Seeking to put an end to a nine-game winless streak, the San Antonio Rampage returned to action on Friday evening against the Peoria Rivermen at the AT&T Center. Unfortunately for San Antonio, Peoria raced out to a 5-0 lead in the first period and never looked back, defeating the Rampage by a 7-2 score.
Following Sunday’s loss against Texas that featured only 10 combined penalty minutes, Friday’s contest saw referee Nygel Pelletier whistle San Antonio and Peoria for a combined 153 penalty minutes.
The Rivermen struck early on a former San Antonio defenseman, Brendan Bell, power-play goal less than two minutes into the contest. After one failed Rampage clearing attempt kept the puck in the San Antonio zone, Bell intercepted a second Rampage clearing attempt near the top of the right faceoff circle and fired a slap shot high to San Antonio netminder Josh Tordjman’s glove side to provide Peoria with an early 1-0 lead.
Peoria added to their lead at the 11:12 mark of the first on a goal by center Nicholas Drazenovic. After establishing control of the puck behind the Rampage net, Rivermen right wing Aaron Palushaj left the puck for center Brett Sonne, who carried the puck out to the crease and fired a shot off Tordjman’s chest, with Drazenovic waiting to lift the rebound over the sprawling Tordjman’s shoulder for a 2-0 Rivermen lead.
Hoping to cut the deficit to one goal on the power play, San Antonio added to its own problems by surrendering a Peoria short-handed goal at the 14:02 mark of the first. After intercepting a San Antonio pass near the Peoria blueline, Rivermen defenseman Danny Richmond sent a forwarding pass to center Yan Statsny at the red line, leading to a two-on-one. Statsny then held the puck momentarily to draw the attention of the San Antonio defenseman before finding right wing Adam Cracknell on a one-timer near the left post to increase the Peoria lead to 3-0.
To make matters worse for a struggling Rampage power play, Peoria added another short-handed goal, 17 seconds later, on the same power play. Following a San Antonio turnover near the Peoria blueline, Rivermen defenseman Tyson Strachan gathered the puck and split the Rampage defense, allowing Peoria left wing Chris Porter to win the race to the puck and eventually beat Tordjman through the five-hole at the 14:19 mark.
The Rivermen earned their fifth goal of the game, as a result of yet another Rampage turnover, with 55 seconds remaining in the first frame. After a San Antonio attempted breakout pass was intercepted by Cracknell near the right faceoff circle, the Peoria right wing instantly beat Tordjman high to the stick side to extend the Peoria lead to 5-0.
Despite trailing by five goals after one period, San Antonio outshot Peoria 16-13 in the first stanza.
During the first intermission, Rampage head coach Greg Ireland pulled Tordjman, who allowed five goals on thirteen shots in the first, and replaced him with fellow San Antonio netminder Al Montoya.
On the heels of a wild opening session, Montoya and Peoria goaltender Ben Bishop combined for a scoreless second period in which San Antonio outshot the Rivermen by a 12-7 margin.
Early in the third, San Antonio snapped an 0 for 38 skid on the power play when Rampage center Kevin Porter, reassigned to the Rampage earlier in the day from the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, found the back of the net by deflecting a Jeff May slap shot past Bishop. San Antonio center Kyle Turris was also credited with an assist on Porter’s goal at the 7:03 mark.
However, the San Antonio jubilation was short-lived as Peoria scored 26 seconds after the Rampage goal. Following a Peoria dump-in, Montoya went behind the Rampage net to gather the puck with Peoria center Julian Talbot applying pressure. Talbot then stole the puck from Montoya and found Rivermen left wing Mitch Love wide open on the right post for a one-timer into the vacated net at the 7:29 mark of the third.
Nearly seven minutes later, Talbot registered Peoria’s second power-play goal of the game on assists from Bell and Cracknell.
With two seconds remaining in regulation, Rampage right wing Chad Kolarik converted on a rebound off of a faceoff win and shot by San Antonio center Colin Long.
San Antonio outshot Peoria, 39-30, on the night, but strong first period offense and steady play by Bishop proved to be too much for the Rampage to overcome. Peoria’s seven goals were the most scored against the Rampage at home since the Cleveland Barons defeated San Antonio 7-1 on October 23, 2003.
The Rampage (6-9-2-1) host the Milwaukee Admirals next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the AT&TCenter.