By Jim Charshafian
It was nearly four minutes into the second period of Thursday’s contest against the Oklahoma City Barons and the San Antonio Rampage were staring down a 4-2 deficit to the AHL’s second-ranked defensive team during the regular season. It would have been easy for the Rampage to chalk up Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series as “one of those nights” and attempt to gain a split in the first two contests of their best-of-seven set on Saturday.
Instead, the team’s confidence never wavered and four Rampage goals later, San Antonio skated off the Cox Center ice with a 6-4 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
Things have not always gone as planned for the Rampage this season, but one quality that the team has been able to count on throughout the year is their ability to succeed in arduous circumstances.
After hovering near the bottom of the standings in the early goings of the AHL season, San Antonio became one of the league’s most consistent clubs and clinched their third playoff berth in franchise history on the last day of the regular season. Then, after seeing a 2-0 first round lead over the Chicago Wolves disappear, the Rampage won the decisive Game 5 of their Quarterfinal set in double overtime for their first ever playoff series victory last Friday.
So as the team found themselves in a two-goal hole against Oklahoma City, there was no sense of panic.
“We’ve been joking around calling ourselves ‘Team Adversity,’” said defenseman Michael Caruso, who scored the game-winning goal in Game 1. “Things haven’t been easy for us since day one. We’ve been in a lot of tough situations and I think that because of what we’ve been through, it’s given us a big advantage here in the playoffs.”
The Rampage have taken their queue all season from their head coach, Chuck Weber, who preaches “winning by volume.”
“It’s not one guy who’s going to get the job done,” said Weber. “It’s everyone. It’s everyone defending, it’s everyone scoring, it’s everyone contributing.”
Weber’s mantra was on full display in Thursday’s win, as six different San Antonio players scored in the triumph.
“It’s a credit to this group, who’s stuck with it all year,” said Weber. “There are lessons that a hockey team learns over the course of a year. We’ve made mistakes but we’ve learned our lessons and we were able to battle back [on Thursday].”
Center Bracken Kearns, who posted two assists in the Rampage win, said that he and the rest of his squad all take an active role in the team’s success.
“It comes down to confidence,” said Kearns. “Our scoring is pretty spread out and you need that, especially in the playoffs. We have the depth to play in a game like [Thursday’s].”
Although the Rampage did not expect to be in a 10-goal affair in Game 1, they feel they are well-equipped to play in any type of game as their series with the Barons continues.
“We’re a ‘defense-first’ team but we feel we can play that kind of high-scoring style, as well” said Kearns. “We’ve been resilient all year and it’s showed here in the playoffs.”
Whatever tough situations the Rampage face the rest of the way, “Team Adversity” feels they’ll be able to handle them.