In a season of successes and shortcomings, at times affected by the unpredictable winds of change, the San Antonio Rampage
set records and the stage for a positive future.
In mid-September the Anaheim Ducks, who were without an AHL affiliate, and Phoenix Coyotes reached an agreement that sent a handful of Anaheim’s talent to the Alamo City. By late September a competitive Phoenix camp yielded a Rampage roster laden with young and promising talent that would see a total of 10 NHL first-round draft picks wear Rampage jerseys at different points in the season.
The beginning of the 2009-10 campaign saw San Antonio face-off against two teams making their AHL debuts: the Texas Stars and Abbotsford Heat. After splitting a home-and-home series with Texas to open the season, the Rampage flew to Abbotsford, British Columbia for two games with the Heat in which defenseman Sean Sullivan kickstarted the best offensive season of his AHL career with overtime goals on consecutive nights and was named Reebok AHL Player of the Week for his efforts.
With a 2-20-0-1 start in 2008-09 relegated to a distant memory, the 2009-10 Rampage raced out to their best start in franchise history, earning six wins and thirteen standings points in the first eight games of the season. However, in addition to the numerous victories, San Antonio provided an early foreshadowing of what would prove to be a defining characteristic of this year’s club: an uncanny ability to convert on the power play. In the first half of the month of October, the Rampage posted a record of 6-4-2-0, 11 power-play goals in 12 contests and appeared to be just getting started.
However, San Antonio’s fortunes quickly faded as the Rampage failed to record a victory between October 19 to November 27, went 1-for-44 on the power play during that span, and following a 7-2 loss on November 20 against Peoria, head coach Greg Ireland was relieved of his coaching duties by Phoenix. Assistant coach Ray Edwards was then appointed control of the team and longtime NHL assistant coach Mike Pelino was brought in by the Coyotes to help turn the team around.
In December, Edwards led the ‘herd’ to a 7-5-0-1 record, kicked off by a six-goal outburst at Houston in front of 11,291 school children at Toyota Center on December 3, and a 5-1-0-1 record at home. The Rampage only allowed four power-play goals all month long, going 42-46 (91.3) on the penalty kill in 13 games.
January saw San Antonio play 8 of 14 games at home and post a 6-4-0-4 record for the month. On January 21, the AHL held its annual All-Star Classic in Portland, Maine and Sullivan, a New-England native, represented the Rampage in his first career all-star selection.
During the final week of January and majority of February, San Antonio embarked on its annual Rodeo road trip and compiled the second-best Rodeo trip record in franchise history (7-5-0-2, 16 points) after traveling 8,614 miles through Toronto, Syracuse, Lake Erie, Hamilton, Manitoba, Peoria, Milwaukee, Chicago, Rockford and Grand Rapids. On the trip Rampage goaltender Justin Pogge, an Anaheim prospect, was named AHL player of the week for the period ending Feb. 14, 2010 after earning three consecutive victories from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14, stopping 97 of 100 shots faced in the process. As Rampage fans welcomed the team back to the Alamo City on February 26, Pogge registered San Antonio’s first shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory over the Manitoba Moose.
Accompanying the first week in March was the 2010 NHL trade deadline. This year’s deadline day featured more trades and player movement than any other deadline day in the history of the NHL. As a direct result of Phoenix being the most aggressive team at the deadline and Anaheim adding some moves of their own, four Rampage players (Chad Kolarik, Kevin Porter, Justin Pogge and Sean Zimmerman) were moved and two (Alexandre Picard and Miika Wiikman) were added to the roster.
After the dust from the trade deadline settled, March saw San Antonio earn its fourth consecutive winning month under Edwards and Pelino, post a 6-5-1-1 record for the month, skyrocket up the league power-play rankings, and re-enter the West Division playoff hunt. In 13 games in March, the Rampage converted on an impressive 29.5 percent of their power-play opportunities (18-61).
In only six games in the month of April, the regular season’s final month, San Antonio earned a 3-2-1-0 record and came close to nabbing the fourth and final spot in the division playoff race, but fell short as a result of a few inter-division losses and remarkably consistent play by the top four teams in the West Division.
The 36-32-5-7 record and 84 points the Rampage earned in 2009-10 represent the third-best season in San Antonio’s eight-year history. San Antonio’s power-play percentage (20.7) and home power-play percentage (25.6) were tied for the league lead and led the league, respectively.
In addition, the team garnered or tied a number of franchise-high accolades, including: best power-play percentage (20.7), best home power-play percentage (25.6), most power-play goals (69), tied fewest power-play goals allowed (57), most goals in a single period (6), most shots in a period (27), most shots in a game (55), fastest two goals in a period (10 seconds), fastest goal from the start of a game (19 seconds), tied most power-play goals in a game (4), tied most shorthanded goals in a game (2), tied most goals in a road game (6) and fewest penalty minutes in a game (zero).
Under Edwards and Pelino, the Rampage finished the year by going 30-23-3-6 in their last 62 games and averaged 3.01 goals per game while limiting the opposition to 2.93 goals per game. Special teams flourished as San Antonio finished the season with the hottest power play in the AHL by going 21-76 (27.6%) in their last 16 games and 57-247 (23.1%) under the Edwards/Pelino tandem. Meanwhile, the penalty kill was just as impressive. The Rampage posted the ninth-best penalty kill overall in the AHL at 83.8%, and allowed only 39 power-play goals in their last 62 games after giving up 18 in their first 18 games of the season. Entrusted with some of Phoenix’s top talent from previous drafts, Edwards and Pelino helped eight players (Brett MacLean, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, David Schlemko, Sean Zimmerman, Alexandre Picard, Sean Sullivan, and Shaun Heshka) establish new career-highs offensively.
