Photos by Shelby Rose and Brady Phelps

20130719-IMG_8691The San Antonio Rampage just finished a four-game home stand in which they went undefeated and outscored their opponents 10-3.

Rampage captain Ben Street tallied two points and 20-year-old rookie goalie Spencer Martin recorded a shutout in San Antonio’s 3-0 win over the Bakersfield Condors (27-24-8) on Saturday. Martin’s 37-save shutout was his second in the span of a week and third of his young AHL career.

In his first game back after missing nine games to injury, forward Nick Drazenovic sniped a wrist shot from the slot past Condor goalie Eetu Laurikainen 5:35 into the first period to open the scoring.

 The Rampage extended their lead to 2-0 with a power play goal at 4:57 of the second period. It was the team’s eighth power-play opportunity and first conversion of the current home stand.

Street won the power play’s opening faceoff, pushing the puck back to defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov then passed across the point to Maxim Noreau, who found an empty lane and sent a slap shot past Laurikainen,who was screened by winger Reid Petryk.

The tally put Noreau in a tie with Toronto’s T.J. Brennan for the most power-play goals among AHL defensemen. Noreau’s 40 points in 56 games (11-29–40) make him the AHL’s fifth highest-scoring defenseman.

Less than two minutes later, Street gave the team a 3-0 lead with another power-play goal, this time assisted by rookie forward Gary Nunn and Zadorov.

Captain Ben Street returned to the lineup after missing every game 20130719-IMG_8919since Oct. 31 due to an NHL call-up and subsequent injury. With a goal and an assist, Street has scored points (4-10–14) in each of his seven games this season.

 After the game, Street acknowledged the disappointing turn of the season in his absence and pondered reasons for his team to stay motivated through the end.

“Everyone’s pretty competitive, so there’s not a whole lot you have to say with this group,” said Street. “There are a lot of guys here on call-ups or on PTOs (Professional Try Out contracts) that are playing for contracts next year. If guys are under contract here or not, everybody’s watching…so there is a lot to play for, even if it’s not for the standings.”

Rampage defenseman Duncan Siemens, who returned from injury just in time to start the home stand with the team, hit the professional milestone of 150 games played in the win over Bakersfield.

“He’s got some confidence in his game. He feels comfortable with the puck,” said Head Coach Dean Chynoweth of Siemens, “he feels comfortable being that physical presence and just being a steady, stay-at-home guy. That’s what he is, that’s what he has to be, and it’s good to see him playing well.”

San Antonio’s strong forecheck and ability to cycle the puck in the corners and generate offense from sustained offensive zone possession led to their success against the

20130719-IMG_9043“Whenever you play below the goal line, it gets your opposition’s coverage turned around,” said Chynoweth. “We’ve been able to – in the last four games, counting the road trip – have zone time and create opportunities, which is evidenced by the number of shots on net as well.”

Through two periods, the Rampage outshot the Condors 32-16 and outscored them 3-0. The Rampage, playing conservatively to protect their lead, allowed 21 shots against in the third period – the most shots against the Rampage have allowed in any third period this season, and tied for most in any single period all year.

Rookie Mikko Rantanen returned to the lineup on Sunday after being re-assigned the Rampage by Avalanche management about an hour before Saturday’s game. His presence proved crucial as he scored the game-winner in overtime to lift the Rampage to a 3-2 victory over the Stars.

The Stars took a lead just 21 seconds into the game, when Rampage defenseman Brandon Gormely got caught trying to defend a two-on-one. Stars winger Matej Stransky received a pass from center Jason Dickinson in the slot and buried a wrist shot before back-checker Sam Henley could catch up to break up the play.

The Rampage responded with a tying goal just five minutes into the period. Winger Alex Belzille entered the offensive zone on the left wing with speed, creating a two-on-one with forward Garrett Thompson heading towards the net on the opposite side.

As Stars defenseman Mattias Backman committed to Belzille, Belzille fed the puck across to Thompson, who evened the score with a one-timer. The first period ended with a tied 1-1 with Texas leading the shot count 11-10.

20130719-IMG_9372The Rampage struck again two minutes into the second period. Henley sent the puck from the left corner around the boards to the right point and immediately went to the front of the net.

Veteran NHL defenseman Nate Guenin receieved the puck at the right point and fired a wrist shot past Stars netminder Jack Campbell as Henley obstructed his vision by skating across the top of the crease.

The Rampage dominated play for most of the second period. Campbell made 13 saves in the second period alone to keep the score close, until Stransky notched his second of the night to even things at 2-2 with just over three minutes left in the period. After receiving a cross-ice pass from defenseman Julius Honka on the opposite half-wall, Stransky unloaded a slap shot from the left point that beat Martin high glove-side.

The third period went scoreless. Martin made seven saves and Campbell made 10 to send the teams to overtime.

A strong possession in overtime set Rantanen up for the game-winner 2:19 into the 3-on-3 overtime period. Rantanen carried the puck behind the net and up the left wall before making a short pass to Gary Nunn, who pivoted and immediately sent the puck back to Rantanen.

Rantanen then deked past Texas captain Travis Morin at the left point and skated into the slot, where he fired a wrist shot past Campbell to seal the victory.

The win was the Rampage’s fourth in a row, all of which came at home with Martin in net.

On Monday morning, the Rampage announced that Martin’s play over the stretch earned him the honors of CCM/AHL player of the week ending Sunday, March 27. In the three games that earned him the recognition, he recorded a 0.99 goals-against average and stopped 91 of 94 shots for a .968 save percentage.

The Avalanche selected Martin in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He has a team-high .921 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average in 17 appearances this season.

On Monday afternoon, Martin was re-assigned to the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL, who are currently in first place in the ECHL’s western conference.

The Rampage (28-33-8) have seven games left in their regular season, including four at home. Their next home game is on Wednesday, April 6 against the San Jose Barracuda.

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