Searching for their first victory in Grand Rapids in nearly five years, the San Antonio Rampage scored three first period goals en route to a 3-2 victory over the Griffins at Van Andel Arena on Wednesday night.
San Antonio’s winless streak in the “Furniture City” dated back to April 16, 2005, when the Rampage defeated the Griffins by a 6-2 score.
The Rampage entered Wednesday’s matchup 3-1-0-0 against Grand Rapids this season and faced off against a Griffins club that entered the contest 2-7-0-1 in their last 10 games.
San Antonio opened the scoring a minute and seven seconds into the game on center Gavin Morgan’s first goal as a member of the Rampage. Sifting through traffic in front of the Grand Rapids net, Morgan poked a loose puck from under the pads of Griffins goaltender Daniel Larsson into the net to provide San Antonio with an early 1-0 lead. Rampage defenseman David Schlemko, who was playing his first game after missing the previous four games with an injury, was credited with an assist on Morgan’s goal.
The Rampage added to their lead five minutes and one second later on defenseman Sean Sullivan’s fifth goal of the season. After receiving a cross-blueline feed from fellow Rampage defenseman Eric Regan, Sullivan fired a slap shot from the left point and beat Larsson to increase the lead to 2-1. Regan’s assist represented his first helper since being reassigned to San Antonio on December 31.
Continuing to pour on pressure, the Rampage received yet another first period goal, on the power play at the 16:06 mark of the opening frame, from left wing Ryan Hollweg. Gaining possession of the puck inside the left faceoff circle of the Grand Rapids zone, rookie center Justin Bernhardt dropped a pass from the left faceoff circle back to May, who then fired a slap shot from the left point that was deflected by Hollweg in front and beat Larsson low inside the left post to increase the Rampage lead to 3-1. Bernhardt’s assist was his first of the season and first point of his AHL career.
Follwing Hollweg’s goal, Griffins coach Curt Fraser pulled Larsson and replaced him with netminder Jordan Pearce, who played one game with Grand Rapids last season after patrolling the goal for Notre Dame (NCAA) in 2008-09.
The Griffins closed the deficit to 3-1 with 1:03 remaining in the period on a goal by defenseman Logan Pyett. After carrying the puck up to the left point in San Antonio’s zone, Griffins right wing Jeremy Williams found Pyett at the top of the right faceoff circle. Pyett then took a few strides toward the Rampage net before beating San Antonio netminder Josh Tordjman over his left shoulder to decrease the deficit to 3-1 heading into the first intermission.
Midway through the second stanza, the Griffins crept to within a single score with a tally by right wing Jan Mursak. Mursak initiated the scoring play by sending a pass from the right half wall to defenseman Tom Galvin on the left point. The Grand Rapids blueliner then fired a snap shot into traffic that bounced off left wing Francis Lemieux and landed near the right post, where Mursak quickly beat a sprawling Tordjman to close the deficit to 3-2.
In the third, Tordjman closed the door on the Griffins, stopping all eight Grand Rapids shots in the final frame to seal San Antonio’s seventh win in their last 10 games.
Hollweg’s game-winning power-play goal marked the 10th power-play goal scored by the Rampage in their last five games.
Tordjman stopped 27 of the Griffins 29 shots in the game to earn his eighth victory of the season, while Larsson and Pearce combined to turn away 22 of 25 San Antonio shots in the loss.
The Rampage return to action tomorrow night when they travel to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee for a 7 p.m. matchup against the Admirals.