Tuesday, November 16, 2010

AHL Weekly: Rampage look to end culture of losing

Since the Rampage joined the American Hockey League in 2002, the team has had a repturation of losing. For instance, they last made the playoffs in 2007 only to lose in a 7 game series against the Toronto Marlies. They only other playoff trip in team history was back in the team's 2nd season in 2003 when they lost in a 3 game sweep against the Norfolk Admirals (First Round back then was back of 5).

Other then that, they hasn't been much excitement for hockey fans in the Alamo City as the team has never won a division title, never won a playoff series and hasn't had the best luck of getting players to the National Hockey League.

However, with their start this year as they sit on top of the West Division with a 12-4-1 record through 16 games, as well as new head coach Ray Edwards looking to bring a new excitement. This may finally be the year that Rampage can look forward to being a major contender instead of a pretender.

With some strong transactions by their NHL Affiliate Phoenix Coyotes like bringing in Matt Climie and Mathieu Beaudoin from the Texas Stars (Dallas Stars), as well as a strong showing by starting goalie Al Montoya and along with Matt Climie in net. This is one of the best goaltender duo's in the AHL, which is one big thing the Rampage have been lacking for most (if not all) in their franchise's history.

Their starting to gain attention from the American Hockey League as a strong foe and someone who's looking to bring some excitement and for the first time some banners and hardware that will inspire future players and staff, bring in more fans and become an AHL Force.

From the American Hockey League Website

San Antonio Rampage Team Stats

San Antonio Rampage Team Website

Next 5 Games

11/19: VS. Milwaukee Admirals    7:00 PM

11/26:  @ Houston Aeros    7:35 PM

11/27:  @ Texas Stars     7:00 PM

11/28: VS. Milwaukee Admirals    3:00 PM

12/3:    @ Texas Stars    7:30 PM

A franchise with a history of early season struggles, the San Antonio Rampage are bucking the trend with one of the most impressive starts of the 2010-2011 season.

The Rampage posted a combined 9-30-4 in October and November over the past two seasons, digging a hole both years from which they were unable to recover. But San Antonio enters the new week winners of four straight and 11 of their last 13 games, putting them in first place in the West Division (12-4-1) and tied for the overall AHL Lead with 25 points. Under Coach Ray Edwards, who took over on November 23 last season, and featuring a roster which includes six former first round draft picks, San Antonio ranks seventh in goals per game (3.29), fifth in PP Efficiency (21.2 %) and fourth in goals allowed per game (2.53).

The Rampage show three former first-or-second round draft picks among their top five scores - 21 year olds Mikkel Boedker (17 PTS) and Brett Maclean (15 PTS) and 22 Year old Viktor Tikhnov (14 PTS), drafted 8th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, is already near halfway to the 38 points he put up in 64 games for San Antonio last season; Maclean a 2nd round pick in 2007 and an AHL All Star his rookie year in 2009, leads all Rampage forwards with a +6 rating; and Tikhonov, a first rounder (28th overall), has at least one point in 11 of his last 14 games.

Another former first round draft pick (8th overall in by Columbus in 2004) Alex Picard is tied for the team in goals (9) and shows (30 PTS, 18G 12A) in 31 games since arriving to San Antonio from Columbus in a late season trade. Tim Stapleton, who scored 28 and 30 goals the past two season for Toronto and Chicago, respectively, has 12 points (6G 6A) through his first 17 games in a Rampage Uniform, follow newcomer Bracken Kearns fresh off a best career year with 51 points in Rockford last year, has registered 8 points in 10 games for San Antonio, and Andrew Ebbett, who spent all of 2009-2010 in the NHL, has scored a goal and six assists in nine outings.

Three key members of the Texas Stars' 2010 AHL Calder Cup Run moved down interstate 35 to San Antonio for the 2010-2011 campaign and are paying immediate dividends. Coming off a breakout 44 point campaign for the Stars a year ago, Mathieu Beaudoin is currently leading the Rampage with nine goals (tied) and has 19 points through 17 games played.

Garrett Stafford places among the AHL Defensemen Leaders with 12 points (3G 9A) and has also played two games for Phoenix and goaltender Matt Climie (8-3-0, 1.99 GAA, .939 SV%), fifth in goals against average and tied for third for victories. Climie's counterpart is 2004 first round pick Al Montoya, is out to a 4-2-0 start after winning just 4 games in an injury plagued 2009-2010 season.

With the exception of Stafford and a third year pro Jeff May, San Antonio has employed a collection of rookies on the blue line. Olivier Ekman-Larsson, drafted sixth overall by Phoenix in 2009, was assigned to San Antonio on Friday and recorded two assists in Saturday's 5-2 win over Chicago. Chris Summers, a first round pick in 2006, has a plus six rating to go along with two points and fellow first year rearguards Maxim Goncharov and Michael Stone have three points apiece.

The Rampage enjoy a light schedule this week, with a Wednesday matinee on tap in Peoria before returning home on Friday for their first meeting of the year with the Milwaukee Admirals.

To read the entire AHL Weekly Column, Click Here

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