The San Antonio Rampage ushered in 2010 in the same fashion as they bid adieu to 2009, with a victory at home in the Alamo City. Welcoming the Abbotsford Heat to the AT&T Center for the first time in franchise history, San Antonio defeated Abbotsford 3-1 on Friday to extend their current win streak to four games.
After playing in Manitoba on Monday night, the Heat made the nearly 1,560 mile flight from Winnipeg to south Texas with one thought in their minds: retribution. The last time the two clubs convened, San Antonio all-star defenseman Sean Sullivan scored overtime goals on October 9, the Heat franchise’s inaugural home opener, and October 10 at Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.
Both teams entered Friday’s game well aware that special teams would likely play a substantial role in the contest. The Heat arrived to the Alamo City with an AHL-high 184 power-play opportunities and were facing a Rampage team that had only allowed one power-play goal in their last eight games. Conversely, Abbotsford also entered the contest with the league’s highest penalty minutes per game average (26.6 minutes) and penalty kill total (205), while San Antonio entered Friday
with five power-play goals over the course of their last four games.
Sure enough, San Antonio opened the scoring on left wing Brett MacLean’s eighth power-play goal of the season at the 9:45 mark of the first. With Heat right wing J.D. Watt in the penalty box after being whistled for interference and both teams regrouping in the neutral zone, Rampage defenseman Shaun Heshka sent a pass from the San Antonio blueline through center ice to right wing Chad Kolarik just outside the Abbotsford blueline. The right-handed Kolarik then entered the Heat zone with speed and fired a shot from below the right faceoff dot into the skates of Abbotsford netminder Leland Irving. As the Heat goaltender dropped to one knee and struggled to corral the loose puck, Rampage left wing Brett MacLean tapped the puck loose and into the goal to provide San Antonio with a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes and forty-three seconds later, San Antonio converted on yet another first period power play with a goal by Kolarik. Controlling the puck on the left half wall, Rampage center Kyle Turris fed a cross-ice pass to right wing Mikkel Boedker near the top of the right faceoff circle. Without hesitation, Boedker then sent a pass to Heshka on the left point, where the defenseman fired a slap shot off Irving’s stick, with Kolarik waiting on the left post to tap in the rebound.
Down 2-0 after one period of play, Abbotsford emerged from the dressing room looking to find the scoreboard and wasted little time doing so, scoring exactly three minutes into the second stanza on a goal by center Jamie Lundmark. Entering the left side of the Rampage zone, Heat forward Colin Stuart worked a give-and-go near the top of the left faceoff circle with Abbotsford leading scorer Jason Jaffray. Upon receiving a return pass from Jaffray near the bottom of the left faceoff circle, Stuart sent the puck toward the mouth of the Rampage crease, where Lundmark was waiting to tap the puck through Tordjman’s five-hole and close the deficit to 2-1.
Despite allowing Lundmark’s goal, San Antonio held Abbotsford to four shots in the middle frame, missing the Rampage season low for shots against in one period by only one shot on goal.
San Antonio entered the third period undefeated in 2009-10 when leading after two periods, while the Heat were 0-13-0-0 when trailing after two sessions.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation and Heat defenseman Matt Pelech in the penalty box, Abbotsford head coach Jim Playfair pulled Irving so as to add another Heat attacker to the ice with the hope of notching the equalizer. However, the Rampage promptly squelched those plans as San Antonio forwards Mikkel Boedker, Kyle Turris and Brett MacLean pinned the Heat deep in their own zone until MacLean found the empty net to seal a 3-1 Rampage victory.
MacLean’s nine power-play goals this season represent a team high and comprise 32.1 percent of San Antonio’s goals on the man-advantage in 2009-10 thus far.
Tordjman turned away 22 of 23 Abbotsford shots and earned his seventh win of the season, while Irving made 28 saves on 30 Rampage shots for the loss.
In the last eight games, during which San Antonio is 6-1-1-0, the Rampage line of Kyle Turris, Matt Watkins and Brett MacLean have combined for 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points.
San Antonio is currently on a four-game win streak, a season high, and will return to action tomorrow night as the Rampage host the Heat for a 7 p.m. matchup at the AT&T Center.