By: Anthony Perez, www.phoenixcoyotes.com
The Rampage is on a roll.
After dropping three of their first four games, the San Antonio Rampage, aka the Coyotes’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, has won 12 of its past 14 games and has soared to the top of the West Division standings with a record of 13-4-1-0. Furthermore, San Antonio's 27 points are the most in the league.
The Rampage’s early-season streak is a welcomed change from the 9-30-2-2 record the team compiled in October and November the past two seasons.
Coyotes Assistant General Manager/Rampage General Manager Brad Treliving said the team’s hot start has been the result of a complete team effort.
“Obviously their record is really good, and it’s an indication that a lot of guys are playing well,” Treliving said.
The depth within the Coyotes organization has allowed Treliving to supply Rampage Head Coach Ray Edwards with a roster filled with many talented, young players.
The foundation to San Antonio’s success starts with its goaltending.
Matt Climie has posted a record of 8-3-0 with a 1.99 goals-against-average and a .939 save percentage with two shutouts.
Al Montoya also has been solid in net. After posting only four wins in an injury-plagued 2009-10 season, the former first-round draft selection has posted a record of 5-2-0 with a 2.86 GAA and a .904 save percentage.
A young core of defensemen also is thriving.
Chris Summers, a first-round selection in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, has a plus-7 rating to go with his goal and assist on the season. Maxim Goncharov has two goals and two assists, and Michael Stone has one goal and two assists.
“Summers and Stone have really jumped in,” Treliving said. “A lot of times those first-year pros in the American League, especially that first month, sometimes are hanging on a little bit, but these guys have jumped right in and have been big parts of that team’s success.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who was just assigned to San Antonio last week, recorded two assists in the Rampage’s 5-2 win over Chicago on Sunday.
“He’s a real noticeable player at that level,” Treliving said. “…He’s a real top-end player with the puck. We want those things to continue and for him to get confidence back in his game, but also, this really allows him to go down and work on the parts of his game that he needs to.”
San Antonio is also getting offensive production from the blue line from Garrett Stafford, who just recently completed a stint in Phoenix. He’s one of the AHL leaders in scoring from defensemen with three goals and nine assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-2 in 13 games.
Along with solid defense and goaltending, the Rampage also are seeing an improvement in the all-around play of their forwards.
Mikkel Boedker, who was one of the last cuts in training camp, currently ranks second on the team in scoring with four goals and 13 assists in 18 games.
“(Boedker) has been excellent,” Treliving said. “Obviously, he was really disappointed when he got sent down. Those who followed our training camp know that he had a really good training camp, but he went down there with the right attitude.”
He added, “We had a long chat, he was upset, but he was upset in the right way, and knew that the path to get back here (in the NHL) was to go down, produce and be a good player down there, and he’s been that.”
Viktor Tikhonov, who ranks fifth on the team in scoring with three goals and 11 assists in 18 games, has made the switch from wing to center and has become a better two-way player.
“What we know about Viktor is that he’s more noticeable now in his defensive game,” Treliving said. “…He’s a real intelligent player. I think their penalty-killing unit down there (in San Antonio) is in the top third of the league, and he’s a big part of that.”
While Boedker and Tikhonov stick out the most, Treliving said many of the forwards on the roster have made notable contributions.
“Brett MacLean has had a really strong start, obviously, with goal scoring, but again, he looks like, at times, a real dominant player there,” Treliving said. “Mathieu Beaudoin, who we added this summer, he’s in the top-five in scoring in the league, has been their leading scorer most of the year.”
Treliving said that while the wins in San Antonio are nice, it’s also good to see many of the top prospects developing their skills for the next level.
“Obviously, having success is good, but what that league is all about is developing your young players,” Treliving said. “And our young guys have really taken a step so far.”