In the inaugural State Farm Lone Star Faceoff, San Antonio finished with a record of 9-11-4-0 and 22 standings points. Texas (16-7-0-1) finished in first place, while Houston (11-10-2-1) was second. The intrastate rivalry garnered additional state-wide attention as six of the competition contests were televised on FSN. Former NHL defenseman Brent Severyn served as color commentator alongside each team’s respective play-by-play announcers.
Leading the way for San Antonio in 2009-10 were forwards Brett MacLean, Kyle Turris, Joel Perrault, David Spina, and Alexandre Picard and defenseman Sean Sullivan and goaltender Josh Tordjman.
MacLean, a 20-year-old left wing, London, Ontario native and 2007 second-round pick by Phoenix had a breakout season following a respectable rookie campaign (21-19-40). In 76 games with San Antonio in 2009-10, the 6-foot-2, 202-pound winger recorded the second-highest single season point title in franchise history, became the franchise’s third ever 30-goal scorer, was tied for the franchise’s second-most goals in a season (30), tied the franchise high for goals in a season (14) and tied the all-time franchise lead for power-play goals (22). He led the team in goals (30), power-play goals (14), unassisted goals (5), and shots (245) and tied for the team lead in plus-minus (+11).
Turris, the 20-year-old third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, enjoyed his best season as a professional with 63 points (24g, 29a) in 76 games after spending the majority of 2008-09 in the NHL with Phoenix. Turris’ 39 assists tied him for the second-most assists in a season in franchise history and his six-game goal streak from Feb. 21 to Mar. 3 tied the all-time franchise goal streak record. He led the team in assists (39), power-play assists (17), and shorthanded assists (3) and finished second on the team in points (63) and shots (220) and tied for second in shorthanded goals (2).
Perrault, a 27-year-old center, was limited to 47 games due to injury and NHL recalls, but still recorded 36 points (17g, 19a). Over the course of the season, he became the all-time franchise leader in points (133), tied the all-time franchise lead for assists (73), tied MacLean for the all-time franchise lead for power-play goals (22), maintained the all-time franchise lead in goals (60) and maintained the franchise lead in game-winning goals (15).
Spina, a 26-year-old right wing, was limited to 26 games due to an injury suffered during the preseason, but still managed 17 points (11g, 6a). On Mar. 19 vs. Peoria, Spina became the eighth player in franchise history to record a hat trick and tied the franchise lead for hat tricks in a Rampage uniform (2). Spina’s 48 goals and 121 points with San Antonio rank him second all time behind Perrault and his 73 assists tie him for the franchise-lead in assists.
Picard, a 24-year-old left wing, recorded nine goals and six assists in 16 games with San Antonio after being acquired by Phoenix from Columbus in exchange for right wing Chad Kolarik on March 3. The Les Saules, Quebec native also earned six power-play goals in his short stint with the Rampage, tying him for third on the team in that category. In 58 AHL games with San Antonio and Syracuse, Picard recorded 50 points (26g, 24a) and 10 power-play goals.
Sullivan, a 26-year-old blueliner, enjoyed a remarkable 2009-10 season that was highlighted by a selection to the 2010 AHL All-Star Game, where he represented Planet USA. In addition to his aforementioned selection as Reebok Player of the Week for the period ending Oct. 11, Sullivan became the all-time leading scorer among Rampage defensemen (89), recorded the most points ever by a defenseman in a single season (49), second-most goals by a Rampage defenseman in a season (12) and the most assists by a blueliner in a season (37). Sullivan’s four shorthanded points tied him for the AHL lead for shorthanded points by a defenseman.
Tordjman, a 25-year-old goaltender, reached the 20-win mark for the second consecutive season and maintained the franchise lead in wins (82), shutouts (9), games played (156), and minutes (10,037). Most importantly, on April 2, Tordjman was selected as the winner of the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award as the 2009-10 American Specialty/AHL Man of the Year award, presented annually to an AHL player for his outstanding contributions to his local community and charitable organizations. He was presented with two plaques in his honor prior to San Antonio’s game on April 10.
In addition to their on-ice achievements, the Rampage saw success off the ice as well. The Rampage instituted a program titled Face-Off Against Kids Cancer this season which pairs each hockey player with a child cancer patient from the Centers for Oncology and Blood Disorders at Christus Santa Rosa Children Hospital. Through the program, many of the Rampage players forged lasting bonds with their respective buddies at various social events, including: a pizza and board game party, a trip to Sea World, a night at the rodeo, and an ice cream social at the AT&T Center following a Rampage game. The organization raised $13,115 via several fundraising events to benefit the special program.
The Rampage also treated fans to a number of exciting promotions, including a live postgame concert by Free Reign (featuring three members of the Dallas Cowboys), an autograph session with Jason Earles of Disney’s Hannah Montana Show, a testimonial from former Spurs forward Bruce Bowen at Faith Night and two Pucks & Paws events in which more than 2,000 dogs witnessed a hockey game with their owners. This season, the Rampage continued their most popular promotion, KISS Rocks $1 Drink Night, averaging 5,822 fans every Friday night and on Sundays fans enjoyed all-you-can-eat packages.
The 2009-10 season also saw San Antonio wear special jerseys on four separate occasions: Military Night, Salute to the Badges Night, Face-Off Against Kids Cancer Night, and Spurs Night. Each of the memorable evenings afforded Rampage fans with opportunities to purchase the special jerseys via an auction. More than $75,000 was raised through the jersey auctions, with proceeds benefiting various Rampage charities, including Operation Comfort, Alamo Area Fire and Police Memorial, Face-Off Against Kids Cancer program/Christus Santa Rosa hospital and the Spurs Foundation.
By season’s end, the team also set a new franchise-high for attendance as 209,414 fans witnessed the Rampage in action at the AT&T Center this season.