 45-23-8, but lost out to Oklahoma City in the first round. Rowe moved to Portland with the affiliation change in 2015-16, but was called up to an executive position last season, leaving the Pirates to former Rampage head coach and assistant coach, Scott Allen. This past summer, the Boston area native was the Panthers general manager and Allen was then promoted to an assistant position with the Panthers and survived the changes last weekend. Allen had previously served as an NHL assistant for three years with the New York Islanders after his stint here during the 2002-03 inaugural season. Allen began that season as San Antonio’s assistant coach, but took over the head coaching position when first Rampage head coach John Torchetti was promoted to the NHL team. Allen also served as head coach for the second Rampage season as well…Mikko Rantanen had a point in four-of-five games over the last two weeks for the Avalanche, including the first goal in the third period and an assist on the second goal of the period in an eventual 3-2 comeback win over the Minnesota Wild on the road on Nov. 19. He now has three goals this season, including one last night vs. Nashville…former Rampage goalie Calvin Pickard is 4-1 with a 2.03 GAA in a relief role with the Avs this season.
One of the most amazing stories in Rampage lore happened at this time five years ago. Former Rampage goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris returned to his former team after starting the season in Finland. DGM played in one forgettable Rampage game during his rookie season out of Harvard in October 2005, a 7-2 loss in Iowa. The Rampage needed a new masked man after San Antonio surrendered 36 goals in 10 games that November with Brian Foster trying to do the job Jacob Markstrom was then doing in Florida on a recall. Enter DGM. Only problem was the Rampage were in the midst of a road trip and had two games in Abbotsford, British Columbia to finish out the month. DGM flew 4500 miles as the crow flies to get to Western Canada, donned the pads and incredibly stopped all 21 Heat shots in a 5-0 Rampage shutout of the same team that slapped the Rampage, 4-0 in San Antonio two weeks earlier. Even more impressive was the next night, when Grumet-Morris allowed only one goal and made 30 stops in a 3-1 Rampage win, including a sensational second period, when San Antonio shooters were outshot 14-6 by the home team. See you at the rink this weekend!