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Rampage right wing Matt Watkins recorded his first professional hat trick as the San Antonio Rampage rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Barons 5-3 at the AT&T Center on Wednesday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 6, 894. The Rampage improve to 23-9-1-0 as they continue to lead the Western Conference standings with 47 points.
Watkins’ three goals marks the 11th Rampage hat trick in franchise history with the last trio of goals scored by former Rampage forward David Spina on March 9, 2010.
Right wing Petr Prucha tied a team-high three assists as he extended his point streak to four games and defenseman Michael Stone earned an assist giving him a three-game assist streak.
The Barons took a 1-0 advantage 2:13 after the initial puck drop when San Antonio goaltender Matt Climie deflected Richard Petioit’s shot from the slot toward the right post where left wing Teemu Hartikainen was open to tap the puck into the lower right corner.
The Barons extended their lead to 2-0 just 1:08 later with their seventh shorthanded goal of the season. A Rampage turnover in the neutral zone resulted in a breakaway by Barons right wing Colin McDonald who sent a shot from the slot to the high glove side of Climie.
The Rampage cut the deficit in half, 2-1, with a power-play goal by Ryan Hollweg 1:12 into the second period. Hollweg, positioned at the right post, redirected Prucha’s shot from above the left faceoff circle into the back of the net. Michael Stone chipped in with the second helper.
Oklahoma City was awarded a penalty shot at the 9:39 mark of the middle stanza due to a call on the Rampage for covering the puck in the crease. Barons left wing Alexandre Giroux was unable to take advantage of the one-on-one situation as the puck bounced off the left goal post.
San Antonio netted the equalizer for a 2-2 score when right wing Blair Riley scored his first AHL goal in his Rampage debut at the 12:03 mark of the middle stanza. Tyler Mosienko recorded his first point of the season with the primary assist while Nick Ross provided the second helper.
The Rampage claimed a 3-2 lead after Prucha’s backhanded centering feed found Watkins who buried the puck over the glove of Barons netminder Martin Gerber at the 14:55 mark of the second period.
The Barons evened the score at 3-3 on McDonald’s team-high 17th goal of the season and second of the evening with 1:32 remaining in the middle frame. McDonald beat a Rampage defenseman leaving him in a one-on-one situation with Climie where he sold him on a fake to move the goalie out of position and score on the open net.
Watkins’ goal at the 18:08 mark of the third period put the Rampage up 4-3 and later proved to be the game winner. Watkins skated around the back of the net and took a shot on Gerber from the left post that was deflected out into the slot where Watkins was able to get a piece of his own rebound and punch it home. Prucha and Garrett Stafford provided the assists on Watkin’s second goal of the night.
Oklahoma City head coach Todd Nelson pulled Gerber in favor of a sixth attacker with 35 seconds remaining in the contest, however, the Rampage were able to capitalize on the opportunity as Watkins rounded out his hat trick with a shot on the empty net that sealed the victory for San Antonio.
Climie made 30 saves on 33 Barons shot attempts while Gerber turned aside 36 shots on 40 Rampage shot attempts.
The Rampage kick off a three-in-three series this weekend when they return to the ice on Friday night to host the Oklahoma City Barons at 7 p.m. at the AT&T Center. They will hit the road on Saturday to face the Aeros in Houston and on Sunday they drop the puck against the Admirals in Milwaukee.