Hoping to end 2009 on a positive note, the San Antonio Rampage rallied from a 2-0 deficit and defeated the visiting Syracuse Crunch by a 3-2 score on Wednesday night at the AT&T Center.
The contest marked the first and only visit to the Alamo City for a Syracuse club that was playing its third game against a Texas-based opponent in as many nights.
However, early on in the contest the Rampage appeared to be the wearier of the two teams as the Crunch showed few signs of fatigue, outshooting San Antonio 12-8 in the opening frame and controlling play in the Rampage end for much of the period.
Syracuse’s aggressiveness in the opening minutes of the game helped the Crunch find the scoreboard first, at the 14:32 mark of the opening period, on a goal by center Derek MacKenzie.
After playing a puck behind the San Antonio net, Rampage netminder Justin Pogge swept the disc into the left corner, only to see Syracuse left wing Bates Battaglia beat a San Antonio defenseman to the loose puck and sent a pass to MacKenzie on the right hash mark of the left faceoff circle in the Rampage zone. MacKenzie then one-timed the puck over Pogge’s glove to provide Syracuse with a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Continuing to pour on the pressure early in the second, Syracuse added to their lead at the 8:56 mark of the middle frame on a goal by center Mike Radja. After gaining control of the puck on the left half wall of the San Antonio zone, forward Trevor Frischmon cycled the puck into the left corner to former Rampage right wing Simon Ferguson. Ferguson then carried the puck along the goal line and fired a shot that deflected off Pogge and landed near the right post, where Radja was waiting to knock in the rebound.
Until the 9:50 mark of the second, Syracuse, which entered Wednesday as the second most penalized team in the AHL, had not been whistled for a penalty in the game. Fortunately for San Antonio, a series of power plays proved to be catalysts in an ensuing Rampage comeback.
On the power play, San Antonio defenseman Shaun Heshka prevented an attempted Crunch clearing pass from leaving the zone and tapped the puck into the slot to left wing Brett MacLean, who then carried the puck down to the left hash mark of the right faceoff circle before connecting with right wing Chad Kolarik on the left post for a one-timer that Kolarik quickly deposited into the Crunch net to decrease the deficit to 2-1.
Six minutes and 25 seconds later, San Antonio operated on yet another power play and capitalized once again with a goal by center Kyle Turris. While applying pressure in front of the Crunch net, Turris found the puck on the right faceoff circle and sent a crossing pass to MacLean, who was being pressured by a Crunch defenseman near the left faceoff circle. Recognizing the pressure, MacLean sent a spin-around pass across the mouth of the crease to Turris on the right post. Recognizing Crunch netminder Kevin Lalande’s lack of positioning, Turris then held the puck for a second before firing a shot over the sprawling Syracuse goaltender and high into the right corner of the net to tie the game at two goals apiece.
Tied after two periods of play, the Rampage and Crunch were poised for a battle in the third stanza. San Antonio entered the final frame with a 2-4-0-0 record in 2009-10 when tied heading into the third, while Syracuse was 4-3-0-1 this season when tied after completing two sessions.
Acknowledging impending Syracuse fatigue, the Rampage emerged from the dressing room with fresh legs and plentiful energy in the opening minutes of the final period.
The Rampage fiery play translated into San Antonio’s third goal of the game as left wing Stefan Meyer provided the Rampage with the eventual game-winner at the 9:06 mark of the third. After finding the puck on his stick on the left half wall of the Crunch zone, rookie center MacGregor Sharp dropped a pass back to Rampage defenseman Sean Sullivan on the left point. Sullivan then fired a knee-high wrist shot that was tipped in front by Meyer past Lalande and into the Syracuse net.
Heading into tonight’s matchup, the Crunch had not lost a game in regulation, holding an 8-0-3-2 record in one-goal games.
Rampage netminder Justin Pogge turned away 32 of 34 Syracuse shots for his third straight win and fourth victory of the season, while Lalande made 17 saves on 20 San Antonio shots in the loss.
With the win, San Antonio heads into 2010 having won five of their last six games and five of their last six games at home.
The Rampage return to action on Friday night when they welcome the Abbotsford Heat to the AT&T Center, for the first time in franchise history, for a 7 p.m. matchup.