Playing their third game of a four-game road trip, the Rampage fell to the Peoria Rivermen by a 3-1 score on Saturday night at Carver Arena.
San Antonio faced off against a Peoria team that showed no signs of fatigue after catching a 5 a.m. flight from Houston this morning, earning a 2-1 victory over the Aeros last night at Toyota Center.
The last time the Rampage and Rivermen faced off against one another, on November 20 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Peoria defeated the Rampage by a 7-2 score in a contest that featured 153 combined penalty minutes. On Saturday, the bad blood from the previous meeting between the two teams was replaced by fast-paced, back and forth offensive play from both teams.
The first period was highlighted by spectacular play by Rampage netminder Josh Tordjman and Rivermen goaltender Hannu Toivonen, whose timely saves and help from a few goal posts, sent the two clubs to the first intermission tied at 0-0.
Shortly after the midway point of the second frame, Peoria left wing Chris Porter cycled the puck from the right halfwall of the San Antonio zone down to Rivermen center Lars Eller in the right corner. Eller then began to skate behind the San Antonio net, but stopped before reaching the near post and sent a pass through the stick of a Rampage defenseman to Peoria right wing Barry Tallackson on the left post. Tallackson then one-timed the puck low to Tordjman’s stick side to provide Peoria with a 1-0 lead with 6:34 remaining in the period.
The Rivermen added to their lead, just over two minutes later, on a goal by center Brett Sonne. After Peoria forward Julian Talbot won a battle for a puck near the left half wall, Talbot cut towards the goal and sent a cross-ice pass to Sonne, who had just entered the ice from the Peoria bench, near the right faceoff circle. After receiving the pass, Sonne held the puck to freeze Tordjman, before beating the San Antonio netminder low to the glove side to increase the Peoria lead to 2-0.
San Antonio, who held the advantage in the shot differential heading into the second intermission, outshooting Peoria 22-20 in the first two periods, emerged in the third determined to control play in the final stanza.
Down by two goals with 7:38 left to play in the game, San Antonio closed the deficit to one with a power-play goal by defenseman Anders Eriksson. Working on the man-advantage, Rampage captain Jeff Hoggan left a pass for rookie center MacGregor Sharp on the left half wall. Sharp then skated up to the left point and worked a give-and-go along the blueline with Eriksson. After receiving the return pass, Sharp faked a shot before returning the puck to Eriksson in the right point, where Eriksson fired a slap shot low to Toivonen’s stick side for his first Rampage goal in 2009-10.
With 1:04 remaining in the contest, San Antonio head coach Ray Edwards called a timeout and opted to pull Tordjman, in order to add another skater to the Rampage attack. However, after the Rampage generated a few scoring chances, Rivermen defenseman Tyson Strachan gained control of the puck deep in the Peoria zone and tapped the puck to center Yan Stastny inside the blueline, where Stastny sent the puck all the way down the ice and into the empty San Antonio net to seal a 3-1 victory for the Rivermen.
Peoria netminder Hannu Toivonen turned away 34 of 35 Rampage shots for the victory, while San Antonio goaltender Josh Tordjman made 34 saves on 36 Peoria shots he faced in the loss.
The Rampage will conclude their four-game road swing on Wednesday, when they travel to Houston to take on the Aeros in a 7 p.m. “Lone Star Faceoff” matchup at Toyota Center.