Returning home to the Alamo City following a two-game road trip to the Great Lakes region, the San Antonio Rampage defeated the visiting Rockford IceHogs by a 2-1 score in front of a raucous crowd of 5,897 at the AT&T Center on Saturday night.
San Antonio entered the night with a 7-2-0-1 record in their last 10 games and 4-0-0-1 record in their last five games at home.
Holding a 4-1-0-0 record in their first home games following road trips this season, the Rampage faced off against a Rockford club that entered Saturday’s contest 5-4-0-1 in their last 10 games and had scored first in 24 of their first 41 games. When scoring before their opponents, Rockford was 18-4-1-1 prior to Saturday’s matchup.
Living up to their scouting report, Rockford opened the scoring at the 9:34 mark of the first on a goal by center Matt Keith. Gaining control of the puck near the right point in the Rampage zone, Keith moved from right to left along the San Antonio blueline before skating down along the top of the left faceoff circle and sending a pass across the slot that was cut off by a Rampage player between the hash marks. IceHogs center Mark Cullen then stole the puck and found Keith on the left post to one-time the puck past Rampage netminder Josh Tordjman and provide the IceHogs with a 1-0 lead.
The Rampage tied the game less than four minutes later, on the power play, with a goal by right wing Ryan Weston. Gaining control of the puck behind the Rockford net, San Antonio left wing Brett MacLean wrapped a pass around the boards to center Kyle Turris in the right corner, who immediately found defenseman Shaun Heshka on the right point. Heshka then returned the puck to Turris at the top of the right faceoff circle, where the Rampage center fired a snap shot that was deflected in front by Weston past Rockford goaltender Joe Fallon to tie the game at one goal apiece.
The power-play goal represented San Antonio’s 12th man-advantage tally in their last nine games.
Early in the second, at the 4:18 mark of the period, San Antonio earned their first penalty shot of the season as MacLean was hooked down while on a break-away and awarded a penalty shot by referee Zac Wiebe.
On the showdown, the left-handed MacLean skated straight in toward Fallon, faked to his right and had the puck poked away by the Rockford goaltender as he attempted to shift back to his forehand.
The penalty shot was the first awarded to a Rampage player since February 17, 2008, when San Antonio’s Bill Thomas was stopped by then-Quad City and current Abbotsford Heat goaltender Matt Keetley.
The Rampage added to their lead 2:43 into the final session with a goal by rookie center MacGregor Sharp. Taking a faceoff in the right circle of Rockford’s zone, Sharp won the draw back to defenseman Shaun Heshka on the right point. Heshka then fired a high wrist shot off Fallon’s chest onto the stick of Rampage right wing Francis Lessard. Without hesitation, Lessard sent a shot from the left corner of the crease off Fallon’s stick to Sharp on the left post, where the rookie center beat Fallon over his right shoulder to provide San Antonio with their first lead of the game.
For the remainder of the third, the one-goal lead proved to be all Tordjman needed as the Rampage netminder stopped all 10 of the Rockford shots he faced in the final period.
Tordjman made 27 saves on 28 Rockford shots for his ninth victory of the season, while Fallon turned away 35 of 37 San Antonio shots in the loss.
The Rampage, now 17-16-3-2, return to action on Tuesday when they travel to suburban Austin to take on the Texas Stars in a 7:30 p.m. matchup at Cedar Park Center.