After playing seven of their last eight games in San Antonio, the Rampage began a four-game road trip on Wednesday night, falling to the Grand Rapids Griffins by a 4-2 score at Van Andel Arena.
The last time San Antonio and Grand Rapids matched up against one another this season, the Rampage swept the Griffins on October 17 and October 18 by scores of 7-4 and 7-2, respectively. On Wednesday, Grand Rapids was out for revenge and prevented San Antonio from holding a lead or tie at any point in the contest.
In a first period that saw referee Ian Croft whistle Grand Rapids for penalties on four separate occasions, the Rampage outshot the Griffins by a 12-8 margin, but were unable to convert on their four power play opportunities and entered the first intermission tied at 0-0.
At the 10:18 mark of the second frame, Grand Rapids right wing Francis Pare was hooked down while on a breakaway, thus drawing a penalty shot.
On the penalty shot, Pare entered the San Antonio zone with speed, faked left and then cut back to the right before beating Tordjman through the five-hole to provide Grand Rapids with a 1-0 lead. Pare’s penalty-shot goal broke a 21-game goal drought for the 22 year-old right wing.
The Griffins added to their lead three minutes and twenty-five seconds later, at the 13:43 mark of the second, on a goal by right wing Jeremy Williams. After Grand Rapids defenseman Andy Delmore sent a pass from the left point down to Griffins left wing Patrick Rissmiller in the left corner of San Antonio’s zone, Rissmiller then sent a sharp pass across the crease to Williams, who one-timed the puck from the right faceoff circle past Tordjman to increase the Griffins lead to 2-0. As was the case for Pare, the goal broke an 8-game goal drought for Williams.
The Rampage emerged from the dressing room in the third period determined to jump back into the game. Fortunately for San Antonio, the Griffins took two quick penalties early in the final stanza to provide the Rampage with a two man-advantage. After a Grand Rapids clearing pass inside the Griffins zone was knocked down by San Antonio defenseman Sean Sullivan, Sullivan sent the puck over to fellow Rampage blueliner Shaun Heshka on the left point. Heshka then worked the puck to San Antonio center Kyle Turris in the left corner before Turris returned the puck to Sullivan in the high slot. Sullivan then sent a quick pass down to center Kevin Porter at the bottom of the right faceoff circle, where the left-handed Porter beat Griffins goaltender Daniel Larsson high inside the right post to close the deficit to 2-1 with 16:35 remaining in the third.
The Rampage power-play goal marked the first career AHL goal in the state of Michigan for Porter, who grew up in suburban Detroit and won the 2008 Hobey Baker Award while playing for the University of Michigan.
Shortly after San Antonio had climbed back into the game, Grand Rapids added to their lead at the 13:39 mark of the final stanza on a goal by Kris Newbury. After gaining control of the puck deep in the Griffins zone, Grand Rapids defenseman Logan Pyett carried it out to the red line before finding Griffins left wing Mattias Ritola near the blueline on the left boards. Ritola then entered the right side of the Rampage zone with the puck before finding Griffins center Kris Newbury in the high slot. Immediately after receiving the puck, Newbury snapped a shot high to Tordjman’s glove side to increase Grand Rapids’ lead to 3-1.
However, the Rampage refused to give in and crawled to within one, with 3:07 remaining in the game, on a goal by left wing Brett MacLean. After San Antonio rookie center MacGregor Sharp cycled the puck down from the left half wall to left wing Ryan Hollweg in the left corner of the Griffins zone, Hollweg found left wing Brett MacLean near the left faceoff circle. Receiving pressure from a Griffins defenseman, MacLean then extended his arms around the Grand Rapids blueliner and fired a wrist shot from the slot low to the stick side past Larsson to close the deficit to 3-2.
Down by one goal with 1:14 remaining in the game, Rampage head coach Ray Edwards pulled Tordjman in order to add another skater to the Rampage attack. Unfortunately for San Antonio, after a few Rampage scoring chances Pare was able to intercept a Rampage pass in the Grand Rapids zone and bounce a pass off the boards and out of the zone to Griffins right wing Jan Mursak, who carried the puck into the right side of the San Antonio zone and fired the puck into the empty net to seal the Grand Rapids victory.
The Rampage outshot the Griffins, 33-38, in the game, but were 1 for 7 on the power play.
Grand Rapids netminder Daniel Larsson turned away 31 of 33 Rampage shots for the victory, while San Antonio goaltender Josh Tordjman made 24 saves on 27 Grand Rapids shots in the loss.
The Rampage return to action on Friday, when they travel to the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to take on the Milwaukee Admirals in a 7 p.m. matchup. Don’t miss any of the action, as Dan Weiss, the voice of the Rampage, will call the game live on Ticket 760 AM.